Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 15

On April 10, it was announced that a new “mass burial ground” containing the bodies of seventeen or eighteen Chechens who had apparently been executed, had been discovered in the basement of a police building located in the Oktyabrsky District of the Chechen capital of Djohar (Grozny). Employees of the mayor’s office found the bodies in the basement of a destroyed dormitory situated on the territory of the police station. An initial examination of the corpses showed that a majority of those killed were middle-aged men and that the bodies were approximately six months old.

The pro-Moscow mayor of Djohar, Bislan Gantamirov, informed journalists that the corpses were those of peaceful residents of the capital who had been killed by elite OMON police commandos from the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous district in Siberia who had been based in Djohar until early this month. “We long suspected federal troops [of such crimes],” Gantamirov noted. “The mayor’s office has hundreds of inquiries from city residents asking to find out about relatives who have disappeared. An especially high number of complaints concerned the Oktyabrsky district police station where detainees often disappeared without a trace” (, 10 April; Moscow Times, April 11).

The plenipotentiary presidential representative for the Southern Federal District, retired army General Viktor Kazantsev, on April 10 confirmed that the bodies had been found. “It’s a fact,” he underlined to journalists (Russian agencies, April 10). By the evening of the same day, however, he was heatedly denying it. Kazantsev “then insinuated that Gantamirov could have orchestrated the scandal in the pursuit of personal advancement.” The newly appointed prosecutor of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, Viktor Dakhnov, formerly a deputy prosecutor in Belgorod Oblast–he officially replaced Vsevolod Chernov on April 10–also strongly denied that that any corpses had been found. The human rights organizations Memorial and Human Rights Watch declared that they were not satisfied with Kazantsev’s statement and demanded that the burial place be searched thoroughly and that an investigation be launched (, April 11; Segodnya, April 10).

On April 11, it was announced that the burial of all unidentified corpses discovered in February in an abandoned dacha complex adjacent to the main Russian military base at Khankala had been buried. Only twenty of the fifty-eight bodies had been identified; the remaining thirty-eight were buried in a common grave at the settlement of Prigorodnoe in the Grozny District (, April 11).