Police and Servicemen Attacked, Lawyer’s Relatives Abducted in Chechnya

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 28

Unidentified attackers wounded a policeman in a drive-by shooting in the Chechen town of Vedeno on July 16, Kavkazky Uzel reported. The gunmen shot the policeman, who was guarding a building housing a branch of the Russian Pension Fund, from a Zhiguli automobile and managed to get away, a Chechen police source told the website. Also on July 16, militants ambushed local police in the Shatoi district settlement of Musolt-Yurt, killing one policeman and wounding three, Itar-Tass reported, quoting a Chechen law-enforcement source. A group of Defense Ministry servicemen conducting a reconnaissance-engineering mission near the town of Shali hit a landmine on the roadside of the Agishty-Shali highway on July 15. One of the servicemen was injured. On July 14, unidentified gunmen driving in a Lada car fired automatic weapons at a car carrying two federal Interior Ministry officers in the Tersk Mountains in Chechnya’s Groznensky district. The two officers—a colonel and a warrant officer—were severely wounded in the attack. On July 11, militants detonated a powerful explosive device in the path of a column of military vehicles in Chechnya’s Shali district. The blast killed an officer from a unit of Interior Ministry Internal troops and wounded two contract servicemen.

Chechnya’s Interior Ministry reported on July 17 that three people suspected of membership in “illegal armed formations” had been detained in Grozny, the Chechen capital, and in the republic’s Shali and Shatoi districts. A Chechen law-enforcement source told Itar-Tass on July 16 that two militants were killed the previous day when officers of the main police department in the Southern Federal District, police commandos and local policemen manning a checkpoint near the village of Engel-Yurt in Chechnya’s Gudermes district stopped a car. “The car was carrying two men, who put up armed resistance to the policemen,” the source said, adding that the attackers were “neutralized” by return fire. None of the policemen was hurt in the shootout.

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov told a meeting of top law-enforcement officials in Grozny on July 16 that 30 members of the “armed underground” were “liquidated,” three entire rebel units destroyed and 199 detained during the first six months of this year.

Nine soldiers were killed and four injured on July 15 when munitions detonated near the Chechen town of Shali. Agence France-Presse quoted the federal Defense Ministry as saying that “an uncontrolled explosion occurred as ammunition was being transferred from a tank into a vehicle.” According to Interfax, two of the six injured in the explosion died in the hospital, raising the initial death toll from seven to nine. Russian media reported that the incident took place on the grounds of a unit of the Defense Ministry’s 42nd Motorized Rifle Division. According to AFP, prosecutors opened an inquiry into the explosion and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov dispatched a special investigative commission to look into the incident. Russian media reported that investigators believe the explosion was triggered by a faulty round of ammunition and have ruled out the possibility that it was a terrorist act.

Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 17 that members of “power agencies” in Chechnya’s Shatoi district had seized two local residents of the village of Aslambek-Sheripovo and taken them to an unknown destination. According to the website, the two abducted residents were the brother and nephew of Ilyas Timishev, a well-known Chechen lawyer who has represented the interests of Chechen human rights abuse victims in both local courts and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A relative of Timishev identified the abductees as 54-year-old Yunus Timishev, Ilyas Timishev’s brother, and 20-year-old Aslambek Timishev, his nephew.

“A group of armed persons burst into Yunus’ home on the evening on July 16 and under the threat of force took him and 20-year-old Aslambek away,” the relative told Kavkazky Uzel. “The ‘siloviki’ neither introduced themselves nor explained the reasons for their actions. Our authorities constantly repeat that the lawlessness of the military and members of other power agencies long ago became a thing of the past, that everything is now according to the law, but where is this law? Why were no concrete charges whatsoever brought against Yunus or Aslambek? Why didn’t they [the siloviki] say where they were being taken away to and why? In general, why do our ‘heroic organs’ behave worse than bandits in such cases? Where is the law here?”

Interfax quoted Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, as denying that Yunus and Aslambek Timishev had been abducted. “The report was carefully checked on my orders,” Nukhazhiev told the news agency. “It was determined that Timishev’s nephew was detained in connection with operational information about his possible links with NVFs [illegal armed formations]. At present the detainee is located in the Shatoi ROVD [district department of internal affairs]. Investigative measures are being carried out with him.”

Kavkazky Uzel quoted a local human rights activist as saying that the detention of Ilyas Timishev’s brother and nephew was an attempt to pressure the lawyer. “As far as I know, Ilyas won several cases in local courts concerning non-payment by so-called ‘militants’ to Chechen police officials. A complaint based on one of the cases is currently with the Strasbourg court. Probably, representatives of the ‘organs’ want to force Ilyas to withdraw that complaint.”

In 2005, Ilyas Timishev won a case he filed with the European Court of Human Rights after his children were not allowed to attend school and the traffic police (GIBDD) refused to allow him to drive into Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. As a result of the Strasbourg court’s ruling, the Russian government paid Timishev around 76,000 rubles (worth more than $2,600 at that time).

Kavkazky Uzel, citing the Chechen National Salvation Committee, reported on July 16 that Chechen “power structures” operating jointly with federal forces had abducted and then released Zaur Betilgireyev. Betilgireyev’s mother, Luiza Betilgireyeva, was a volunteer with the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society who was shot and killed by federal forces at a roadblock near the Chechen city of Argun in 2001. In 2004, Amnesty International characterized her killing as part of an apparent “deliberate campaign” targeting Russian-Chechen Friendship Society activists. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Zaur Betilgireyev’s brother, Zelim, died two years ago in a battle between security forces and militants in the village of Avtury.