RIA Novosti reported on January 10 that a Rostov-on-Don military court had postponed hearings in the case of two Russian Interior Ministry officers charged with murdering civilians in Chechnya three years ago until January 16. Senior Lieutenant Yevgeny Khudyakov and Lieutenant Sergei Arakcheyev, are accused of killing three employees of a construction firm in Grozny in January 2003. The move to postpone the trial followed Arakcheyev’s request for his defense lawyer to be replaced, after which his new lawyer, Vladimir Kirilenko, asked the court to give him several days to familiarize himself with the case. The two servicemen have been cleared of murder in jury trials twice, but each time the Supreme Court’s military collegium overturned the jury’s not-guilty verdict. The Supreme Court made its most recent ruling on the case in May 2006, following a Constitutional Court ruling in April that serious crimes committed in Chechnya should be examined by courts martial, not jurors. Chechen President Alu Alkhanov had earlier disputed the constitutionality of court legislation that would allow a non-Chechen jury to try people suspected of committing crimes in Chechnya.
On January 10, OMON riot police in Moscow dispersed a group of protesters demonstrating in support of Khudyakov and Arakcheyev near the Defense Ministry building in downtown Moscow, Kavkazky Uzel reported. According to different estimates, either 20-30 or 50-60 people took part in the protest. The protesters, who were mainly young people, carried signs reading “No to Sharia laws,” “Prosecutor’s office, do not satisfy Ramzan’s whims” and “Free Lieutenant Arakcheyev.” The leader of the protest, Pyotr Miloserdov, an aide to the first deputy chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), claimed that the two officers were innocent, that the evidence against them had been fabricated and that the case was a “political intrigue” carried out at the suggestion and for the benefit of Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov.