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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.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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