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Chechen Friendly- Fire Trial Begins

Published: January 22, 2002 (Issue # 738)


Two of the three Interior Ministry officers accused of negligence in the friendly fire deaths of 22 OMON service personnel in Chechnya maintained their innocence at the opening of their closed-door trial Friday.

The third officer, Major Igor Tikhonov, did not appear at Moscow's Presnensky district court, sending notice that he was ill.

Tikhonov, Major General Boris Fadeyev and Colonel Mikhail Levchenko are accused of failing to follow procedures in arranging for the arrival of a group of OMON service personnel from Sergiyev Posad to Grozny on March 2, 2000.

The Sergiyev Posad soldiers came under fire from a fellow OMON unit from Podolsk that they had been sent to replace.

The Podolsk unit was informed only that a column of unidentified armed people in police uniforms was arriving in Grozny.

Twenty-two of the 98-strong Sergiyev Posad unit were killed and 31 injured in a bloody firefight that the military initially blamed on Chechen rebels. At least two members of the Podolsk unit were also killed.

The hearings are being conducted by Judge Bakar Magomadov and other officials from the Staropromyslovsky district court of Grozny.

Fadeyev and Levchenko, both former top officials in the Chechnya military command, insisted Friday that their actions had not been negligent.

"My client doesn't acknowledge any guilt," Fadeyev's lawyer Lilia Ababkova told reporters Friday, her client standing behind her silently.

Another of Fadeyev's lawyers, Nikolai Vedishchev, told Kommersant that on the day of the shootout in Grozny his client had been accompanying another police column to Gudermes, and he had not received notice from Moscow regional authorities about the unit from Sergiyev Posad.

Levchenko told the court that he had arrived in Chechnya just hours before the shootout and had not known the situation in the region at the time, according to one of the plaintiffs, Nikolai Grachyov.

Grachyov's son, Sergei, an officer of the Podolsk OMON, was killed in the shootout.

"What negligence are you talking about?" Levchenko told journalists during a break in the hearings. "I was doing my work then for 20 hours a day."

Tikhonov, who headed the Podolsk OMON unit, was charged with failure to provide the Sergiyev Posad OMON with air cover and armored vehicles to ensure their safe passage through Chechnya.

The court finished reading the indictments Friday and will start questioning the defendants Monday. If they are found guilty, the officers face up to five years in prison.





 

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