Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 47

Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said on December 6 that he would seek the prosecution of the commanders of federal military units responsible for the death or disappearance of civilians in Chechnya, Kavkazky Uzel reported. During a meeting with members of Chechnya’s youth parliament (representing higher educational institutions, secondary schools and youth social organizations), Kadyrov said that Russia’s leadership had sent troops to Chechnya “not to be guilty of the deaths of civilians, but to establish constitutional order, to fight terrorism.” In spite of this, federal forces had bombed homes without determining whether they housed civilians or members of “illegal armed formations,” he said. “So long as I’m alive, I’m not going to resign myself to this,” Interfax quoted Kadyrov as saying.

By way of example, Kadyrov cited a special operation in Tsentoroi, his native village, where, he claimed, federal forces carried out an unjustified zachistka, or sweep, and blockaded the village. According to Kadyrov, the operation was conducted under the command of a “General Studenikin.” (This may refer to Major General Aleksandr Studenikin, who commanded the Russian military contingent in the South Caucasus and prior to that had served in Chechnya for three years.) Kadyrov said that a contract soldier, who participated in the security operation, shot a boy whose surname was Chistaev and that those guilty have, to this day, not been punished. Indeed, the Chechen prime minister claimed that instead of being detained and brought to justice, Studenikin had “hid somewhere.” Kadyrov did not indicate when this alleged incident took place, but in an interview published at the beginning of this year, Kadyrov claimed that eight people had been abducted during an operation in a village in Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district that had been carried out by federal forces under the command of “General Studenikin” (MN.ru, January 13). While Kadyrov did not indicate the village where this sweep took place, it is worth noting that Tsentoroi is in the Kurchaloi district.

Answering a question from a member of the republic’s youth parliament, Kadyrov said that a large number of people remain on the list of those who have disappeared without a trace. “If they have been killed, it is necessary to indicate where they have been buried,” he said. “If they are serving time somewhere and are actually innocent, they must be freed. And this subject must be closed for good.”

Kadyrov also complained that “debates” are still taking place over the imprisonment of Yuri Budanov, the tank commander who was convicted in July 2003 of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen girl and received a 10-year sentence. Budanov has made several attempts to win an early release for good behavior. “If a Chechen commits an insignificant offense, he receives a full-scale punishment,” Kadyrov said. “But those guilty of the death of a large number of people remain free.”

In addition, Kadyrov said the war in Chechnya was unleashed not by the Chechen people but by the Russian leadership. Only now has it been admitted that “terrorists from more than 60 countries attempted to pull Russia apart,” he said. Yet, it was the pro-Moscow Chechens who had saved the country. “We, suffering huge losses, losing relatives and family members, destroyed the illegal armed formations,” he said. “In doing so, we saved Russia from collapse.”

Kadyrov’s comments may represent his and his government’s continued – and perhaps increasing – unhappiness with certain individuals in Moscow, particularly the siloviki who are said to be blocking his elevation to the post of Chechen president (Chechnya Weekly, November 30, 16 and 2). However, Kadyrov’s comments may also be an indirect response to recent reports on torture in Chechnya published by the Human Rights Watch and Memorial. The Human Rights Watch report detailed instances of abductions and torture by both members of the Second Operational Investigative Bureau (ORB-2), a federal entity, and units under Kadyrov’s effective command (Chechnya Weekly, November 30 and 16).