Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 15

In Chita [in eastern Siberia],” the newspaper Novye Izvestia wrote on May 15, “The elite [MVD] unit SOBR (all of them are officers) has refused to go to Chechnya. The ‘refusers’ are people who have passed through all the ‘hot spots’ and have fought in Chechnya from the first day, having twice taken Grozny and having received numerous battle decorations.” According to the newspaper’s correspondent, Georgy Tselms, who flew to Chita to look into the story, it is a rule that only MVD volunteers can be sent to Chechnya. “However, no volunteers have been found in Chita.” Strong opposition on the part of wives of the members of the elite police unit to their husbands’ returning to Chechnya has played a role. “The wives of the fighters from SOBR and OMON sent several letters to Moscow (to the MVD, the State Duma, the mass media). In the letters, they told how the month-long postings had at first been extended to forty-five days, then to two and then three months. Now a ‘Chechen mission’ lasts half a year.” The Kremlin, for its part, considers that “military actions are not being conducted” in Chechnya and that there is therefore no need to pay the SOBR men so-called combat wages. However, “in the opinion of the SOBR-ites, a real war is currently taking place in Chechnya, more dangerous and insidious than the previous one.” As the Novye Izvestia reporter was leaving Chita, a mammoth commission of 113 persons was arriving to look into the incident.