As tensions in the North Caucasus continue to spread beyond the borders of Chechnya, it seems that Moscow is attempting to fan them further by pitting the law-enforcement agencies of different North Caucasus republics against one another. Prague Watchdog has a report (my tr.):
Bloody incident between Chechen and Ingushetian police assessed differently in the two republics
By Umalt Chadayev
The armed conflict between Chechen and Ingushetian police that took place near the Ingush village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya on September 13, leading to numerous casualties, may have a sequel.
Chechen OMON officers who lost seven of their comrades, including the unit’s deputy commander, as a result of a clash on the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia are convinced that the killing of their colleagues was carried out deliberately. They dismiss completely all the arguments by the Chechen and Ingushetian authorities that the reason for the bloodshed was a lack of operational co-ordination on the part of the law enforcement agencies of the two republics.
"What sort of ‘lack of co-ordination’ could there have been? When they entered the republic of Ingushetia at that Ingushetian traffic police post No. 20, our colleagues went through all the necessary procedures: registration, and so on,” says Adam, one of the Chechen police officers, who lost his close friend during the skirmish on September 13. “What’s more, they were travelling in three UAZ jeeps marked with police numbers in dark blue. This was obviously an action that was planned – open murder. But on TV they’re talking about some ‘fatal error’, a ‘lack of operational co-ordination’ and ‘wilfulness’ on the part of our OMON officers on the territory of the adjacent republic."
"The lads told me what really happened. They had gone to arrest the notorious Ingush ‘car-theft authority’ Gerikhan Temurziyev, leader of an Ingush criminal gang who specializes in stealing expensive foreign-made automobiles. Temurziyev’s gang has been carrying on this ‘business’ in different regions of Russia, and has now switched to Chechnya. In addition, it seems there was information that Temurziyev is engaged in smuggling narcotics into our republic. The policemen had managed to arrest one of the members of this group and to get on the trail of its leader, who was living very quietly in the village of Yandare in Nazranovsky district," the respondent says.
"When the officers arrived at the scene of the impending operation, they notified the village administration head as well as the policeman in charge of the area, who told them the location of the house where Temurziyev lived, but refused to take part in his arrest. Temurziyev offered no resistance, and the group of law-enforcers set off back to Chechnya. On their way they were followed by an unmarked Zhiguli car. The occupants of that car probably signalled the group’s approach to the traffic police post, where an ambush was waiting," he says.
"At that post there were not only Ingush police officials, but also a large number of armed men in masks, dressed in civilian clothing. When the column was about 80 metres from the post, the barrier came down, and officials demanded that the OMON police should leave their jeeps and give up their weapons. As soon as one of them got out of his jeep in order to find out what was going on, he was shot almost at point-blank range. Then the OMON jeeps were opened fire on, and a shoot-out began which lasted for about twenty minutes,” the Chechen policeman says.
"It was a flagrant attempt to recapture the arrested man. None the less, the OMON officers were able to break out and make their way back to Chechen territory, and from there they reported the attack to their superiors. Buvadi Dakhiyev and a large group of Chechen police arrived at the scene of the incident. Dakhiyev and several OMON officers set off in the direction of the Ingush post in order to investigate the situation. The Ingushes immediately opened fire on them without any warning. Buvadi was seriously wounded and later died in hospital, while his comrades perished on the spot. In all six of our policemen were killed as a result of this incident, and five more were injured. On the Ingush side two policemen were killed, and about ten were injured. Such is the outcome of this ‘fatal accident’.”
According to Adam, on the evening of the same day, soldiers of the unit gathered at the Chechen OMON base, intending to go to the Ingush police post where the armed clash had taken place, and "sort it out". Adam says that they were only stopped by the arrival of one of the republic’s leaders, who demanded that the policemen should not take the law into their own hands, promising that the authorities of the two republics would conduct a full inquiry, and that all those guilty for what had happened would be punished.
Representatives of the Ingush law-enforcement agencies blame the Chechen OMON officers for the whole incident. The Ingush side claims that that the Chechen officers opened fire first, and that they then summoned their colleagues to help. In the Ingush opinion, the actions of the Chechen OMON officers were illegal. Things reached such a point that Isa Kostoyev, an Ingushetian senator in Russia's Federation Council, issued a call to the residents of Ingushetia to offer resistance to representatives of the law-enforcement agencies of other republics if the latter arrived "to make searches without the representatives of the law-enforcement agencies of the Ingush Republic being present."
After the incident, the Chechen Interior Ministry placed additional posts on the motor highway that leads out of the republic into Ingushetia, justifying this by the need to prevent the passage of armed men in either direction. On the Ingush side the post where the bloodshed occurred was reinforced by armoured vehicles and soldiers of the Federal forces. The situation on both sides of the administrative border remains quite tense, though no manifestations of violence or hostility towards Chechen residents in Ingushetia and vice versa have been observed.
An investigative group of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office is at present undertaking an inquiry into the circumstances of the incident.
"It’s possible that the investigation will explain all the circumstances of what took place, it’s possible that those guilty for what took place will be identified and punished, it’s even possible that someone will be put on trial. But I have a feeling that it’s going to be settled not by investigators and judges, but by custom – the old Caucasian custom of blood vengeance. In order to prevent this, both sides will have to be reconciled with each other, and elders of both republics who possess authority and respect will have to intervene. After all, the reconciliation of opposing parties is also an old and very good Caucasian tradition," says 57-year-old Grozny resident Usman Mezhidov.
Translated by David McDuff.
See also: The Widening Conflict
The Widening Conflict - II
Jamestown's Chechnya Weekly has a thorough and detailed report on the Ordzhonikidzevskaya incident here.