Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 72

In an interview conducted by journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Oleg Gaba, the official in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration responsible for monitoring children’s rights, claimed that more than ninety children have disappeared over the last year as a result of zachistki (antiguerrilla special operations) carried out by Russian forces in Chechnya. All of these deaths, Gaba claimed, were “directly linked to actions by the military.” “When the military starts to tell me that, well, the children collaborated with the [rebel] fighters and were eliminated because of this, I have a response: Fifty-eight of these ninety were of preschool age!,” Gaba said. “Such figures make it impossible to go on convincing the country that the antiterrorist operation is being carried out in accordance with the law.” Gaba claimed that Chechen children aged 10 to 12, out of fear, do whatever they can to avoid being detained by the Russian military during security sweeps (Novaya Gazeta, April 11).

In response, Aleksandr Nikitin, Chechnya’s deputy prosecutor, admitted that “young people, younger than 18 years old,” were killed during special operations, but said that such cases were isolated and that the figure of more than ninety was greatly exaggerated. Each case, he added, was investigated thoroughly with the aim of bringing the perpetrators to justice. Nikitin noted that a case involving the murder of a teenager in the village of Alleroi last August was fully investigated, and that the Russian serviceman who committed the murder would be tried and punished (, April 11).

The Russian human rights group Memorial recently claimed that more than 2,000 people have disappeared in Chechnya since the start of the current military campaign there in September 1999, mostly as a result of antiguerrilla sweeps carried out by Russian forces (see the Monitor, April 8). The commander of the federal forces in Chechnya, Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, recently signed an order specifying new guidelines for such antiguerrilla sweeps aimed at making the forces carrying them out more accountable and therefore less likely to commit human rights abuses. The new rules, among other things, state that such operations can only be carried out on Moltenskoi’s direct orders, that they must be carried out in the presence of prosecutors and officials from the local administration and police, and a that a list of all those detained during the operation must be given to the prosecutors and the local administration. Some Russian servicemen, however, have indicated that they will ignore the new guidelines (see the Monitor, April 1, 8).