Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 40

In an indication that the “Chechenization” of the conflict now apparently being promoted by the Russian leadership was encountering rough sledding, the newspaper Kommersant reported that, on October 29, some 200 residents of the village of Komsomol’skoe had come to Chechnya’s “second city,” Gudermes, and temporarily blockaded the district administration headquarters there (Kommersant, October 30). The villagers, the online daily Gazeta.ru observed concerning the same incident, were protesting the killings of a 24-year-old Chechen woman, Zalina Mezhidova, the mother of four children, and of her nephew, 15-year-old Akhmad Gekhaev, whose car had been fired on by federal helicopters as they were transporting turnips they had just picked. Local residents who witnessed the incident claimed that the helicopter pilots had deliberately fired on the car even though it had come to a full stop. The crowd of villagers that came to Gudermes was demanding the return of the bodies of the deceased and the opening of an official criminal investigation into the incident. “The likelihood of there being an impartial investigation,” Gazeta.ru remarked, “let alone that the soldiers responsible would face punishment, is extremely small” (Gazeta.ru, November 1).

In a similar incident, the Prague Watchdog reported on November 2 that “a protest rally has been taking place for three days in the village of Chechen–Aul, in the southern part of Grozny district.” The villagers had been infuriated by a mopping-up operation conducted in Chechen-Aul by federal forces on October 30. “The local inhabitants say that, during the mop-up, almost all the soldiers wore masks, and the identification plates on their armored personnel carriers were covered with mud. During the searches and raids the soldiers detained twelve young people they accidentally met and took them away from the villages.” Relatives of the young detainees, joined by other villagers, organized a silent protest in front of the local army headquarters that soon turned into a rally against the Russian army. “Chechnya’s prosecutor visited Chechen-Aul and promised to find out the place of detention of the twelve detained youths from the village…. The protesters declared that they will continue with their rally until they achieve the release of their neighbors, whose only guilt is apparently the fact that they are young.”