Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 38

A jury in Rostov-on-Don last week upheld a June 2004 court decision acquitting two Russian Interior Ministry officers, Yevgeny Khudyakov and Sergei Arakcheyev, who were accused of murdering three Chechens in January 2003. As Novaya gazeta noted on October 10, the incident took place on January 15, 2003, when an armored personnel carrier belong to an Interior Ministry Internal Troops’ reconnaissance unit was stopping cars in Grozny’s Oktyabrskaya district. The servicemen first stopped a Volga car driven by Shamil Yunusov, whom they detained after seizing his documents, 7000 rubles and a gold ring. Next they stopped a KamAZ truck driven by Said Yangulbaev that also carried two passengers, Abdulla Dhambekov and Haazhmudi Khasanov, both of them employed as builders. Khudyakov ordered them to get out of the truck and lie face down, after which he and Arakcheyev allegedly shot them in the head with assault rifles. Khudyakov then ordered his men to pour gasoline on the truck and burn it. They then took Yunusov, the driver of the Volga, back to their unit’s base, tortured him while demanding that he “give up the location of the [separatist] fighters” and shot him in the leg. Yunusov’s life was saved by the intervention a senior officer. Khudyakov’s subordinates told investigators during their initial interrogation that he was intoxicated during the incident.

According to Novaya gazeta, many of the witnesses in the case withdrew their initial testimony. One of them, Private Sergei Maslov, had recounted during the first trial how he had seen the three men from the KamAZ alive and lying face-down on the road, after which he had heard shots and seen Khudyakov and Arakcheyev standing over their bodies with automatic weapons. Maslov had testified that the officers then ordered him to pull the bodies off the road. During the re-trial, Maslov, now demobilized, took back his earlier testimony, claiming it had been forced out of him.

On October 6, Chechnya’s First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said in a statement that he believed that acquittal of Khudyakov and Arakcheyev was upheld because there were no Chechen citizens on the jury. According to Interfax, Kadyrov accused the jury of failing “to understand the will of my people in connection with this case” and said the two accused officers “were at large for a long time and therefore they could have put pressure on witnesses.” Chechen civilians who want to live in peace should not be treated in the same way as Chechen rebel gunmen, he said, adding that he hoped the court decision would be overturned.

On October 7, Chechen President Alu Alkhanov said in a statement that the re-acquittal of Khudyakov and Arakcheyev “does not correspond to the objective picture” or “the spirit and letter of the law,” the Regnum information agency reported. He suggested that the jurors might have been pressured and, echoing Kadyrov, said the verdict might have been different if Chechens had been on the jury. Alkhanov also called for a re-trial.