Memorial Human Rights Centre on disturbing parallels between the Crimea and Chechnya

posted 15 Mar 2014, 15:34 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Mar 2014, 15:45 ]
11 March2014

Source: (info)

In early March 2014 it was reported in the media that the Russian forces in the Crimea are headed by a general whose troops in the years 1999-2000 were responsible for the enforced disappearance of at least seven people during the second war in Chechnya.

Reports from the Crimea are emerging about the detainment and subsequent disappearance of people- journalists, civic activists, and Ukrainian soldiers.

We hope that the detainees and missing persons will be found. However, considering the experience of the armed conflict in Chechnya, these events cannot fail to cause serious concern.

Earlier, on 3rd March 2014, it was reported that Lt. Gen. Igor Nikolaevich Turcheniuk has been put in command of the Russian occupying troops.

According to a report by the RBC news agency, the agency has in its possession a recording of a meeting between Turcheniuk and Ukrainian officers in one of the blockaded bases (“According to unofficial sources, Igor Turcheniuk, deputy commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, is in command of Russian troops in the Crimea,” “Lt. Gen. Igor Turcheniuk, the deputy commander of the Southern Military District, is in command of the Russian troops deployed in the Crimea.”)

Explaining the reasons and grounds for the Russian military presence on the peninsula, he claimed that “with the agreement of your legally elected president [Yanukovych], Putin has given the directive, that control of all military organisations in the Crimea is transferred to me, under the leadership of the prime minister of the Crimea [Aksenov] until 25th [March or May- here Turcheniuk refers twice to different months; on 25th May presidential elections are due to take place in Ukraine]. Putin’s request is to render assistance to the Crimean government in line with the request [of the government of the Crimea]…”

He appealed to the officers to hand over their weapons to the depot (“We shall guard the depot together, there will be no military force”), citing the request of Admiral Berezovsky (at that time still the commander of the Ukrainian Naval Forces). 

In the course of the ensuing week, Russia has not refuted these reports. However, Russia is continuing to deny the very fact of the deployment of troops to the peninsula, qualifying the units present on the peninsula as “self-defence forces”.


General Turcheniuk is not a widely known figure, in comparison to others, such as General Vladimir Shamanov, who was directly involved in cases concerning the bombing and shooting of refugee settlements and columns of refugees who, at this very moment, from the end of February through early March 2014, is in command of widespread military exercises in Russia’s western military districts bordering Ukraine.

On 29th March 2011 by decree of the then president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, “On the appointment and dismissal of troops from Russian Military Forces,” Turcheniuk was appointed deputy commander of troops of the Southern Military District, and released from command of the 35th Army.

He had been in command of this army, stationed in Amur oblast, from 26th June 2006, and he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant general on 25th July 2007.

Previously, from 5th August 1999 to 7th July 2000, as Major-General, Igor Turcheniuk commanded the 138th Independent Motorised Brigade (IMB; permanently stationed at the Kamenka settlement, Leningrad region, it was formed from the 45th Motor Rifle Division shortly before the second war in Chechnya.)

In autumn of 1999, as part of the group “West” (commanded by General Vladimir Shamanov) the brigade was deployed in the Chechen Republic and in December 1999 and January 2000 it was temporarily stationed in the Urus-Martan district.

In early February 2000, brigade units took part in the operation code-named “Wolf Hunt,” which included the blockade of the village Katyr-Yurt.

The brigade then marched across the Assinovsky ravine to the southern mountainous regions of Chechnya, bordering Georgia.

Following the withdrawal of the 138th IMB from their temporary location in the area near the village of Starye Atagi in the Grozny district and the village of Goity in the Urus-Martan district, burial sites were discovered where the brigade had been stationed. These burial sites contained the bodies of seven people, who had been previously detained by troops and reported missing:

Abdurzakov Adnan Alievich

Kuntaev Imran Vakhaevich

Sadaev Adam Sultanovich (all three were detained and reported missing on 20th December 1999)

Giriev Arbi Uvaisovich

Giriev Said-Husein Ruvaisovich

Giriev Said-Emin Ruvaisovich

Sugaipov Musa Miusievich (all four were detained and reported missing on 27th January 2000)

These crimes have gone unpunished, as have almost all of the thousands of disappearances in the Chechen Republic.

During the operation code-named “Wolf Hunt,” the number of forced disappearance was greater. However we are unable to conclusively link them with the actions of the 138th IMB unit.

We already attempted to draw attention to these events in 2006, when the 138th IMB took part in joint peace-keeping exercises with Swedish military forces, as part of operation “Snowflake”.

Now the former commander of this brigade is leading all of the Russian forces in the Crimea.

On the morning of 20th December 1999, Adam Sultanovich Sadaev, his uncle Imran Vakhaevich Kuntaev and his cousin Adnan Alievich Abdurzakov, all residents of the village of Starye Atagi in Grozny district, left in a dark blue car BA3-2106 with temporary license plate number 06 59 63/rus, to visit relatives in the village of Goity.

Upon leaving Starye Atagi, the car was stopped at a local checkpoint, near the monument to Aslambek Sheripov. The passengers were ordered to get out and lie on the ground. Witnesses (passengers on a bus, leaving the village Chiri-Yurt) got out and attempted to help the detainees, but the troops chased them away, firing gunshots into the air.

The detainees’ families assumed that they had stayed the night with relatives in Goity and it was only on 22nd December, upon discovery that they had never reached the relatives, that they launched a search. At the checkpoint they were told that on the morning of 20th December a dark blue BA3-2106 was allowed through without problem. No car of this description crossed the next checkpoint.

Two weeks later an inhabitant of the village of Goity told Sadaev’s parents that on 20th December he saw three people picked up by a military vehicle at the checkpoint leaving Starye Atagi. This military vehicle and a dark blue BA3-2106, with a soldier at the wheel, overtook him on the road. After 300-400 metres, the cars turned left into a field.

Relatives of the missing persons appealed to the district and republican authorities.

The relatives of Sadaev, Kuntaev and Abdurzakov soon managed to establish that commander of the 138th brigade “Colonel Ivanov,’ his deputy ‘Colonel Sergei Smirnov’, Captain ‘Vitaly’ of the 160th tank regiment and Lieutenant ‘Viktor’ from the 687th battalion of the 138th brigade (the latter of whom were the senior officers at the checkpoint on 20th December) were all involved in the men’s disappearance.

They reported this to law enforcement agencies. However, a criminal investigation was never launched.

On 11th September 2000, in the former location of the 138th IMB, in a wooded area between the fields of the state farm “Ataginskii,” barely a kilometre from the road Starye Atagi-Goity, exactly where the cars carrying the abducted men had turned off, a tractor driver stumbled upon several graves.

On 13th September the graves were dug up, attended by the head of administration of Starye Atagi, a representative from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the relatives of the missing persons. The bodies of Abdurzakov, Kuntaev and Sadaev were found in one of the graves. Kuntaev was identified by his ring and other items, and Abdurzakov and Sadaev by their clothes.

On the whole, circumstances suggest that they were killed in December 1999. Their hands were tied with rope and wire, and there were bullet holes in their heads.

The bodies were buried in Starye Atagi.

It was only after this discovery that the Public Prosecutor of Grozny district launched criminal investigation no. 18033 into the murders of Abdurzakov, Kuntaev and Sadaev, the proceedings of which were continually put on hold and re-launched, due to the “impossibility of determining those involved in the crime committed,” regardless of clear evidence pointing to the involvement of members of the federal forces.


The twin brothers Said-Hussein and Said-Emin Giriev, from Starye Atagi in the Grozny district, worked in water management on a section of the Khankal canal (one was an engineer, the other a manual worker). Their cousin Arbi Giriev drove to their house in his Volvo. Musa Sugaipov worked as a guard at the nearby mill and often dropped by the Girievs’ home.

According to Arbi’s brother, Izadi Giriev, towards the evening of 27th January, Arbi and his cousins were to meet with “Federal soldiers” on the outskirts of the village, not far from the hydroelectric station- evidently, the Girievs had “dealings” with the soldiers (at this point several citizens had established “trade and bartering links” with the soldiers.)

At around 5pm, villagers from Starye Atagi spotted soldiers in the distance, who approached this meeting point in armed personnel carriers and ‘Ural’ cars, and who then drove the men from the village away.

It would seem that soldiers picked up Musa Sugaipov at the same time. A few witnesses saw Arbi Giriev’s Volvo, with two masked soldiers, heading towards Goity, to where troops from the 138th IMB were stationed.

On the following day a “sweep” operation began in Starye Atagi, and relatives were unable to organise a search for the missing persons.

Arbi Giriev’s sister only made it out of the village on 30th January. She arrived at the checkpoint situated opposite the military unit, where the soldiers who had picked up the Girievs and Sugaipov were stationed. She noticed soldiers, with a digger, digging a trench (this was the very place where six months later the bodies of the abducted would be discovered). She was not allowed beyond the checkpoint and nobody would speak with her.

The relatives began to search actively for the men and established the unit in which the soldiers who had abducted the Girievs and Sugaipov had served (unit 138th IMB in February 2000 had been transferred to a new location), and appealed to law enforcement and security agencies with all the information they had found.

However, no investigation was launched.

About two months after the disappearance of the Girievs and Sugaipov, relatives spotted Arbi Giriev’s Volvo at the market in the town of Nazran (Ingushetia). They interrogated the man selling the car, who confessed to buying the car from ‘Federal soldiers’ and asked for time to be able to find them, but in the event did nothing about it.

On 14th June a shepherd from Starye Atagi discovered graves in this place (his dog dug them up, having caught scent of the corpses) and reported the fact to the local administration. The head of the administration, the head of the village police and villagers set off for the site.

Upon digging up the graves they found the bodies of the Giriev brothers and Sugaipov. Izadi Giriev has described the graves: “…A pit about two metres deep was revealed, in which four bodies had been buried. They had placed a body, covered it with 15-20 centimetres of soil, compressed the soil, then laid another body, and for each body repeated this method. There were marks of shocking torture and cruel violence on the bodies of my brothers and Sugaipov: Each one had broken ribs, shattered knee caps, Arbi had been shot in the chin. Three of the men had their hands bound behind their back with rope, and my brother’s were tied with a belt. One of my cousins had been strangled with a scarf.”

The victims were buried in the village cemetery.

After several days a member of the Grozny District Prosecutor’s Office visited the murder victims’ relatives. He recorded their statements and photographed the burial site (according to the Giriev brothers’ and Sugaipov’s relatives, these were the only investigatory actions in which they took part).

* * * 
Following the discovery of the mass burial site, the Grozny District Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation No 18016 under Article 105, Section 2 of the Criminal Code, which was subsequently put on hold “due to the impossibility of finding those responsible."

* * * 

See the report by Memorial on the assault by Federal forces on the Chechen village of Samashki in 1995 HERE

Photo: The bodies of Isi Borshigov and Khizir Khazhbekarov, both shot. Photo by Liudmila Vakhnina 

Translated by Holly Jones