Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 16

During a meeting of the Chechen branch of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party held in Gudermes on April 15, Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov accused members of the operational investigation bureau (ORB-2) of the federal Interior Ministry’s Main Administration for the Southern Federal District stationed in Grozny of “unlawful arrests of local residents and cruel treatment of prisoners” and promised to have the bureau removed from the republic. “I’m going to get this subdivision withdrawn from the republic, since its associates are unlawfully arresting citizens, beating prisoners, and treating them cruelly,” the April 17 edition of Kommersant quoted Kadyrov as telling the United Russia meeting. He added that the ORB-2 staffers had forced prisoners “to sign off on crimes they did not commit.” His comments were echoed by Chechen People’s Assembly Chairman Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, who is deputy head of the United Russia’s Chechen branch, who told the meeting that the “militarized structure” should be removed from the republic because it is “utterly superfluous.” Abdurakhmanov told Kommersant that an emissary from the village of Duba-Yurt, Usman Khamzatov, had recounted several instances in which fellow villagers were detained by ORB-2 operatives and then, “after lengthy searches, were found crippled in ORB torture chambers.”

In an article posted April 19 on Ej.ru, the website of Yezhednevny zhurnal, Aleksandr Cherkasov of Memorial wrote that Kadyrov was “absolutely right when he accuses staff of the ORB of unlawful detentions – of kidnappings of people, of the torture of those detained and arrested.” Cherkasov noted that Memorial had over the last three years repeatedly reported “gross human rights violations” by ORB-2 staffers. But Cherkasov asked at the end of his article whether Kadyrov’s demarche would mark an end to the problem of kidnappings and disappearances and the torture of those detained and arrested in Chechnya. “Hardly,” he concluded. “Simply the closure of ORB will not do here. After all, it is not only they who abduct, torture and ‘disappear’ people. These things are engaged in by the fighters of Sulim Yamadaev’s ‘Vostok’ GRU spetsnaz battalion (we remember the 11 ‘disappeared’ in the settlement of Borozdinovskaya), and employees of power structures controlled by the fighter against lawlessness himself, Ramzan Akhmatovich.”

Cherkasov noted, however, that Kadyrov’s targeting of ORB-2 would increase his popularity in Chechnya. It will also help him to consolidate his own monopoly over armed units inside the republic. Some observers saw that goal in another development this past week: on April 14, Col-Gen. Yevgeny Baryaev, deputy commander of the federal Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops, announced the formation of two new security structures, the “Sever” (North) and “Yug” (South) battalions. As Kommersant noted on April 15, the two new battalions will be made up of men who formerly served in the republic’s Interior Ministry and Anti-Terrorist Center, will be formally subordinated to the command of the Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops in the North Caucasus and will effectively duplicate the functions of the federal Defense Ministry’s “Vostok” (East) and “Zapad” (West) battalions.

The North battalion will consist of more than 700 servicemen and be based in Grozny, while the South battalion will have 500 men and be stationed in Vedeno. The units will be commanded by Chechens, Alibek Celimkhanov and Muslim Ilyasov and, as Kommersant put it, manned mostly by local inhabitants “in keeping with the Chechen authorities’ demands.” The newspaper wrote that it is “easy to predict” that the 1,200 servicemen of the former Anti-Terrorist Center and Interior Ministry Patrol and Guard Regiment who make up the two new battalions “will effectively be subordinated to their former ‘master’—Prime Minister Kadyrov,” who, as Kommersant noted, presided over the meeting at which Baryaev announced the formation of the North and South battalions. The newspaper quoted an unnamed official in the office of Chechnya’s military commandant as saying that in setting up the new battalions, Kadyrov was aiming to curb the influence of the commanders of the East and West battalions—Sulim Yamadaev and Said-Magomed Kakiev, respectively. Kadyrov already controls the Chechen Interior Ministry, the official said, and will now also have “more than 1,000 soldiers on alert 24 hours a day.”