Responding to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s accusations that he and his brothers have been involved in a number of crimes and human rights violations, the commander of the GRU’s (Russian military intelligence) Vostok battalion, Sulim Yamadaev, said in an interview broadcast by Ekho Moskvy radio on April 19 that the Chechen authorities are hiding the truth about what is going on in the republic, including murders. “Practically every day they are murdering in Chechnya,” he said. “Ramzan [Kadyrov] simply obviously lies on television. Now all of the media are frightened of him. Sooner or later, everything will be revealed: … they won’t put up with it for long at the top.”
Yamadaev added: “I am not under the president of the Chechen Republic; I am under the commander in chief, and at the moment that is Putin. I am a military man; if I am given an order, I will follow it, without any problems.”
The Vostok commander also claimed that the amnestied rebel fighters who are currently serving in the Chechen Interior Ministry forces would return to the rebel side at the first opportunity. “Seventy-five percent of those amnestied who are working in the police force are devils [shaitany]; that is not a secret to anyone,” Yamadaev said, adding: “You think there is order here? What kind of order is here? All of the amnestied devils are walking around armed; they have identity cards. They no longer have to run and hide. They can take away, seize anyone. I don’t trust them and will never trust them” (see Andrei Smirnov’s article below).
Meanwhile, Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, charged on April 20 that members of the Vostok battalion might have been involved in an incident that reportedly took place that day when someone fired on the car in which the representative of the Chechen human rights ombudsman in the Vedeno district, Khasambek Zubairaev, was riding. The gunfire reportedly killed Zubairaev’s two nieces, aged 5 and 8, and wounded his brother and sister.
“I don’t rule out that servicemen of the GRU’s Vostok battalion were involved, since Zubairaev has actively supported the president of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, and being a person with a religious education, made calls in the mosques to oppose the illegal actions of servicemen,” Nukhazhiev told RIA Novosti. He said that the attack was a provocation aimed at disrupting the processes begun by the republic’s president to rebuild the region. “In the Vedeno district recently, restoration processes have begun,” he said. “And the so-called representatives of the ‘party of war’ cannot resign themselves to that.”
No details about the shooting incident or who may have been responsible for it were provided by law-enforcement or other relevant government agencies.
Tensions have remained high between the Sulim Yamadaev, his brothers and members of the Vostok battalion, on the one hand, and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and security forces loyal to him, on the other, since an April 14 road collision between an armed Vostok unit and members of Kadyrov’s special guard reportedly led to a shootout. According to some reports, 18 soldiers and civilians were killed in that shootout (Chechnya Weekly, April 17).