Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 25

Not surprisingly, Vostok battalion commander Suliman Yamadaev denied that his subordinates were directly or indirectly involved in the June 4 raid. In an interview with Kommersant published on June 28, Yamadaev said that members of his unit had been in Borozdinovskaya on June 3 for the funeral of forester Tagir Akhmatov, whose son serves in the Vostok battalion and who died from wounds sustained in an attack a few days earlier. However, Yamadaev said that he himself had been ill and thus did not attend the funeral. Asked about the fact that some of the villagers had identified members of the Vostok battalion, including its reconnaissance chief, Khamzat Gairbekov, as having been among those who carried out the June 4 zachistka, Yamadaev said that Gairbekov had simply gone to Borozdinovskaya on June 3 for the funeral of Tagir Akhmatov.

Yamadaev said that on June 4 members of his unit conducted an operation some 80 kilometers from Borozdinovskaya, adding that the village is not in Vostok’s “sector.” He also claimed that gunmen posing as members of his unit were committing crimes in order to disrupt the Chechen parliamentary elections scheduled for this autumn. In an interview published in Izvestia on June 27, Yamadaev suggested that Chechen rebels were responsible for the violence in Borodinovskaya. The zachistka in the village was a “planned provocation by the ‘devil’ gunmen designed to present me as an enemy of the Dagestani people and discredit the battalion – and ideally, to have it disbanded,” Yamadaev told the newspaper. “After all, the ‘Vostok’ battalion is a real force, which does not let them breathe freely in Chechnya and Dagestan. So, they keep inventing new methods of fighting us.” Yamadaev, it should be noted, was a separatist brigadier general during the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya.

His brother, Ruslan Yamadaev, who is a State Duma deputy representing Chechnya and a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, told Interfax on June 23 that “certain forces” were using what happened in Borozdinovskaya to smear the Russian military forces in the North Caucasus in general and the Vostok and Zapad special forces battalions in particular. This, he said, “plays in to the hands, first and foremost, of “[rebel leaders Shamil Basaev, [Doku] Umarov and others.”

Still, lenta.ru on June 23 quoted federal Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel as saying that Borozdinovskaya residents insisted they had recognized members of the Vostok battalion among the armed men who raided the village on June 4, including the battalion’s reconnaissance chief, Khamzat Gairbekov.

The fact that it has not yet been determined definitively who was behind the zachistka in Borozdinovskaya has led to wide speculation on the subject. Khusein Nutaev, head of the Shelkovskoi district, whom Chechen President Alu Alkhanov fired on June 22 after meeting with Southern Federal District presidential envoy Dmitry Kozak, was quoted on June 23 by grani.ru as saying that “extremists are deliberately provoking federal forces to [take] reciprocal harsh actions, in the course of which the local population frequently suffers…The militants want to shake the situation not only in Shelkovskoi district but in all of northeast Chechnya and the bordering territories of Dagestan.”

Other observers have hinted at different perpetrators. Ivan Sukhov of Vremya novostei on June 20 quoted unidentified women from Borozdinovskaya whose male relatives were among those beaten by the raiders as saying that other raiders had arrived in the village later that day in “white jeeps” and wearing suits and ties. “Who they were, we don’t know,” the eyewitnesses told Sukhov. “They said: ‘Everyone is here except for Ramzan Kadyrov.’ And they repeated several times that he wasn’t there.”

Sukhov wrote: “The persistence with which it was stated during the zachistka that Ramzan Kadyrov was not among those carrying it out looks somewhat strange, as does the attempts by refugees to recount those statements to journalists. It is known that the Chechen vice-premier has very wide-ranging interests in the area of the Dagestani border and contacts with the Avar opposition [to Dagestani State Council head Magomedali Magamedov], which in recent days has pulled out all the stops to discredit the incumbent Dagestani authorities. The splash of opposition activity in Dagestan began exactly two days after the pogrom in Borozdinovskaya…Theoretically, Ramzan Kadyrov could perfectly well be the ‘author’ of the events in Borozdinovskaya: for example, his people could have killed Tagir Akhmatov [the slain forester whose son serves in the Vostok battalion], in this way provoking ‘Vostok’.” Sukhov noted that immediately after the news of the violence in Borozdinovskaya, Kadyrov called for disbanding the Vostok battalion. “It is known that the son of the first president of the new Chechnya aspires to concentrate all possible influence in his own hands,” Sukhov wrote. “To all appearances, in order to achieve this goal he is prepared to fall out with the powerful Gudermes clan of the Yamadaevs, which in its time did much to elevate his family, has vast contacts with Russian military servicemen and…provides for the functioning in Chechnya of the regional branch of United Russia. True, Ramzan Kadyrov himself also categorically denies any suggestion that his formations were involved in the zachistka.”

In fact, Kadyrov accused the Defense Minister of carrying out the Borozdinovskaya zachistka, noting on June 28 that the Chechen units do not have armor and that the participants in the Borozdinovskaya raid arrived in armored vehicles, Agence France-Presse reported. On the other hand, Kadyrov denied that members of Sulim Yamadaev’s Vostok battalion were involved in the raid. Kadyrov told reporters in Gudermes that he had taken personal control over the issue of providing security for Borozdinovskaya’s inhabitants and promised to find funds to rebuild homes that were burned or damaged in the raid. He said that the military prosecutor’s office was conducting the investigation into who carried out the June 4 zachistka and urged refugees from the village to return home because this would “help to establish a picture of what happened and speed up the investigation.” He also said he had met with Avar representatives and that they had all agreed the Borozdinvoskaya refugees should return home “so that certain forces do not use the grief of these people for their political aims.”

Kadyrov also said that Borozdinovskaya refugees had refused to meet with the leader of the United Civil Forum, chess champion Garry Kasparov. For his part, Kasparov told Ekho Moskvy on June 28 that the meeting with the refugees had not taken place because his delegation had been forced to turn back on the way to Dagestan after organizers of the trip said they could not guarantee the delegation’s safety. The main reason the delegation did not meet with the refugees, Kasparov said, was the “opposition of the authorities.”

The Committee Against Torture said in a statement on the Borozdinovskaya incident posted by the Prima-News information agency on June 28 that it fears “certain destructive forces interested in kindling inter-ethnic discord in the North Caucasus are trying to give this incident the character of an inter-ethnic conflict, inasmuch as the Vostok battalion is made up mainly of Chechens, and the victimized inhabitants of the village of Borozdinovskaya are ethnic Avars.” Meanwhile, the Chechen Interior Ministry reported on June 26 that a member of the Vostok battalion, Ruslan Ezerkhanov, was murdered in the Shelkovskoi district village of Kurdyukovskaya. According to press reports, unknown armed people took him to the village’s outskirts and shot him with an automatic weapon.