The head of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, Valentina Melnikova, told Ekho Moskvy on May 4 that her organization estimates that about 25,000 Russian soldiers and policemen have been killed in Chechnya since 1994, when Moscow launched its first military campaign in the republic. At least 50,000 Russian servicemen have received wounds and serious injuries in the two Chechen military campaigns, and some those injured have been left disabled, Melnikova told the radio station. An estimated 15,000 Soviet troops were killed during the 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan.
Aleksandr Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights center told Ekho Moskvy that while no official statistics have been kept on the number of civilians killed in Chechnya since 1994, Chechnya’s civilian losses have been the equivalent, in proportion to its population, to half the number of Soviet civilians killed in the Second World War. (The total number of Soviet citizens killed in the Second World War has been estimated at more than 25 million – EDM). More concretely, Cherkasov said that the State Statistics Committee estimated that 30,000-40,000 Chechen civilians were killed in the 1994-1996 military campaign, but that Memorial puts the real losses at a minimum of 50,000. As for the second military campaign, which began in 1999, Cherkasov said that while “official structures” say that no more than 1,000 people have been killed, “the number of names of those killed exceeds that number.” The actual number of civilians killed since 1999, he said, is “around 50,000,” while more than 3,000 people have “gone missing” (Ekho Moskvy, May 4).
Meanwhile, Russian agencies, citing Chechnya’s pro-Moscow government, reported on May 4 that federal forces continued to carry out an operation aimed at a large formation of separatist fighters around the eastern Chechen villages of Alleroi, Ishkhoi-Yurt and Galaiti. Nine rebels have reportedly been killed during that operation, while another nine are said to have been killed in a special operation in western Chechnya. Radio Liberty’s Russian service reported that two servicemen from a Lipetsk police unit were shot to death in a market in Grozny, the Chechen capital, while two servicemen were killed and five wounded when rebels ambushed an army unit traveling in the mountains of the Shatoi district (Radio Liberty, May 4).
Some Russian media continued to report that Aslan Maskhadov may be among a group of rebel fighters reportedly encircled in Chechnya’s Kurchaloev district. The newspaper Gazeta on May 5 cited unnamed Chechen government officials as saying that a unit of Chechen police and special forces under the command of Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and the head of his presidential security service, had surrounded the rebel leader and members of his inner circle and that they would be caught or “liquidated” within days.
Kommersant on May 5 quoted the commander of the operation against the encircled guerrillas, Chechen Deputy Interior Minister Sultan Satuev, as saying that a group of rebels led by the head of Maskhadov’s personal bodyguard, Akhmed Avdorkhanov, had attacked members of the presidential security service in Tsentroi, Akhmad Kadyrov’s hometown, on May 1, in an attempt to draw Ramzan Kadyrov into an ambush. The gambit failed, however, and the rebels became the hunted, Satuev claimed.
But Usman Ferzauli, the separatist government’s deputy foreign minister, categorically denied that Maskhadov was encircled or, as reported earlier by some media, wounded (see EDM, May 4).