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Federal Investigators Take Over Probe Into Police Operation In Grozny

The move underscores the fact that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov "no longer has a monopoly on the use of force in Chechnya, the ground could give way under his feet," and he could lose power, one analyst says.

Federal Investigative Committee (SKR) Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin has intervened in the public dispute between Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov and the federal Interior Ministry over the special operation conducted in Grozny on April 19 in which a Chechen man, Dzhambulat Dadayev, was shot dead.

On April 24, Bastrykin closed the criminal case launched by the SKR's Chechen subsidiary after Kadyrov alleged that police from Stavropol and personnel from the Temporary Operative Grouping of Organs and Subunits (VOGOiP) deployed at the Khankala military base near Grozny acted illegally in not informing the Chechen Interior Ministry prior to mounting the operation to apprehend Dadayev. At the same time, the SKR's Main Investigative Administration for the North Caucasus has opened its own "objective and unbiased" probe into the circumstances of Dadayev's death

In other words, responsibility for determining whether the Stavropol police and VOGOiP personnel violated either the law or internal regulations has been transferred from the republican to the federal level. That move underscores the fact that, as Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya of the International Crisis Group told the website Caucasian Knot, Kadyrov "no longer has a monopoly on the use of force in Chechnya, the ground could give way under his feet," and he could lose power.

Kadyrov has demanded from Bastrykin an explanation for his ruling.

Also on April 24, Kadyrov rejected as untrue from start to finish the statement the previous day by the federal Interior Ministry saying that the Stavropol police had indeed informed their Chechen counterparts in advance, in accordance with ministry regulations, of their intention to apprehend Dadayev. (Dadayev was not, according to the Chechen police, related to Zaur Dadayev, the main suspect in the February 27 murder in Moscow of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.)

According to a VOGOiP officer quoted by the daily Kommersant, the requirement that local police should be informed in advance of impending special operations does not extend to federal structures, including VOGOiP, which are empowered to act anywhere in the Russian Federation.

Kadyrov, who is himself an Interior Ministry major general, implied that the Russian interior minister may have been deliberately provided with incorrect information by his subordinates.

Video footage of the meeting of police and security personnel in Grozny at which Kadyrov ordered his security personnel to open fire on police, whether from Moscow or Stavropol, who encroach on Chechen territory without prior notification has been removed from the Chechen State TV and Radio website.

Meanwhile, a statement in the name of State Duma deputies and Federation Council representatives (whether or not only those from Chechnya is not clear) was posted on the Chechen government website condemning the "illegal" intervention of the Stavropol police and VOGOiP units, which it argued was negatively perceived by a population still traumatized by the fighting of recent decades.

The statement further deplored what it termed attempts by unnamed media outlets to misconstrue Kadyrov's "emotional and perfectly predictable on the part of any human being" reaction to that intervention with a view to destabilizing the political situation across Russia.

The Kremlin initially refrained from commenting on Kadyrov's criticism of the Interior Ministry operation in Grozny, other than to say, "we saw it, we heard it, we read it." On April 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, again told the TASS news agency that "there is nothing here to comment on," noting at the same time that the Chechen Interior Ministry organs were subordinate to the federal ministry. Peskov likewise refrained from commenting on media speculation that Kadyrov had been offered a federal government post.

-- Liz Fuller

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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