Newspapers Detail the Criminal Activities of Security Forces in Chechnya

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 22

Vremya novostei reported on May 24 that a Chechen police commander, Ruslan Asuev, was promoted to head a department in a Grozny police station shortly after killing two Grozny residents – Khamzat Gaitukiev and a 20-year-old woman identified only by her first name Madina – whom he falsely accused of being rebels in order to be promoted. The newspaper reported that two of Asuev’s colleagues on the police force, Aslan Dzhamulaev and Adam Arsanukaev, were also promoted following the killings. According to Vremya novostei, the police officers claimed that Gaitukiev had fired a rifled at them and that Madina had planned a suicide bomb attack on a police patrol. In fact, the policemen told Gaitukiev he could join the police force if he fired a gun at a car that they said was carrying rebels, and then killed him when he refused to do so. The policemen are suspected of killing Madina and placing an explosive belt next to her body, the newspaper reported.

As the Moscow Times reported on May 25, the three policemen are in custody: Asuev’s case has been sent to court, while Dzhamulaev and Arsanukaev were tried, convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison each in March. In addition to the three police officers, 10 other people, including police officers and former rebels, were part of a group believed to have kidnapped several Chechens for ransom. Eight of the other members of the group have been arrested, while the remaining members are being sought by police.

Natalya Estemirova, a staffer with the Chechen branch of the Memorial human rights group, said security forces in Chechnya frequently target innocent people whom they then claim belonged to rebel groups. “We are simply swamped with complaints concerning the falsification of cases of participation in the illegal armed formations: they go out and catch some young guys when they need to solve a difficult crime, and send them to jail for a long time on the basis of completely farfetched accusations,” Kommersant on May 29 quoted Estemirova as saying.

Novaya gazeta military correspondent Vyacheslav Izmailov wrote in the bi-weekly’s May 28 issue that Russian military officers made fortunes during the two military campaigns in Chechnya through various illegal business deals, including the sale of both weapons and Russian servicemen to the rebels. “You’d think I’d be used to it,” wrote Izmailov, a retired Russian major who has arranged the release of dozens of hostages in Chechnya. “But there is nothing to compare to the commercial cynicism of the two Chechen campaigns. They sold their enemy not just weapons – the most modern weapons, which the Russian army did not even have (during one operation in 1996, a BTR-90 [armored personnel carrier], a prototype, was seized from the rebels) – but men, too: soldiers and officers. In this way, the enemy amassed capital, which went in part to support the war and in part into his pocket.”

The 19th division (Vladikavkaz) and 136th Buinaksk (Dagestan) brigade of the Russian Defense Ministry’s 58th army were “especially distinguished for their trade in human goods,” Izmailov wrote. “The sale of soldiers to bandits from Chechnya reached its zenith in the years 1998-1999, under Generals [Anatoly] Sidyakin and [Vladimir] Shamanov, who were commanding the 58th army. (Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov currently heads the Russian Presidential Commission on Military Prisoners, Internees, and Missing in Action, which is not actually searching for the missing in Chechnya.)” According to Izmailov, in one case, two Interior Ministry servicemen were kidnapped at a hospital in Makhachkala, Dagestan, where they were awaiting operations, while in another case, a Buinaksk brigade serviceman received 300 rubles for each fellow serviceman he sold to the kidnappers.

Izmailov wrote that this human trafficking, along with the illegal sales of oil and other contraband, was how the local “oligarchs” in Chechnya amassed their “start-up capital.” The divvying up of budget funds, he reported, “is the second stage of enrichment and capital concentration.”

Meanwhile, the Committee Against Torture has stated that two years after eleven residents of the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya disappeared following a June 2005 security sweep reportedly carried out by the GRU’s Vostok battalion commanded by Sulim Yamadaev (Chechnya Weekly, June 20, 2005), none of those known to have been involved in detaining the villagers has been punished, and the authorities continue to hide the truth about what happened to the villagers. Kavkazky Uzel on May 25 quoted the committee as saying in a statement that it has been able to establish that all eleven villagers were detained by Vostok technicians for alleged involvement in crimes and that the Shelkovskoi district police had registered their detention but determined that the villagers were not on the Chechen Interior Ministry’s list of wanted criminals.

The committee said in a statement that it is once again offering the military prosecutor’s office and the other law-enforcement bodies involved in investigating the Borozdinovskaya incident “help in the form of documentary confirmation of information about who detained the citizens in question and where they were held after they were detained.” The committee added: “If high-ranking officials are interested in concealing this information from the official investigation, or the organs conducting the official investigation for one reason or another do not want to verify the well-founded version that state structures were involved in the kidnapping and murder of civilians, then the Russian Federation will have to answer for this crime, and also for the ineffective investigation, to the European Court for Human Rights. And Russian taxpayers will pay for this.”