Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 17

Gazeta reported on April 26 that a shoot-out took place in Grozny on April 25 between security forces loyal to Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov and members of Chechen President Alu Alkhanov’s unit of bodyguards. The battle reportedly occurred in the vicinity of the complex of government buildings in the center of the capital, and residents of an apartment block on neighboring Adlinskaya Ulitsa told the newspaper that they saw a large number of armed men heading toward Alkhanov’s residence. Gazeta reported that three “security personnel” were wounded and another two bodies were later found in the capital, but the exact identity of the victims was not made clear in the newspaper’s report. An anonymous Chechen government source said the battle was connected with the visit of Sergei Stepashin, head of the Audit Chamber, the federal government’s budgetary watchdog agency, to Grozny. According to the source, Kadyrov became enraged after he was barred from Alkhanov’s talks with Stepashin, and following Stepashin’s departure gave orders for Alkhanov’s bodyguards to be “dealt with.”

Gazeta cited reports that the GRU’s “Zapad” spetsnaz battalion under the command Said-Magomed Kakiev intervened and prevented the battle from widening, although the newspaper said those reports were “somewhat strange” because the battalion’s men “are constantly in the mountains engaged in special operations against the separatists.” In any case, the newspaper reported that a confrontation between forces loyal to Kadyrov and those loyal to Alkhanov had been brewing for some time. It also cited rumors that the latest in a series of confrontations between kadyrovtsy and federal troops had occurred several days earlier.

“Official representatives of Grozny, of course, have not commented on the reports that have surfaced,” Gazeta reported. “It is possible that the reliability of the reports will be confirmed in the coming days: If the incumbent head of Chechnya suddenly remembers and old injury or neglected malady and flies to Moscow or abroad for treatment, then the next step will most likely be his resignation: this will mean that the armed clash really took place, and in that case, there will no longer be a place for Alkhanov in Chechnya.”

Moskovsky komsomolets, for its part, reported on April 27 that Alkhanov two weeks ago banned anyone carrying arms from entering the government headquarters in Grozny—a move clearly aimed at the kadyrovtsy, given that, as the paper noted, they were used to carrying their arms anywhere they pleased in the republic. Citing eyewitnesses, the newspaper reported that Alkhanov banned Kadyrov personally from entering the government building with more than two bodyguards. It also reported that there was another incident that made Kadyrov’s “blood boil:” members of an OMON unit based at the Grozny railway station had exchanged fire with and then jailed a group of kadyrovtsy. This incident, Moskovsky komsomolets reported, outraged Kadyrov, who then ordered his men to shoot to kill anyone who stood in their way and reportedly called Alkhanov to warn him that there would be a “war” if his men were further provoked.

The April 25 shootout occurred at 11 AM that day when 10 kadyrovtsy tried to enter the government complex to eat in its cafeteria but were prevented from entering with their weapons. One of Alkhanov’s guards was reportedly shot and wounded in the head, after which an intense crossfire ensued. According to Moskvosky komsomolets, Kadyrov called Alkhanov and told him that he was giving the president a half an hour to vacate the building, after which forces loyal to Kadyrov would storm it. “The situation was very tense,” one of the presidential guards involved in the incident told the newspaper. “We were quickly shifted to encircle the government building, and we took up defensive positions. Later, the FSB, MVD [Interior Ministry], and all the siloviki who were in Grozny moved in! I, honestly speaking, became afraid when crowds of people began to gather and demand an end to ‘Kadyrovite bespredel’ [lawlessness-CW]. Meanwhile, the exchange of fire had not ended and I didn’t know how many victims there were, but everyone from our units was OK.” The presidential guardsman claimed that in order to prevent the start of a “third war,” Alkhanov ordered the bodyguard units to maintain a defensive posture and not to attack the kadyrovtsy, who then retreated. That evening, Kadyrov reportedly phoned Alkhanov, apologizing for the incident, saying it would not happen again and telling the president he had dismissed those of his men involved in the incident. Later that night, Kadyrov personally went to the government offices to apologize, Moskovsky komosomolets reported.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on April 26 that four men with gunshot wounds had been brought to a hospital near the government center on April 25. An unnamed medical worker said that one of the wounded was a member of Kadyrov’s security forces and the other three wounded men were members of Alkhanov’s presidential security service.