10 November 2008, 14:16

Chechnya ambiguous to disbandment of "Vostok" and "Zapad"

People in Chechnya have differently perceived the news that the special battalions "Vostok" (East) and "Zapad" (West) subordinate to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU) of the Russian Ministry of Defence will be disbanded. Although many residents treated these subdivisions negatively enough, others believe that the battalions were dissolved to please President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov.

Aslambek Apaev, expert of the Moscow Helsinki Group for Northern Caucasus, says: "Be it 'Vostok' or 'Zapad', or any other military or militia subdivision deployed in the republic, all of them break human rights in some way or other. The 'heroism' of 'Vostok' fighters was officially made public this summer, when mass burials were excavated in the vicinity of the main battalion's base. I think that many human lives are on the heads of 'Zapad' fighters too. Militaries of these battalions quite often were involved in various unattractive matters."

In this context, the expert has recollected a recent case, when three "Zapad" servicemen were detained in Grozny for extorting money from one of local officials.

Mr Apaev has also reminded the story, when Sulim Yamadaev, ex-commander of the "Vostok", rushed, together with his people, into the office of one of St-Petersburg companies and beat up its director.

In his opinion, the decision to disband the battalions was correct.

"Recently, a lot has been spoken about reforming the Russian Armed Forces and the need to scale up the fighting capacity and mobility of our troops. At this background, I can't quite understand the reason for actual liquidation of the two most efficient special subdivisions, which have perfectly approved themselves in the recent war on Georgia. Why then not to disband the 'Sever' (North) and 'Yug' (South) special battalions of Internal Troops, also recruited from Chechens? What is the guilt of 'Zapad' and 'Vostok' fighters before their command and the country, whose honour they had defended by sacrificing their lives, to treat us now in this manner?" asked one of former militaries of the 'Vostok' battalion.

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