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A Terrorized Village in Chechnya Crosses the Border

Published: June 28, 2005 (Issue # 1082)


KIZLYAR, Dagestan — On a clearing the size of a soccer field, more than 1,000 former residents of Borozdinovskaya, a largely ethnic Dagestani village just across the border in Chechnya, are camped out in tents amid a jumble of furniture and other belongings.

They began moving here on June 16, when they found charred human remains they suspected were those of four men taken away from their village in a June 4 raid by masked gunmen.

In this makeshift camp, a few dozen meters from the checkpoint that separates Dagestan from Chechnya, the villagers are caught in the middle of a potentially explosive situation that threatens to sour already-uneasy relations between the neighboring republics as officials on both sides appear to be ready to stoke ethnic tensions.

The Dagestani exodus was triggered by a raid on Borozdinovskaya late in the evening of June 4, when more than 200 masked gunmen raided the village, which is inhabited predominantly by Avars, Dagestan’s biggest ethnic group, and took away 11 men.

The men, 10 Dagestanis and one ethnic Russian, have not been seen since.

Residents claim that the gunmen were from the Vostok, or East, special forces battalion, which is commanded by Sulim Yamadayev, a former Chechen rebel leader turned pro-Moscow strongman. The battalion is not part of the Chechen government’s security forces, but answers to the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU.

But Sergei Surovikin, the commander of the 42nd motorized infantry division to which Yamadayev’s militia belongs, denied that any of his men had participated in the raid on Borozdinovskaya.

The allegations were “groundless and aimed at destabilizing the political situation and staining the honor and name of the honest career officer and Hero of Russia, Sulim Yamadayev,” Surovikin said in comments on Dagestani television.

The masked raiders herded about 200 Dagestani men into the village school, forced them to lie down in the mud and fired rounds over their heads, beating and insulting them, residents said. The gunmen raided homes, taking away cars and other valuables from the villagers, forcing even teenagers to empty their pockets of cell phones and cash, the villagers said.

Then, they said, the attackers gunned down a 77-year-old resident of the village, set fire to three houses and fled, taking 11 villagers with them.

To protest the raid, on June 8 and June 11 villagers set up roadblocks on the nearby highway separating Chechnya and Dagestan and called for the return of the missing men.

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