Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 87

The city administration in Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital, has demanded that the Russian servicemen responsible for looting and destroying a city market on May 1 be severely punished. According to a statement issued by the city mayor’s office, the market was looted, nearby apartment buildings were subjected to fire from armored personnel carriers and automatic weapons, and dozens of people were detained and beaten. The so-called “mopping up” operation was apparently carried out by a unit of Interior Ministry internal troops. According to eyewitnesses, the market was completely cordoned off and surrounded by Russian armor, and troops beat people without the slightest provocation. Three employees of the market’s baggage check were murdered and their disfigured bodies found the following morning. According the statement from the mayor’s office, the city’s military commander was prevented from entering the market. The office demanded that a criminal investigation into the incident be launched and seen through to the end, adding that the punishment or nonpunishment of the incident’s perpetrators will be an indication of how serious the Russian authorities are about resolving the Chechen crisis (Radio Liberty, May 3).

In the meantime, the overall situation in Chechnya has been deteriorating, with reports of explosions and murders in various parts of the republic. A cafe was blown up in the town of Kurchala, in eastern Chechnya, wounding six members of a Russian OMON special police unit, four of whom were hospitalized. The explosion was caused by a homemade bomb placed under a refrigerator and detonated remotely. On May 2, seven residents of the village of Tevzenon, in southeastern Chechnya, were found murdered. According to the republic’s prosecutor’s office, among the dead were the director of the local school and the head of village’s council of elders. A message was reportedly found on one of the bodies stating that the victim had been executed on orders of the Sharia court of Ichkeria, which had found him guilty of collaborating with the Russian power structures. Saikhan Chukaev, the head of the administration of the village of Geldagen, and his deputy, Umar-Pasha Usmanov, were apparently executed on the same charges. Their bodies were discovered along the road between Geldagen and the village of Avtury. The two were apparently shot to death. Meanwhile, a police car in the Oktyabr region of the Chechen capital was blown up by a radio-controlled device. Two policemen were wounded. The republic’s radio station, citing military sources, claimed that rebel field commanders had held a meeting in the village of Tsatsan-Yurt, in the Kurchaloevsky region, during which they discussed plans for further military actions against Russian troops. This meeting could explain why the rebel units have become more active since the start of the month (Radio Liberty, May 3).

Indeed, the deteriorating situation in Chechnya would appear to explain why the Russian government’s “power ministers”–Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev–flew today to the Russian military base at Khankala, outside the Chechen capital. According to the state’s Ria Novosti news agency, the ministers were set to meet with high command of the Russian military in the North Caucasus to discuss steps to impose order on the republic (Russian agencies, May 4).