Extortion At Checkpoints: Fresh Details

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 27

A July 1 article by Chechen journalists Aslambek Badilayev and Kazbek Vakhayev for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting essentially confirmed the picture of extortion and bribery at military checkpoints as painted by Mainat Abdulaeva in an earlier article for the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung (see Chechnya Weekly, June 30). Badilayev and Vakhayev also added new details. They found that the number of checkpoints has dropped by 20 percent, to 48 in total, but that “although ordinary people are pleased that there are fewer checkpoints to negotiate…predictions of improvements have not come true. The posts are manned by men in camouflage fatigues and policemen’s uniforms, whose allegiance no one is sure of.”

One Chechen driver told the journalists how he had learned by accident that a large enough bribe could even get a bomb through a checkpoint. It is common practice to leave a 10-ruble note inside one’s passport for the soldiers to take as they examine that document, with “no questions asked.” But on one occasion this driver absent-mindedly forgot to remove 500 rubles that he had left inside his passport for safekeeping. After passing through a checkpoint, he realized his mistake, found that the money was no longer in the passport, and returned to recover the sum. He quoted the soldiers at the checkpoint as saying: “[How do we know] that you weren’t carrying a bomb and… now [that] you’ve unloaded it, you have come back?'”