Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 35

A shootout on September 13 between a group of armed Chechen OMON police commandos and Ingush police manning a traffic police post on the Chechen-Ingush administrative border resulted in the deaths of seven people–one Ingush police and six Chechen OMON. Among the victims was the Chechen OMON’s chief of staff, Buvadi Dukhiev, who was shot and severely wounded after he arrived on the scene of the battle and tried to convince both sides to stand down. Dukhiev died later in the hospital. Ten Ingush and 11 Chechen policemen were wounded in the battle, Interfax reported.

According to initial press reports, the shootout occurred as Chechen OMON, who had crossed over into Ingushetia and captured a rebel fighter, were crossing back into Chechnya. MosNews reported on September 13 that Ingush officials have repeatedly complained of forays by Chechen special police carrying out “special operations” in Ingushetia without notifying local authorities, while Chechen security officials said they did not inform their Ingush counterparts about the planned operation to avoid leaks.

Kommersant reported on September 14 that the Chechen OMON had captured not a rebel, but Gerikhan Temurziev, a leader of an Ingush criminal gang specializing in stealing expensive foreign-made automobiles. The gang had reportedly stolen cars across Russia, including in Moscow and Grozny, where they had carried out several armed carjackings of jeeps and limousines. Kommersant reported that Temurziev was caught in the Ingush village of Yandare, and that the Chechen police commandos had phoned the village’s administration head and police in advance to tell them of their impending arrival and Temurziev’s impending arrest. However, shortly after Temurziev was apprehended, his brother wife and brother phoned Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry and reported that he had been kidnapped by “unknown armed men” and driven off in the direction of Chechnya. According to Kommersant, an Ingush Interior Ministry officer who was unaware that Temurziev was the target of a manhunt ordered traffic police posts along the Chechen-Ingush administrative border to stop and search Chechen buses heading back into Chechnya.

As a result, the Chechen OMON were stopped by Ingush police, who ordered that the Chechen vehicles be searched and discovered the incarcerated Temurziev with a hood over his head and in handcuffs. According to Kommersant, a verbal dispute between the two groups of policemen escalated into a gunfight that lasted about an hour, with reinforcements joining both sides. “I perfectly understand my colleagues,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed top Ingush Interior Ministry official as saying. “Kidnappings, including those carried out by criminals dressed in police uniforms, are unfortunately not a rarity here.”

Interfax on September 13 quoted Ingush President Murat Zyazikov as saying that the shootout was the result of a “fatal mistake,” and Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov likewise said it was the result of a “misunderstanding.” But there is little doubt that tensions between the two republics’ respective law-enforcement bodies and security forces are rising.

Indeed, another violent incident between the two sides reportedly took place along the republics’ administrative border just days earlier. reported on September 8 that two Ingush policemen were hospitalized as the result of a fight the previous day with a group of armed men who identified themselves as members of Ramzan Kadyrov’s bodyguard unit. The incident took place at a passport control point (KPP) in the village of Alkhasty in Ingushetia’s Sunzhensky district, close to the Chechen-Ingush administrative border. The website quoted an anonymous Ingush law-enforcement source as saying that the altercation occurred when Ingush police attempted to check the documents of the armed men, who were traveling in several cars and trucks along with two armored personnel carriers, and who identified themselves as Kadyrov guards. “During the incident, the latter fired several shots from automatic weapons in the air, beat the commander and a policeman of the regiment located at the post, [and then] proceeded in the direction of Chechnya.”

However, the head of the Chechen Republic’s presidential and governmental apparatus, Abdulkakhir Izraiilov, said reports that members of Ramzan Kadyrov’s security service were involved in the incident were false, insisting that members of the Chechen prime minister’s security service never travel in APCs outside Chechnya or even inside the republic.

Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya said the September 13 shootout was a direct result of the September 7 fight. “Relations between the Ingush and Chechen siloviki didn’t worsen in just one day,” Kavkazky Uzel on September 14 quoted her as saying. “It is simply that nothing noticeable was communicated about it for a rather long time. Now it has gone beyond the bounds of a narrow circle.”

Politkovskaya added, “There have always been problems and, frankly speaking, the Ingush police practically always made way for people who kidnapped someone on their territory. It was not only ‘kadyrovtsy’ or other representatives of the Chechen siloviki, but anyone who felt like it. That is, the so-called ‘unestablished power structures’, whose affiliations are absolutely federal. For a long time, members of the Ingush police shut their eyes to such incidents. The only thing that they would tell the relatives who came looking for their abducted kin was that ‘the car proceeded to Chechnya’ and the presumed departmental affiliation of the abductors.”

Politkovskaya concluded, “After the ‘kadyrovtsy’ became insolent on September 7, severely beating Ingush police, they [the Ingush police], in their turn, agreed among themselves that ‘if we find kadyrovtsy, we will [either] no longer let them in here [or] beat them and throw them out of the republic.’ I think that yesterday they accepted battle: it was precisely the consequences of September 7, when the Ingush police decided that they had to put an end to this.” Politkovskaya, who apparently spoke to Kavkazky Uzel before Chechen OMON chief of staff Buvadi Dukhiev died in the hospital, expressed concern over the fact he had been shot. While describing him as “my big friend, who did many good things for me,” she added, “But I understand that the Ingush evidently also had no way out.”

In the wake of the incidents, at least one prominent Ingush politician has called for popular resistance against Chechen police who enter Ingushetia. On September 14, Agentstvo Natsionalnykh Novostei (ANN) quoted Issa Kostoev, a Federation Council member representing Ingushetia, as saying, “I urge that if anyone comes here and carries out searches [and/or] detentions without representatives of the law-enforcement bodies of the Ingush Republic, resist them in any way possible—physically, with the whole village, in all of the streets!…I have no words. I am tired of this uniformed humiliation of an entire republic and its people. Over the course of several years, hundreds of members of the law-enforcement organs of the Ingush Republic have died as a result of unsanctioned, uncoordinated sorties—both from the direction of [North] Ossetia and from the direction of Chechnya. It is time to put an end to this! I have calculated that around 300 members of the Ingush internal affairs bodies have been killed by these sorties.”

Kostoev concluded by calling on the federal authorities to ensure that such raids cease. “Otherwise there remains only one way out of this situation: to appeal to all of the people of Ingushetia to put up all possible resistance—with pitchforks, shovels, guns—to those…who arrive and show sundry identification badges and abduct people…There is no other way out. Everything else has been tried.”

The Caucasus Times, meanwhile, reported on September 14 that Chechnya’s Interior Ministry viewed Kostoev’s comments as a call to rebellion and to undermine the state’s constitutional order.

In the September 14 edition of Novaya gazeta, Vyacheslav Izmailov, the bi-weekly’s military correspondent, quoted an anonymous high-ranking federal Interior Ministry official as saying, “Such exchanges of fire between members of the law-enforcement bodies of Chechnya and Ingushetia are becoming regular…During the first two weeks of September alone, people in camouflage from Chechnya assaulted employees of Ingushetia’s MVD several times. The fact is that Chechen special services and law-enforcement independently carry out operations not sanctioned by the Russian MVD, and not only in Ingushetia, but also in Dagestan and even in Stavropol Krai. All of this lawlessness is being carried out either on behalf of Chechen premier Ramzan Kadyrov or under the cover of that name. At the same time, the leaders of the Russian MVD and FSB are taking no effective measures against this illegality.”

Along with the growing tensions between Ingushetia’s and Chechnya’s law-enforcement bodies, there have been fresh reports of continued tensions between Chechen siloviki (Chechnya Weekly, August 17). Moskovsky komsomolets correspondent Yulia Kalinina wrote in the daily’s September 12 edition that security forces controlled by Ramzan Kadyrov continue to surround forces commanded by Movladi Baisarov at their base in village of Pobedinskoe. According to Kalinina, Baisarov’s unit, which was called Gorets and was under the FSB and thus not under Kadyrov’s control, was taken out of the FSB in February and, according to a decree signed by federal Interior Minster Rashid Nurgaliev, was to become a new regiment within the Chechen Interior Ministry. Kadyrov’s forces, however, moved to prevent Gorets members from taking up their new posts. “The motives are understandable,” Kalinina wrote. “As long as the ‘Gorets’ fighters are not formalized as members of a federal structure with the right to bear arms, they are nobodies. They can be arrested or destroyed as members of an illegal armed formation. But it they are accepted for employment in the MVD, it won’t be so easy to get rid of them.”

The Guardian in June detailed a showdown between Kadyrov’s and Baisarov’s forces that had taken place the previous month. According to the British newspaper, the kadyrovtsy ended up backing down in that confrontation when Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, and another Chechen warlord, Said Magomed Kakiev, head of the Zapad (West) battalion, came down on Baisarov’s side (Chechnya Weekly, August 17).

According to Kalinina, the current standoff between Kadyrov’s and Baisarov’s forces “has all the chances to develop within the next few days into a bloody confrontation between former brothers-in-arms.”