The retrial of Captain Eduard Ulman, who is accused along with three fellow GRU special forces officers of murdering six Chechen civilians, took an unexpected turn this week. The incident took place on January 11, 2002, in Chechnya’s Shatoi district, when, according to Ulman’s testimony, he was ordered to take a 12-man unit out to try and capture or kill the Saudi-born Chechen rebel field commander Khattab and 15 of his fighters.
As reported by Interfax and Kavkazky Uzel on April 5 and Kommersant on April 6, Ulman told the court that while they were waiting in ambush, an UAZ van drove up. The vehicle, he said, was ordered to halt, but instead sped up, ignoring warning shots. Ulman said his group then fired into the vehicle, killing one of its passengers and wounding two, and only realized that the passengers were civilians, not rebel fighters, after the survivors emerged with their hands up. “After they were seized, I contacted the headquarters six times by radio to get instructions,” Ulman told the court. He said he was told by one of the other accused officers, Major Aleksei Perelevsky: “You’ve got six 200s” – military jargon meaning “corpses” – and that this phrase was repeated several times. Ulman said he asked whether this meant the vehicle’s surviving passengers must be killed and was told: “Yes, destroy them all.” At the same time, Ulman said he had the impression that Perelovsky was being “pressured from above.”
After the remaining passengers were shot and killed, Ulman said, commanders ordered his group by radio to “clean up” the scene by blowing up the UAZ to make it look like it was blown up by a mine. Ulman testified that his group only had one explosive charge and thus was unable to blow up the vehicle. The next day, he said, he personally briefed Colonel Vladimir Plotnikov about the operation, saying: “Your order has been carried out.” According to Ulman, Plotnikov responded: “Well done! Everything was done properly; go rest.” As Kavkazky Uzel reported on April 5, Plotnikov has categorically denied in his own testimony having given such an order either orally or in writing.