Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 14

In an essay entitled “Chechnya After Order No. 80,” appearing in the No. 31 (April 30) issue of Novaya Gazeta, the award-winning war correspondent Anna Politkovskaya probed the extent to which Moltenskoi’s order had been observed in the month since it was issued, taking as a test case the Chechen village of Goiti.

Aslan Akhmadov, she wrote, was a 33-year-old Chechen man who had participated in the 1994-1996 war but had elected to sit home in Goiti during the present conflict because of his acute dislike for the “bearded ones” (the wahhabis). One day as he emerged from his car to speak with acquaintances in the village, a number of Urus-Martan FSB personnel suddenly sprang from their vehicle. “Without any explanation, they pushed him into the back seat of their car.” The next day the FSB arrived uninvited at Akhmadov’s home where “they conducted a first search, then a second, using mother curses and making mocking comments.” A while later, Russian state television (ORT) announced that “field commander Aslan Akhmadov had been taken into custody.” Several hours later, other Russian television networks reported that Akhmadov had in fact been “destroyed during an attack on a column of federal forces.” At nightfall, Akhmadov’s family was informed by an intermediary that he “had been murdered by employees of the FSB and that his body had been tossed into Dikie Sady.” The intermediary indicated the precise location of the corpse. The body was then found by Akhmadov’s family at that spot; it had been “exploded,” apparently by a grenade.

The case of Aslan Akhmadov, Politkovskaya notes, “is typical for the spring of 2002 in Chechnya, the spring following Order [No. 80].” In place of the previous mopping up operations, “a large number of ‘targeted’ abductions of people” are now taking place. “The characteristic signature of these measures,” Politkovskaya continued, “is a denial by the power structures of any participation in the abductions and the helplessness of the civilian procuracy, even in cases where there are witnesses to an abduction.”

Politkovskaya talked to the mother of a young man who had been abducted by soldiers at dawn from his home on Kirov Street and then mutilated and murdered. “Don’t write down our names,” the mother pleaded with her. “I won’t even write out a complaint to the procuracy. I have four other sons. If I do anything, they will murder them too. We have already been warned.” The father of another young man who was likewise abducted from his home in April and then summarily executed recalled: “I wrote out a complaint to the procuracy, and they, right there on the spot, warned me. I thought about it and took my complaint back.”

Politkovskaya offered three other examples of young men–one of them a one-armed invalid–who had been abducted by soldiers and then murdered. When the body of one of them, Roman Akhadov, was returned to his family, they saw, according to his mother, that “his knees had been shot up as well as his fingers. His jaw had been broken, as had his bones.” And Politkovskaya concluded: “Every day there are provocations by the power ministries and corpses, corpses, corpses, all with the same signature of an abduction followed by a murder–this is Chechen life after Order [No. 80].”