Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 36

Memorial released a statement on September 16 concerning the gun battle that took place between Chechen OMON police commandos and Ingush police on the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia on September 13, in which eight people died–up from the original reported death toll of seven–and more than 20 were wounded (Chechnya Weekly, September 15). Six of those killed were from the Chechen side, while the other two killed in the shootout were Ingush policemen.

“The cause of the armed clash was the Chechen police members’ rude refusal to obey the lawful requests of the Ingush MVD employees to allow them to examine the motor transport in which they [the Chechen OMON] were driving back to Chechnya, carrying off a person [they had] detained on the territory of Ingushetia,” the human rights group stated. “It was, unfortunately, inevitable that the tragic incident which took place on the administrative border of the two republics would happen sooner or later. During recent years, various coercive authorities have repeatedly virtually openly kidnapped people on the territory of the Republic of Ingushetia and taken them off in an unknown direction. The FSB, the 58th Army’s military intelligence, the GRU, the MVD’s mobile detachment, those carrying out armed support of the investigative group of the Prosecutor General’s Office, among others, have acted this way. While carrying out special operations on the territory of the RI [Republic of Ingushetia], these power structures have not considered it necessary to notify either the Ingush prosecutor’s office or the Ingush MVD about their actions. Some of those kidnapped have as a result disappeared without a trace. Investigations of criminal cases involving kidnappings are halted because of the ‘non-ascertainment of persons liable to be brought to account as the accused.’”

The Memorial statement continued, “Against an overall background of lawlessness, the power agencies of the Chechen Republic have especially stood out. In the course of the process of “Chechenization’ of the armed conflict there, powerful force structures were created [that are] formally part of the MVD [but] whose basis are the so-called ‘kadyrovtsy.’”

Echoing various media reports following the shootout on the Chechen-Ingush administrative border, Memorial said there have been previous confrontations between Ingush Interior Ministry personnel and Chechen siloviki, who typically ignore the “lawful demands” of the Ingush police. It noted that in some cases, “kadyrovtsy” have beaten up the Ingush law-enforcers. (As reported in Chechnya Weekly for September 15, one such incident reportedly took place on September 7.) “Such an abnormal situation could not but lead sooner or later to an armed confrontation,” Memorial wrote in its statement.

The human rights group’s version of the September 13 shootout largely matched those reported by various media, such as Kommersant, with one significant difference: according to Memorial, the kadyrovtsy who crossed over into Ingushetia and traveled to the town of Yandare to capture Gerikhan Temurziev, the alleged leader of an auto-theft ring, did not inform their Ingush counterparts of their plans to make an arrest in Yandare.

Indeed, Memorial reported that the first confrontation between the two sides took place as the eleven Chechen law-enforcers (ten OMON special police commandos and a member of Chechnya’s criminal investigation department) were leaving Yandare with Temurziev. “At a guard-post of the DPS [Road Patrol Service] of the Ingush MVD located on the road out of Yandare, the Chechen police were asked to show [their] documents, which they emphatically refused to do. Instead, they fired several shots in the air and seized the most persistent Ingush policeman, whom they later threw out of the car along the road.” Then, according to Memorial, when the Chechen OMON reached a guard-post on Ingushetia’s administrative border with Chechnya, an officer with the Ingush Interior Ministry’s PPS [Patrol and Post Service], Magomed Khadziev, asked them to present their documents and get out of the vehicles so that the vehicles could be inspected.

“In response, there followed rude demands to let the column through immediately, without inspection,” Memorial reported. “The man in charge [of the Chechen OMON unit] got out of the car. A dialogue took place between him and Khadziev, which developed into an argument and then a fight. According to the Ingush police, Khadziev was shot, after which he hit his opponent with a burst of fire from his submachine gun as he fell to the ground. Yet after that, the opposing sides did not open fire, but took up defensive positions–the Chechens behind their cars, the Ingush behind the guard-post’s blockhouse. Both sides called for reinforcements. The first to arrive at the scene were members of the RI [Republic of Ingushetia] PPS [and] representatives of the prosecutor’s office of the RI’s Sunzhensky district and the Sunzhensky ROVD [police]. The next to drive up were members of the Chechen police, who began shouting to let their colleagues pass through into Chechnya immediately. It was then that–under circumstances which remain unclear-the exchange of fire began, which led to the wounding and killing of a significant number of policemen on both sides.” Among those killed were Magomed Khadziev and Buvadi Dakhiev, the deputy commander of Chechnya’s OMON, who had arrived on the scene in the middle of the confrontation and tried to stop it (Chechnya Weekly, September 15).

According to Moskovsky komsomolets correspondent Vadim Rechkalov, the shootout between the Ingush and Chechen siloviki was a result of the failure of federal policy in Chechnya. “And if the approaches remain unchanged, such bloody ‘fraternal’ clashes may take place in any republic of the North Caucasus that the Chechen police visit. The main riddle of this tragedy is in the mutual deadly hatred of the two ‘fraternal peoples.’ It is due to the excessive eminence in Chechnya of Ramzan Kadyrov, who is perceived in the neighboring republics as an upstart who has received carte blanche for actions across the entire region. Therefore, any visits by the Chechen police beyond the borders of their republic are regarded as an aggression by former [rebel] fighters invested with unlimited power. And they [those in the other republics] respond to aggression with gunfire.”

In an article published by the website of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on September 21 and datelined Nazran, Ingushetia, Umalt Dudaev quoted an Chechen policeman involved in the September 13 shootout-who was identified simply by his first name, Magomed-as claiming that after he and his colleagues arrested Gerikhan Temurziev and arrived back at the police checkpoint through which they had first entered Ingushetia, their three cars bearing the official blue number plates of Chechnya’s Interior Ministry came under automatic weapons fire from Ingush policemen and civilians wearing masks, who later left by bus for the Ingush village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya. Ingush participants in the shootout gave a version of events similar to the one described by Memorial, insisting that the Chechens opened fire first, after refusing to present their documents and after the Ingush officers “discovered two men inside the vehicles wearing handcuffs and with sacks over their heads.”

Dudaev also quoted a Chechen OMON officer who did not want to be named as saying, “Our comrades were treacherously murdered while doing their professional duty. And it doesn’t matter where it happened: Chechnya, Dagestan or Ingushetia. We are still waiting for the results of the investigation. If all those guilty for these murders aren’t severely punished under the law, then we will punish them ourselves – but by the laws of our ancestors.”