A shootout by security forces in Chechnya has reportedly led to the capture of a man suspected of taking part in the shootouts with police in Ingushetia over the past two week.
On the night of 11–12 April, security forces shot at and detained a North Caucasian man in the village of Gvardeyskoye, near the border with Ingushetia, both government and anti-government Chechen sources reported.
According to the Head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, the man belonged to an ‘illegal group’, and had come to Chechnya from an unnamed neighbouring region.
Kadyrov stated that after being found hiding in a house in Gvardeyskoye, the man was given the opportunity to surrender. After he attempted to escape, security forces opened fire and wounded him, capturing him alive and detaining him for interrogation, he said.
The Chechen opposition Telegram channel 1ADAT reported that the detainee was Ingushetian man Mikhail Moshkhoyev, who was allegedly involved in last week’s firefights with security forces in Ingushetia.
On 27 March, two police officers were wounded in an attack on a police checkpoint on the border with Chechnya. The authorities’ search for the group led to several gunfights in which at least four members of the security forces were killed.
Despite Kadyrov’s claims that only the detainee was injured, 1ADAT claimed that several law enforcement officers were also injured during the shootout as well as a 50-year-old villager, whose house was also damaged. The channel also alleged that Moshkhoyev was unarmed.
In a video released on Wednesday morning, Kadyrov confirmed that the detainee was a participant in last week’s police shootouts in Ingushetia.
‘In recent days, events took place in Ingushetia, there are dead [state] employees. One of these demons crossed our border, and immediately we received information, sent assault groups, cordoned off [the area], and carefully detained [him]’, said Kadyrov.
The Head of Chechnya added that the situation was now ‘calm and quiet’, although further searches were taking place to ensure that ‘no one can disturb the peace of Chechen society’.
‘Once again, I say to the devils, do not climb into our territory, we guard it fiercely — even a random bird will not fly over our borders, and even if it flies in, it will not fly out,’ said Kadyrov.
A ‘significant’ incident
The latest battles with police mark a major incident in the North Caucasus. In recent years, armed opposition to the Russian authorities has become relatively less frequent, as the Russian state has moved to suppress resistance that emerged following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Speaking to OC Media on Wednesday, Mark Youngman, a researcher working on insurgency and political violence in the North Caucasus, called the incidents ‘significant’.
‘You have got one armed group that has managed to inflict security service casualties and has managed to escape, and it’s of a reasonable enough size that it’s caused a security service concern’, he said.
However, Youngman raised doubts that they represented more than an isolated incident, stating that there had not been organised resistance to the Russian authorities in the region since 2016.
He added that if the situation in Ukraine ‘had repercussions for the stability of the Russian state’, this could change.
‘At the moment, I would suggest that the security services have tight enough control that it becomes very difficult to organise something of a sustained nature’, he said.
‘It's not that the will isn’t there. Because if you look at the groups that were fighting [against Russia] in Syria, you look at some of the North Caucasian groups that are currently fighting [against Russia] in Ukraine, there’s plenty of people who are willing to engage in insurgency, enough to challenge the state. But they’re fighting in Syria, they’re fighting in Ukraine for a reason.’
[Listen to the full interview on the Caucasus Digest: Podcast | Insurgency in the North Caucasus and Azerbaijanis grow weary of conflict]