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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ustinov: Goof Killed 24 in Grozny

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A miscommunication within the military led to a brutal shootout in a Grozny suburb last year that killed at least 24 elite OMON commandos, the Prosecutor General's Office said Monday.

Three high-ranking police officers — identified only as General Fadeyev, Major Tikhonov of the Moscow regional police and Interior Ministry Colonel Levchenko — have been charged with negligent homicide in the incident, the prosecutor's office said.

Prosecutors refused to say if and when the suspects would be brought to trial. If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison.

The shootout on March 2, 2000, stunned residents of the Moscow region city of Sergiyev Posad, where the OMON unit was based. Top government officials immediately blamed Chechen rebels for the attack.

But Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said in a letter published Monday that the nine-truck convoy with OMON fighters from Sergiyev Posad had come under heavy automatic fire from local policemen who had not been advised about the convoy's arrival.

The fierce battle that ensued at the guard post in Grozny's Staropromyslovsky district killed 22 and wounded 31 of the 98-strong unit, Ustinov was quoted by Novaya Gazeta as writing State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov in response to an inquiry about the incident.

The convoy was arriving for the unit's second tour of duty in Chechnya, replacing OMON servicemen from the Moscow region city of Podolsk at the guard post. At least two Podolsk OMON officers also died in the battle.

Ustinov said prosecutors have established that servicemen from Staropromyslovsky's police force opened fire at the convoy after it failed to stop for a mandatory check.

Fadeyev, Tikhonov and Levchenko were supposed to have ensured that the OMON convoy was guarded by armored vehicles and helicopter gunships and that the Staropromyslovsky policemen were informed in advance of the convoy's arrival, the letter said.

Fadeyev, who was stationed in the North Ossetian base of Mozdok and responsible for organizing gunships and armored vehicles, was charged with negligence on Jan. 31, 2001, Ustinov said.

Tikhonov, who served as acting commander of the Podolsk OMON unit, was to have ensured "the safe passage of federal troops in his zone of responsibilities," according to Ustinov's letter. He was charged with negligence on Jan. 28, 2001. Levchenko, who was responsible for ensuring the safety of Interior Ministry personnel stationed in Chechnya, "didn't fulfill his duties properly [and] led to deaths of people." He was charged Feb. 1, 2001.

Tikhonov has since retired from the OMON, while Fadeyev serves with the Moscow region traffic police, said Moscow region police spokesman Alexander Alexeyev. It was unclear what happened to Levchenko.

None of the suspects could be reached for comment Monday.

Alexeyev declined to comment on the charges, saying that his police force continues to believe that Chechen rebels ambushed the Sergiyev Posad unit.

Just hours after the attack, the Kremlin's Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky and commanders from the Interior Ministry blamed the attack on rebels.