Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 2

Tensions between Chechnya and Dagestan escalated this week after police in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt detained Zulai Kadyorva, sister of Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov. Son of assassinated pro-Moscow Chechen president, Akhmed Kadyrov, Ramzan heads the republic’s infamous presidential security service. According to the version of events published by the Gazeta newspaper’s website, Gzt.ru, on January 11, OMON police officers on January 10 stopped a car carrying Ms. Kadyrova on the federal highway leading into Khasavyurt, after which Ms. Kadyrova identified herself and explained that she was traveling to the city for medical treatment. With her were two members of her brother’s security service but only one of them was carrying his security service I.D. The three were taken to Khasavyurt’s Interior Ministry office, or GOVD – that is, the Khasavyurt city police headquarters – after which Ms. Kadyrova reportedly became ill and, according to one police officer who was present, fainted.

After Ramzan Kadyrov was told by telephone that his sister had been detained, he and some 150 armed men drove to the Khasavyurt GOVD building. Deputy Khasavyurt Mayor Arslanali Murtazaliev told Gzt.ru that the kadyrovtsy surrounded the GOVD building, which was almost deserted, forcing its duty officers against the wall and beating two of them, after which they left the building with Zulai Kadyrova, “victoriously shooting in the air.” The Chechen separatist Kavkazcenter website reported that the kadyrovtsy severely beat Dagestani policemen in the building despite the fact that they had not resisted the building’s seizure.

Gzt.ru cited sources in Chechnya’s Interior Ministry as claiming that “physical force” was used against Zulai Kadyrova and that one of her arms was broken. The Chechen official also claimed that after finding out about her detention, they appealed to their Dagestani colleagues but that this did not result in her release. According to the source, a group of Chechen Interior Ministry officials led by the republic’s deputy Interior Minister, Khamzat Guseinov, traveled to the Khasavyurt GOVD to find out what was going on. A Chechen Interior Ministry official denied that a large group of presidential security service members had either traveled to Khasavyurt or used force against their Dagestani counterparts: “This is a fraud from beginning to end, not one person traveled to Dagestan with the goal of using force; there was no conflict between members of the Chechen and Dagestani police,” he said. Meanwhile, the January 12 edition of Kommersant quoted sources in Dagestan’s Interior Ministry as denying that any force was used against Zulai Kadyrova or her traveling companions.

According to Gzt.ru, Khasavyurt Mayor Saigidpasha Umakhanov and the head of Khasavyurt’s city assembly sent a letter to the Russian and Dagestani interior ministers putting the blame for the incident involving Zulai Kadyrova, as well as an overall increase in crime in Khasavyurt, on Aitemir Salimgereyev, head of the Khasavyurt GOVD. Salimgereyev was named to succeed Omar Tupaliev after Dagestan’s leadership removed the latter for ostensibly failing to act to quell demonstrations in Khasavyurt last August. Those demonstrations targeted the republican authorities, including Dagestani State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov.

The letter complained that the Khasavyurt GOVD had kept Zulai Kadyrova in custody after Ramzan Kadyrov had appealed to its leadership for her release. “As a result, fighters of R. Kadyrov’s guard seized the building of the Khasavyurt GOVD and completely controlled it for several hours,” the letter stated. “We are not prepared to assess R. Kadyrov’s actions, but the actions of the [Khasavyurt] police elicit an extremely negative assessment not only from the city authorities, but also from all the city’s residents. How could the police allow anyone to seize the city police building?”

In an interview with Gzt.ru, the Khasavyurt mayor noted that while it was Chechen police who seized the city GOVD building, it could have been rebel fighters. “It hurts the city’s honor,” Ukhmanov said, adding that in the wake of the invasion of the city by Ramzan Kadyrov and his minions, members of the volunteer “militia” that had fought invading Chechnya-based Islamic militants in 1999 “demanded to march off to the border with Chechnya to sort things out.” “I didn’t allow this,” he said. “I calmed everyone down.”

Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, for his part, said his government had received “many” complaints from Chechens who had been detained without cause by law-enforcement officers “in neighboring regions” and subjected to “physical force,” Kommersant reported on January 12. He called the detention of Zulai Kadyrova “a deliberate provocation and demonstration of disregard” for Russian Federation laws and promised to report the incident to President Vladimir Putin and discuss it with Dagestani State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov.

On the other side, a Khasavyurt district administration official told Kommersant: “Believe me, in the Caucasus, no one will beat a woman, let alone break her arm. But we have had enough of armed Chechens using documents of that republic’s law-enforcement organs. Last December 16 and 23, Khasavyurt district residents, indignant over the fact that people in camouflage were abducting their compatriots and taking them to Chechnya, blocked the Kavkaz federal highway. At that time the leadership of the local police and prosecutor’s office promised in the future to deal harshly with all uninvited ‘guests.’ Maybe this time they overdid it.”