Chechen Police Fight With Azeri Nationals

Authorities are investigating two altercations involving knives and guns at a restaurant in southwestern Moscow that pitted officers from the Chechen Interior Ministry against a group of Azeri nationals, a city police source said Tuesday.

An officer with the Chechen branch of the Interior Ministry was dining at the restaurant Vostochnaya Kukhnya, or "Eastern Cuisine," at around 5:30 p.m. Monday on Novoyasenevsky Prospekt, near the Tyoply Stan metro station, when he began brawling with several Azeris, the unidentified source told Interfax.

The officer was wounded in the hip with a knife, prompting his friends, also Chechen Interior Ministry officers, to avenge their colleague's injury, the source said, Interfax reported. Kommersant on Tuesday identified the injured officer as Muskhandzhi Musalayev, a police investigator in Chechnya's Urus-Martan district.

The Investigative Committee, city police and city prosecutors all refused to comment on the incident when reached by telephone Tuesday.

But Komsomolskaya Pravda reported Tuesday that the wounded officer went to the local Yasenevo district police precinct to hand in his gun for safe keeping following the fight, after which his colleagues drove him in a Toyota Land Cruiser to the hospital for treatment.

The wounded man's colleagues proceeded to return to the restaurant, where local police were already on the scene investigating the brawl, KP reported.

Police on the scene were apparently unable to prevent the Chechen officers from escalating the conflict upon their return. At least one of the Chechen men fired gunshots, injuring one of the Azeris and a nearby taxi driver, Interfax reported.

Zelemkhan Israilov, a security aide to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, was injured in the second altercation, KP reported.

The Chechen officers fled the scene following the shootout but later turned up at the Yasenevo police precinct to give their account, Interfax said. Seven Chechen police officers were involved in the shootout, KP reported.

No one was available for comment at the Chechen branch of the Interior Ministry in Grozny, a man who answered the phone there Tuesday said.

Calls to the Moscow branch of the Investigative Committee went unanswered Tuesday.

The incident is not the first time that Chechen police have been linked to violence in Moscow.

Chechen police officers from Grozny shot dead Chechen commander Movladi Baisarov in November 2006 as they were trying to arrest him on Leninsky Prospekt in southwest Moscow.

Baisarov had been wanted on suspicion of ordering the killing of a family in Chechnya.

He also had publicly argued with Kadyrov, then the Chechen prime minister, over whether Baisarov's Gorets security unit should be disbanded.