Russian Forces “Accidentally” Shell Chechen Village

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 4

The village of Gekhi, located in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district, was shelled by Russian artillery on January 28 after rebels attacked a military unit in a neighboring district. Prague Watchdog reported on January 29 that guerrillas attacked the unit on the outskirts Bamut, located in Achkhoi-Martan district, 25 kilometers away from Gekhi. One soldier was killed and three wounded in the rebel attack. “In order to avoid unnecessary casualties among the troops, the military did not pursue the guerrillas, but called in artillery fire on the supposed path of their retreat,” Prague Watchdog reported. “Later, in the middle of the night, artillery shells began to fall on the outskirts of Gekhi.” The website quoted Gekhi residents as saying that more than twenty shells exploded in the village, and that several homes on the outskirts of the village suffered substantial damage, including broken windows, window frames and door frames.

Prague Watchdog reported that after the incident, representatives of Chechnya’s military command went to Gekhi and brought with them the soldiers directly responsible for the shelling. “The soldiers were all drunk,” the website quoted Gekhi resident Vakha Kavkaliev as saying. “They swore they hadn’t shelled the village deliberately, and that it was all a mistake. They said they’d been given the wrong coordinates,” Kavkaliev said that six of his houses and apartment buildings were damaged and that he was going to file a lawsuit against the military and seek compensation for moral and material damage.

Vremya Novostei and other Russian media on January 30 quoted Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov as saying about the incident: “Today is not 1999, there was no reason to use artillery; eight or nine bandits are not grounds for employing artillery … I don’t think this is a mistake or carelessness, it’s a criminal violation of military discipline … This incident risks seriously undermining the trust of ordinary people in the authorities. The damage to the population has to be restored, the investigation must be pursued to the end and those responsible must be punished.”

Meanwhile, a Russian serviceman and a Chechen police officer were killed along with two rebels in a clash near the village of Gordali in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district on January 27, Prague Watchdog reported.