Questions Raised Over Deadly Troop Confrontation

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 13

President Vladimir Putin declared in Sochi on March 25 that “the peaceful processes now underway in Chechnya are irreversible.” On that same day, according to a March 29 report by Mainat Abdullaeva in Novaya gazeta, ten pro-Moscow servicemen were killed in Chechnya and another ten wounded.

According to the March 27 issue of Moskovsky komsomolets, eight of the fatalities were caused by the “stupidity” of two Russian military units that got into fight with one another. One was manning a checkpoint at Shali, southeast of Grozny; the other was a motorized convoy on its way back to the main federal base at Khankala near Grozny. The troops manning the checkpoint decided to enforce literally the rule that military vehicles are not supposed to drive about in Chechnya after 6:00 in the evening; the convoy refused to give in and tried to force its way through. According to the official version, the deaths were caused when one of the military vehicles accidentally drove over a mine planted near the checkpoint to protect it from nighttime guerrilla attacks.

However, Moskovsky komsomolets reported that, according to its own sources, a single mine explosion would not have produced so many casualties, and that “most likely the infuriated soldiers opened fire on each other.” The newspaper hinted that the soldiers had probably been drinking.