Chechen Parliament Asks Defense Minister to Deal with Vostok Battalion

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 15

Sulim Yamadaev

Chechnya’s parliament on April 17 adopted a resolution calling on Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov either to dissolve Vostok, the elite Chechen-manned battalion that answers to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, or to replace its leaders, including its formal commander, Sulim Yamadaev. A road collision between Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s motorcade and a Vostok convoy that occurred near the Chechen town of Argun on April 14 was followed by an armed confrontation between Vostok fighters, including Sulim Yamadaev’s younger brother, Badrudin, who commands one of the battalion’s platoons, and fighters loyal to Kadyrov. According to Reuters, 18 or more people were killed in a shootout that followed the traffic accident (see Andrei Smirnov’s article).

“The events that took place in the city of Gudermes could lead to a large-scale armed conflict which, in the end, would render null and void all of our combined successes in achieving peace and tranquility in the region,” the statement by the Chechen parliament read, according to Interfax. The Chechen legislators added that the worst-case scenario which could have played out was avoided “mainly thanks to the self-control and composure of the President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.”

The statement added that neither “the formal commander of the [Vostok] battalion, Sulim Yamadaev, nor its de facto leader, Badrudin,” whom the Chechen legislators described as “a drug addict and criminal who for incomprehensible reasons was released from prison” can be included in “the peaceful life of the republic,” given that their “unlawful actions” are “destabilizing the situation” and “provoking armed conflicts.” Kommersant reported on April 17 that Badrudin Yamadaev was convicted in May 2003 of trying to kill Aleksandr Melnikov, the deputy sanitary inspector of the city of Moscow, and sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was somehow freed soon after being sent to prison.

The Chechen deputies concluded their statement by saying that only the removal of Sulim and Badrudin Yamadaev from the Vostok battalion’s command will allow the unit to function the way it should. “The situation demands, in our view, cardinal decisions for preventing attempts to destabilize the situation,” the statement read. “There are still forces in Chechnya and around it they have not managed to realize their ambitions. Their claims to influence in the republic are invariably stirred up by some central media and Internet resources, which continue to play the Chechen card. As a result, the true situation often does not even reach the leadership of the country.” According to Interfax, the deputies’ appeal to Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov expressed hope for “an objective assessment of the situation” and called for “corresponding measures” to be taken immediately.

As Kommersant reported on April 17, Sulim Yamadaev has been implicated in an armed raid on the Samson-K meat-processing plant in St. Petersburg in 2006, during which its general director, Khazat Arsamakov, was severely beaten (Chechnya Weekly, September 21 and October 05, 2006), and in the disappearance and possible murder of Yunus and Yusup Arsamakov, the brothers of Samson-K’s owner, Abubakar Arsamakov. The Vostok unit has also been implicated in the 2005 raid on the village of Borozdinovskaya, in which two people were killed and 12 were abducted (Chechnya Weekly, June 22, 2005).

The Moscow Times reported on April 17 that in separate statements posted on the Chechen government’s website on April 26, Vostok commanders were accused of multiple kidnappings, murders and torture, including the abduction of the republic’s human rights ombudsman. In a local television interview on April 16, Kadyrov accused the Yamadayev brothers of a number of crimes and demanded that they be brought to justice. “The Yamadaev brothers are linked to a number of serious crimes, including murders and abductions, as well as the events in the Borozdinovskaya [village],” RIA Novosti quoted Kadyrov as saying. “A criminal must be in a jail. The law is universal for everyone.”

Yet as the Moscow Times noted, it is unclear why Kadyrov, “whose own loyalists are regularly accused of similar crimes by human rights groups such as Memorial,” chose to unveil the accusations against Vostok only in the wake of the April 14 road accident and subsequent clashes.