Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 12

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov continued his campaign against ORB-2, an operative-investigative unit of the Southern Federal District’s main Interior Ministry department that operates in Chechnya. Kadyrov, along with human rights activists and alleged victims, have accused ORB-2 of using torture. “The situation at the operative and investigative bureau No. 2 of the main department of the Russian Interior Ministry in the Southern Federal District, where detainees are systematically subjected to torture, is totally unacceptable,” Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny, Interfax reported on March 16. “The problem of torture at the bureau has always been raised, everybody has complaints against the agency, and we must solve the problem, because the torture and humiliation that occurs there are a blatant violation of human rights. The Chechen prosecutor’s office has launched a criminal case into torture at the bureau in the town of Urus-Martan. From the perspective of Russian law, it is absolutely illegal to seek confessions through illegal means of influence.”

The torture case Kadyrov was referring to involves Urus-Martan resident Ramzan Khasiev. According to Interfax, the Chechen government’s press service told journalists on March 15 that doctors at the Urus-Martan district hospital had diagnosed Khasiev as having a brain concussion, multiple bruises and injuries of the spinal column and legs and arms after he spent 11 hours at the ORB-2 facility in Urus-Martan. On March 20, Ekspert Online (Expert.ru), the website of the weekly magazine Ekspert, quoted the head of ORB-2, Interior Ministry Colonel Akhmed Khasanbekov, as calling Khasiev’s accusations “slander.” Khasanbekov also took issue with the claim made by Kadyrov and other Chechen government officials that ORB-2 is not needed in Chechnya because it is duplicating functions already being fulfilled by the Chechen Interior Ministry. “We are directly involved in the fight against organized crime, terrorism and extremism; the Chechen MVD is connected to that work as far as possible, but this is not part of its direct tasks,” Khasanbekov said. “The republican militia has a multitude of other functions – issuing passports, supervising the markets, combating petty crime and so on. The Chechen MVD could not carry out our functions effectively.”

Ekspert Online added: “Kadyrov has personal reasons not to like the bureau – ORB-2 is considered the only security agency in Chechnya not controlled by the president. Formally, of course, neither the Chechen MVD or the ‘Vostok’ and ‘Zapad’ battalions of the Defense Ministry or the ‘Sever’ and ‘Yug’ spetsnaz battalions depend on Kadyrov, either. Nevertheless, all of these units are headed by people loyal to Kadyrov, and without ‘Vostok’ commander Sulim Yamadaev, the president could not have attained his current influence. Kadyrov himself, in the role of vice-premier, supervised the Chechen MVD for a long time. The so-called oil regiment (the militia sub-unit that guards the republic’s oil complex and numbers 2,000, according to some estimates), which often figures in the reports of foreign human rights organizations about kidnappings and torture in Chechnya, is also essentially directly subordinated to him [Kadyrov].”

According to Ekspert Online, ORB-2 has maintained its independence thanks to its chief, Akhmed Khasanbekov, whom the website described as “a well-known and respected policeman in Chechnya who was fighting terrorists even during the first Chechen campaign.” Still, Khasanbekov tried to play down tensions with Kadyrov, telling the website: “Our subordination to the [Chechen] president is unnecessary, and the fate of the bureau will be decided by the Russian Federation MVD. Kadyrov is also a person; he is being deceived about ORB-2 by the relatives and friends of our opponents.”