What has been the practical effect of the much-touted Order No. 80, which was issued on March 27 by General Vladimir Moltenskoi, commander of the Russian Combined Group of Forces operating in Chechnya? The stated goal was to ensure that Russian military and police personnel strictly observed Russian law and the regulations of their ministries while conducting special operations in Chechnya.
On April 25, the well-known Russian human rights organization Memorial posted on its website (www.memo.ru) the text of an open letter addressed to General Moltenskoi–with a copy to the chief pro-Moscow procurator of Chechnya, V.G. Chernov-by the Society of Chechen-Russian Friendship. The collective authors of this letter provided numerous examples testifying to the fact that General Moltenskoi’s Order No. 80 was de facto not being observed. To take just one of the examples provided, from March 25 to April 1, a special operation was conducted in the village of Tsotsin-Yurt, Kurchaloi District. “To provide for control over the conducting of the operation, neither the head of the village administration, nor the clergy, nor the village elders were included. The head of administration of the village was even beaten up by the soldiers. On the first day, personnel of the [pro-Moscow] police were not admitted to the place where the special operation was being conducted.” All of this, the authors noted, constituted a flagrant violation of Point 2 of Moltenskoi’s Order No. 80.
In addition, the authors continued in their letter, the Russian soldiers upon entering the homes of peaceful residents in the Chechen village “did not identify themselves. A majority wore masks.” They also behaved rudely toward the residents. All of this graphically violated Point 3 of Order No. 80. The identification numbers of the armored and regular vehicles used by the soldiers had, moreover, been intentionally smudged over. This constituted a clear violation of Point 4. Finally, while conducting the operation, the soldiers had engaged in looting and extortion, major violations of Point 5 of the general’s order.