Official Admits Security Sweeps in Chechnya
- VLADIKAVKAZ -Russian Journal Janaury 31, 2002
A Kremlin human rights official conceded Thursday that Russian
forces violated the law when conducting sweeps in hopes of detaining
rebels earlier this month of Chechen towns - operations that drew
angry protests from residents and human rights groups.
"Several criminal cases have been opened against Russian servicemen,"
said Vladimir Kalamanov, President Vladimir Putin's human rights
envoy to Chechnya, according to Interfax news agency.
Kalamanov said that the so-called mopping up operations in Argun,
Tsotsin-Yurt and Bachi-Yurt that were aimed at detaining rebels were
under active investigation.
"A large number of complaints concerning unlawful actions by
servicemen came from residents of the village of Bachi-Yurt," he
The sweeps, in which towns are barricaded and Chechen residents are
often held and interrogated for hours, have drawn fire from
international human rights groups. Residents complain of looting,
beatings, torture and even killings. The respected human rights group
Memorial claimed last week that at least three Chechen civilians were
killed during the sweep of Tsotsin-Yurt, and dozens more were
tortured and harassed.
The fighting in that town of 7,000 was considered some of the worst
in months in the 2-year-old Chechen war. In Argun, residents were
barricaded inside their town for days as federal forces conducted
The Russian forces have always denied widespread wrongdoing during
the operations, and insisted that individual cases of abuse are being
investigated. But the investigations rarely lead to prosecutions.
While Moscow claims that the active phase of the war in Chechnya is
over, Russian forces continue to be involved in near-daily strikes
against suspected rebels. Russian casualties remain high.
In the past 24 hours, Russian artillery pounded suspected rebel
positions in the southeastern Vedeno region and Itum-Kale near the
Georgian border, an official in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration
Russian positions were attacked 14 times, killing one serviceman and
wounding six, the official said, speaking with customary anonymity.
In other action, a military jeep was attacked in the Chechen capital
Grozny, killing one serviceman and wounding another. An Interior
Ministry officer was also killed in the capital when his official car
came under attack.
Militia patrols came under fire in Gudermes, Chechnya's second-
largest city, and in the capital, killing one and wounding two, the
The mopping-up operations also continued, with 68 people detained
during a sweep of some Grozny suburbs, the official said.
Kalamanov insisted that despite reports of abuse during the
operations, the sweeps must continue.
"Not conducting such operations stimulates crime in the republic," he
said, according to Interfax.
Russian forces, which left Chechnya in defeat after a 1994-96 war,
returned to the region in 1999 after rebel incursions into a
neighboring Russian region and after apartment-house bombings in
Russian cities killed more than 300. Russian officials blamed the
blasts on the rebels. /The Associated Press/