Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 8

Chechen President Alu Alkhanov announced on February 21 that five people were shot to death on February 18 by unknown persons as they were driving in the Kurchaloi district on, Interfax reported. Alkhanov said that two of the victims were employees of the presidential security service who were Kurchaloi residents – Khusein Taraev and Kazbek Abkarov. According to one version of what happened, the car was shot-up by “one of the power structures” who had been stationed at a security checkpoint located at the site of the shooting, Alkhanov said. “I want to say that for the inhabitants of the Chechen Republic it makes no difference who committed the crime – bandits or people in epaulettes,” he said. “Crimes carried out by the latter are much more painful for the population of the Chechen Republic, inasmuch as they were hoping for their protection.”

According to a report posted by the Kavkazky Uzel website on February 22, inhabitants of the village of Kurchaloi told staffers of the Memorial human rights group that while driving through the checkpoint in question on February 18 they had seen a shot-up VAZ-2107 car, next to which were pools of blood, and that two armored personnel carriers were standing nearby. Later that evening, the shot-up car was seen standing empty some 500 meters from the checkpoint. According to Memorial, the ill-fated car was driven by two members of “local power structures controlled by Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov,” Khusein Taramov and Kazbek Apaev, who lived in Kurchaloi village. That evening they had dropped off two residents of the nearby village of Geldagan at their homes and picked up three villagers there who were headed for Kurchaloi. The shooting incident took place on way back to Kurchaloi.

On February 19, investigators arrived at the scene of the shooting and found large number of cartridges from a 9mm “Vintorez” sniper rifle, which is used by special forces, along with cartridges from a Makarov pistol. Roman Ediev, who heads the Kurchaloi Regional Department of Internal Affairs (ROVD) and thus is the district’s top police official, said that on the evening of February 19, prior to the shooting, soldiers in two armored personnel carriers arrived at the checkpoint, which as usual was manned by OMON special police from Ulyanov Oblast, showed the OMON personnel special orders and ordered them to move off the checkpoint so that they could carry out some kind of special operation. The shooting incident followed.

On February 19, relatives of the five missing passengers in the ill-fated VAZ-2107 gathered in front of the Kurchaloi administration and ROVD buildings, which are located next to one another. They assembled in the same place the following day, and while local officials came out to speak with, them they were not told where their missing relatives were. Finally, on February 21, the bodies of the five men were brought to Kurchaloi. Kavazky Uzel cited information that the bodies were discovered in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district. However, the Chechen Republic’s prosecutor, Vladimir Kravchenko, reported that they were found in a wooded area of Grozny’s Leninsk district. He also said that a criminal investigation had been launched and that according to one version, federal servicemen were involved in the murders. Rosbalt reported on February 21 that the commander of the Russian forces in the North Caucasus, Gen.-Lieutenant Vyacheslav Dadonov, is involved in the investigation.