Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 14

Russian press analyses this weekend of the carnage in Pervomaiskoye contained growing evidence that Russia’s "power" ministries decided to sacrifice hostages’ lives in order to kill their captors. It now appears clear that a large number of Chechen fighters, together with some hostages, successfully broke out of Pervomaiskoye January 18 with the aid of a nighttime attack on Russian forces by a Chechen relief column. The relief column, like Salman Raduyev’s detachment earlier this month, apparently made its way through Russian-patrolled areas of Chechnya and Dagestan. Russian military and law-enforcement officials accused the residents of two villages near Pervomaiskoye of having colluded with the relief force. Chechen leaders told Russian and Western media over the weekend that Raduyev and his fellow commanders, Maksud Ingulbayev and Hungar-Pasha Israpilov, had led groups of fighters and hostages from Pervomaiskoye safely back to their bases in Chechnya. The Chechen command announced its readiness to turn over remaining civilian hostages to Dagestani authorities and to exchange Novosibirsk OMON officers seized in Pervomaiskoe for Chechen fighters in Russian captivity.

Russian press accounts of the carnage, including those by Izvestiya corespondent Valery Yakov — who witnessed the fighting from inside Pervomaiskoye — described a chaotic, overmanned, and bungled Russian operation in Pervomaiskoye. Reports depicted an operation marked by great cruelty toward hostages and other civilians carried out by hungry, freezing, and drunken soldiers with old, malfunctioning equipment. Federal Security Service chief General Mikhail Barsukov, who commanded the Pervomaiskoye operation, was derided by journalists at a Moscow briefing yesterday when he provided the latest casualty numbers. The Glasnost Fund and the international organization Reporters without Borders publicly protested Russian security authorities’ intimidation of the press at Pervomaiskoye through warning shots, confiscation of equipment, beatings, and unleashing of attack dogs. Doctors without Borders protested the Russian military authorities’ ban on medical assistance to civilians in Pervomaiskoye and their refusal to allow evacuation of the wounded. (1)

The Turkish Difference.