An episode which the newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta (March 6) termed “unprecedented” occurred at the beginning of March in the Chechen settlement of Dzhalka, located on the railroad line linking two major cities–Djohar and Gudermes. On March 2, the local FSB conducted a nocturnal raid on the homes of thirteen Chechens living in the settlement whom they suspected of being involved in acts of terrorism. “FSB officers literally dragged them out of their beds, offering no explanation to their family members” (Gazeta.ru, March 7). In response to this action, several hundred residents of Dzhalka, the great majority of them women, for four days blocked the movement of all trains traveling between Gudermes and Djohar, demanding that the thirteen men be liberated and proclaiming their complete innocence.
A second demonstration was conducted by residents of Dzhalka at the building of the Chechen administration in Gudemes. The protesters met there with Nikolai Britvin, a deputy plenipotentiary presidential representative of the Southern Federal District; with employees of the Chechen procuracy; and with representatives of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration headed by Akhmad Kadyrov. Britvin admitted to the demonstrators that the detaining of the thirteen men had been in violation of established rules: Neither the pro-Moscow head of the Dzhalka administration nor the local military commandant’s office had been informed in advance of the operation. By March 5, ten of the Chechens had been freed “due to insufficient evidence.” On March 7, the demonstrators lifted their blockade of the railroad (Russian agencies, March 7).