Federal and Chechen Interior Ministers Say That All is Calm

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 31

A group of combat engineers from the federal Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops came under automatic weapons fire on July 31 in a wooded area near the village of Chishki in Chechnya’s Groznensky district. According to ITAR-Tass, a contract serviceman was wounded in the attack. On July 30, two members of the Perm Krai OMON special police force who are deployed in Chechnya were wounded when unknown assailants fired grenade launchers at their car in the Shali district. “Policemen from Perm were fired at with automatic rifles and shoulder-held grenade launchers from a forested area when they were traveling in a car along a road from Shali to the village of Agishty,” a Chechen Interior Ministry official told Interfax. Separately, a resident of Argun was seriously injured on July 30 when he stepped on a mine.

The Regnum news agency, citing the Chechen Interior Ministry’s press service, reported on July 27 that a 70-year-old resident of the village of Shelkovskaya had handed over to the police TNT blocks weighing a total of 22.47 kilograms, which he said he had found in his garden. According to the news agency, on July 26, police officers and federal Interior Ministry Internal Troops discovered four RPG-7V bazooka rounds, two F-1 hand grenades and six 200-gram and two 400-gram TNT blocks in the basement of a half-destroyed house in the Vedeno district village of Khatuni, while a man voluntarily handed over an AK-47 assault rifle to the police. According to the Chechen Interior Ministry’s press service, police in the village of Urus-Martan arrested a person who, since May 2007, had been providing members of a rebel group with information about the movements of the federal forces and law-enforcement personnel, as well as food.

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev said on July 26 that the situation in Chechnya is calm and improving, Interfax reported. “Only a non-professional can say that the situation in the Chechen republic has worsened and is moving toward further destabilization,” said Nurgaliev, who was attending a conference in Grozny. “Allegations that the situation in Chechnya and the neighboring regions have become more complicated are likely being made by people and groups who are interested in its complication. Any person who would drive through Grozny and other populated areas in Chechnya and who would look at the state of affairs themselves can see that any remarks about instability are farfetched and are absolutely far from reality. Russian police authorities in Chechnya are currently working in a preemptive mode: they have managed to prevent terrorist attacks or other grave crimes, and it is thanks to them that stability in the Chechen republic has been achieved. I am drawing such conclusions as a professional and as a man who knows the situation, and I can say that the situation in the Chechen Republic has not worsened and is even improving.”

The conference in Grozny was also attended by Chechen officials, including President Ramzan Kadyrov and Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov. The latter told the other attendees that the results of the first half of this year indicated that the “remnants of militant units” have been dealt a “serious blow” and are “virtually destroyed,” and that their “command system has been fully disabled.” Alkhanov said that during the first six months of this year, 191 members of “illegal armed units” were detained, 49 militants who put up armed resistance, including five leaders, were killed, and 120 rebels were “persuaded to turn themselves in.” Alkhanov added: “The productivity of our work is also evident from the fact that bandits have not committed a single terrorist attack in the Chechen republic in six months.” He said that 29 policemen were killed in special operations while 53 others received wounds of varying degrees. Kadyrov, meanwhile, told the conference: “The Chechen Interior Ministry personnel are working in coordination and effectively today, and they pay appropriate attention to all aspects of preventing crime and combating the remnants of illegal armed units.”

Kavkaz-Center, for its part, claimed on July 30 that up to 40-armed kadyrovtsy had fled to the mountains to join the rebels and were at a “special quarantine base” in Chechnya’s mountains being vetted to determine whether they had been involved in “the killings of Muslims” or other serious crimes. The separatist website said the kadyrovtsy had decided to defect after the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) government announced an amnesty for “traitors” who have repented and had not been involved in murdering civilians or “mujahideen.” In addition, the website claimed that the July 23 battle between rebel fighters and members of the GRU’s Vostok Battalion, commanded by Sulim Yamadaev, near the Vedeno district village of Tazen-Kale (Chechnya Weekly, July 26), was sparked when eight kadyrovtsy “fled to the mujahideen” and were chased by members of the Vostok Battalion, who in turn were ambushed by rebel fighters. Separately, Kavkaz-Center ran an item on July 27 detailing its version of the battle near Tazen-Kale, denying that any rebel fighters were killed. Interfax on July 23 quoted State Duma deputy Khalid Yamadaev, brother of Sulim Yamadaev, as saying that six rebel fighters were killed in the Tazen-Kale battle and others were wounded, while one Vostok serviceman was killed and another injured.

Meanwhile, Interfax, on July 27, quoted Dmitry Grushkin of the Memorial human rights group as saying that six people remain missing after being kidnapped in Chechnya this year, but that the number of kidnappings in the republic “has gone down considerably.” He said that 24 residents of Chechnya have been kidnapped this year, and that of these, 15 were released, one was found dead, and six remain missing. “In July, we registered three disappearances,” Grushkin said. “We cannot say for sure who is behind the kidnappings. Usually it is unknown armed people. Our information on kidnappings in Chechnya may be incomplete. The monitoring carried out by Memorial covers about a third of Chechen territory, and the real scale of human rights violations could be higher.” Deputy Chechen Prime Minister Ziad Sabsabi said that the reduction in the number of kidnappings “is the result of the federal policy and the republic’s leadership in eliminating kidnappings.” He told Interfax that the situation in Chechnya “has stabilized” and that “the level of crime is going down.”