Chechen Police and Zapad Battalion Members in Shootout

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 25

Russian news agencies reported that a shoot-out between police and members of the GRU’s Zapad battalion took place on June 20 on Grozny’s Staropromysolvsky Highway. Five people were reportedly killed and another five were wounded in the gun battle. According to RIA Novosti, four of the dead were members of the Zapad battalion while the fifth was a policeman.

The news agency reported that the incident took place around three o’clock in the afternoon when GIBDD traffic policemen stopped an automobile that was being driven by a Zapad member and demanded that he remove tinted film from the vehicles windshield. reported there was a second version of what triggered the violence – that traffic policemen had stopped the car and demanded that the Zapad serviceman who was behind the wheel submit to an alcohol test. Whatever the case, the Zapad serviceman apparently refused to obey the traffic policemen and called in other members of his unit, while the GIBDD officers called in OMON police commandos. When the additional Zapad members and the OMON commandos arrived at the scene, a gunfight began, reportedly involving 15 people. “Besides those killed, another six people were wounded; one of those wounded is in grave condition,” a high-ranking source in Chechnya’s force structures told RIA Novosti. The source also said that the republican prosecutor’s office and a special commission are investigating the incident. As Russian news agencies noted, the Zapad battalion is subordinated to the Defense Ministry and includes GRU spetsnaz commandos.

Shootouts between pro-Moscow forces in Chechnya have been reported in the past. In April 2006, Gazeta reported that a shoot-out had taken place between security forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov, who at the time was Chechnya’s prime minister, and bodyguards of then Chechen President Alu Alkhanov. The newspaper reported that three “security personnel” were wounded in the gun battle and that the bodies of the two people killed in the exchange of gunfire were later discovered. An anonymous Chechen government source said the shootout was the result of Kadyrov’s anger at being barred from talks between Alkhanov and Sergei Stepashin, head of the Audit Chamber, the federal government’s budgetary watchdog agency, who was visiting Grozny. After Stepashin left the republic, Kadyrov reportedly gave orders for Alkhanov’s bodyguards to be “dealt with” (Chechnya Weekly, April 27, 2006).

There have also been gunfights between Chechen security units and those of neighboring republics: A September 2006 shootout between a group of armed Chechen OMON police commandos and Ingush police manning a traffic police post on the Chechen-Ingush administrative border resulted in the deaths of seven people – one Ingush police and six Chechen OMON (Chechnya Weekly, September 15, 2006).