Friday, June 16, 2006

"Mop-ups" in Chechnya

On June 5, Prague Watchdog reported that security had been significantly tightened in and around the Chechen capital, Grozny. Now a new PW report highlights the reappearance of zachistki ("mop-ups") by security forces (my translation):
Is Chechnya returning to "mop-ups"?

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA, June 15 - In recent days there has been a sharp increase in the number of “mop-ups”, “special operations” and other military and police operations in the territory of the Chechen Republic.

On the morning of June 15, officers of the Chechen OMON police carried out a passport checking operation in Grozny’s Leninsky district. After setting up mobile checkpoints in one of Grozny’s microdistricts, near Dudayev Boulevard, police inspected all motor vehicles moving in this area. The documents of drivers and passengers also were also subjected to thorough checking. OMON police also made the rounds of apartments in the multi-storey buildings located in the vicinity of Dudayev Boulevard, checking householders’ documents.

Two days earlier, on June 13, similar "special measures" were carried out on the outskirts of the village of Belgatoy, Shalinsky district. In this case the "operation" was conducted by Russian soldiers who were moving around in two armoured personnel carriers. As in Grozny, the soldiers stopped all through motor traffic, checking the documents of drivers and passengers.

On the same day "partial mop-ups" were conducted in the settlement of Valerik, Achkhoy-Martanovsky district. Soldiers and officials of the local law-enforcement agencies checked people’s passports on several streets.

On June 11 soldiers of the federal forces and Chechen police "mopped up" the village of Novye Atagi, Shalinsky district. According to local residents, all routes in and out of the village were blocked by armoured vehicles and military trucks.

On the day before this, the settlement of Duba-Yurt, also in the Shalinsky district, was subjected to a “mop-up”. Despite the fact that no serious rights violations were observed in the course of these special operations, local residents reacted negatively to what was taking place.

"This is our seventh year of mop-ups!" is the angry response of 48-year-old Musa Vakhayev, a resident of Novye Atagi. “That would be long enough to check and re-check every resident of Chechnya. And they’ve checked and re-checked us not dozens, but hundreds of times. How much longer can this go on? If you travel beyond the republic’s borders they check you, when you come back they check you, in Grozny they check you, at home they check you as well! Our whole lives have become one continuous ‘mopping-up’ and checking. When is this all this going to end, and when are they going to let us live normal lives?”

Grozny residents note that there has been a considerable increase in the number of police and soldiers on the streets of the city in recent days. In various districts mobile checkpoints are being set up on the motor highways. These are manned by soldiers and police, often accompanied by armoured cars. All this is causing serious anxiety among the population. People fear possible large-scale military operations, with all the circumstances that may result.

"In my opinion, the increase in the number of law enforcement officials in the cities and the villages attests to the fact that the law enforcers are expecting something. Possibly even large-scale operations on the part of the guerrillas. Rumours are intensely circulating here that something serious may possibly happen during the next few weeks, but no one knows exactly what is in store. It’s said in some villages of the Vedensky and other mountain districts groups of guerrillas have been spotted entering the villages almost openly, buying groceries and other things they need," says Grozny resident Usman Madayev.

Meanwhile a source in the republic’s law enforcement agencies has reported that the Chechnya’s security forces have been on high alert since June 5. "This is connected with the activity of certain bandit formations in the south of republic and adjacent regions,” he says.” In addition, the date of the G8 summit in St Petersburg is approaching, and it’s possible that during this period the leaders of the bandit formations will attempt to show force and announce their presence again. The situation in the republic is under control, and any attempts by them to destabilize it are doomed to failure."

"Police passport checking operations and other similar measures are directed primarily at ensuring the safety of innocent civilians. Only a few days ago law enforcement officials liquidated several large guerrilla hideouts and weapons caches, including some in Grozny, and around ten people suspected of participation in bandit formations or of aiding and abetting the fighters have been detained," the police officer said.
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