Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 26

The Defense Ministry’s website reported on June 30 that ten Defense Ministry servicemen died in Chechnya in May, Interfax reported. According to the ministry, seven of the deaths were combat-related and three were non-combat. The ministry also reported that 28 soldiers were killed in Chechnya from January to March of this year, and that no soldiers went missing. Chechen rebels, meanwhile, put out considerably higher death tolls for Russian and pro-Russian forces. The separatist Chechenpress news agency reported on June 30 that its forces had killed 21 Russian soldiers and pro-Moscow security force members over June 27-30 alone.

Whatever the accuracy of the rival claims, reports by more independent sources over the last week suggest that Chechnya’s guerrilla war is showing few signs of abatement. Citing Interfax, reported on July 2 that six servicemen were wounded when an improvised explosive device blew up their armored personnel carrier as it passed through an intersection on a road in the Groznensky district. Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 5 that militants killed a Chechen policeman and a member of a Russian military unit during a shootout in the village of Bugaroi in the Itum-Kalinsky district. Law-enforcement sources told the website that the incident took place when militants ambushed an operational-investigative group that was heading to the scene of the murder of Zumsoi village administration chief Abdul-Azim Yangulbekov, which occurred the previous day. Another Chechen policeman was seriously wounded in the incident.

Zumsoi village administration chief Abdul-Azim Yangulbekov was murdered on July 4 by three unknown attackers wearing camouflage who identified themselves as members of one of the Defense Ministry’s special services. The head of the regional operational headquarters of the Russian military operation in the North Caucasus, Col.-General Arkady Yedelev, said federal forces had not been in the area at that time. Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev called the murder of Yangulbekov a carefully planned provocation designed to turn local inhabitants against the federal forces. However, Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 6 that Yangulbekov had openly condemned crimes committed against the village by the military, including its bombardment by six attack helicopters and two jets and the abduction of several inhabitants in a mid-January incident. The Memorial human rights group is demanding an investigation of Yangulbekov’s murder and the kidnapping of two Zumsoi villagers – Nasipov Mukhaev and his son Ibishev.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 1 that two rebels from the group headed by the field commander Dokku Umarov were killed on the outskirts of Bugaroi during a firefight with a combined group of local security forces and federal troops. A police source told the website that one of their number was killed and several wounded in the battle.

The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORChD) reported on July 4 that the settlement of Dekhesty in Chechnya’s Shatoi district was the target of a missile strike by Russian military helicopters on July 3.

Radio Liberty reported on July 1 that a member of the Defense Ministry’s Vostok (East) special forces battalion was killed and three others wounded in a shootout in the Groznensky district with rebels led by the field commander Ali Emirov. Four rebels were reportedly killed in the battle. The Vostok battalion, which is headed by Sulim Yamadaev, attached to the 42nd Motorized Infantry Division and subordinated to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian armed forces’ General Staff, has been implicated in a June 4 security operation in the Chechen village Borozdinovskaya, during which at least one local inhabitant was reportedly killed, eleven abducted and several houses burned down (see Chechnya Weekly, June 30).

Chechen police sources told Interfax on July 3 that separatist fighters had fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the home of a local doctor in the village of Shelkovskaya. A police patrol that arrived at the scene was also fired on. No one was hurt in the incidents, but the doctor’s house was severely damaged.

Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 5 that some 1,000 residents of the village of Serzhen-Yurt in Chechnya’s Shali district demonstrated in front of the republic’s government building in Grozny demanding the release of Shaid Shamaev, the head of the village’s administration. Shamaev was kidnapped on July 2, reportedly by members of the Chechen presidential security service, and taken to an unknown location. “As far as we know, Shaid Shamaev was without any basis accused of giving financial aid to the militants,” one of the protesters told the website’s correspondent. “It would be impossible to think of a more ridiculous and unthinkable accusation. He is known to us as a principled person; moreover, shortly before his death, Chechen leader Akhmad-khadzhi Kadyrov gave him a Volga as a gift.”