Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 13

In an article appearing in the April 23 issue of the Los Angeles Times, journalist Maura Reynolds wrote that “less than two weeks after announcing new safeguards to prevent abuses, the Russian military launched a large-scale operation in Chechnya that was marked by beatings, looting, electric shock torture and at least two extrajudicial killings, residents and human rights workers say.” On March 29, General Moltenskoi, commander of the Russian Combined Group of Forces operating in Chechnya, had announced that Order No. 80 had gone into effect. This order explicitly permitted local pro-Moscow Chechen officials to observe operations being conducted in the republic and required Russian soldiers to identify themselves and to keep public lists of detainees. “I was very hopeful about Order No. 80,” Malika Umazhaeva, the pro-Moscow mayor of the Chechen town of Alkhan-Kala, was quoted as saying, “But my hopes were short lived. They didn’t let me or any other representative of the administration or of the council of elders accompany the soldiers.” Umazhaeva added that she had been “manipulated into signing a document certifying that there had been no human rights violations, and that once the document was signed, the abuses intensified.” The Russian human rights organization Memorial has similarly produced evidence of flagrant violations by the Russian forces of Moltenskoi’s Order No. 80.

Writing in the April 25 issue of Kommersant, journalist Olga Allenova described the activities of an elite unit of pro-Moscow Chechen spetznaz, part of the forces of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which is under the command of Dzhabrail Yamadaev. Seeing the members of the unit putting on masks before going out to conduct a special operation, she asked why they were disobeying Moltenskoi’s Order No. 80, which specifically prohibits soldiers from wearing masks. “Without masks a special operation is unthinkable,” Yamadaev confided to her. “The soldiers must be unrecognizable.”