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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officers Suspended In Chechen Probe

General Vladimir Moltenskoi, the top commander in Chechnya, on Monday suspended at least two high-ranking military officers until the end of the investigation into troops' behavior during large-scale "cleansing" operations.

Reporting Monday in Grozny on the initial results of the investigation, Moltenskoi said there were "individual violations" of the rules for conducting special operations. He blamed the violations on insufficient control over the soldiers by their officers.

The leading prosecutor in Chechnya, Viktor Dakhnov, also said the violations were "not of a mass character" and "the operation was not an orgy, as some media outlets portray it," Interfax reported from Grozny. Dakhnov had said Friday that troops injured at least 10 civilians and damaged property.

Troops surrounded Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk early this month and rounded up hundreds of males, ostensibly to check their documents and find any rebel fighters. Many of them were beaten and tortured with electric shocks, witnesses and Chechen officials said.

The troops' behavior outraged Chechen officials. The heads of administrations in three districts — Sunzhensky, where the two villages are located; neighboring Achkoi-Martan; and Kurchaloi, where a similar operation took place in late June — quit in protest.

But they agreed to stay after Viktor Kazantsev, the president's envoy to the Southern Federal District, apologized and promised that results of the investigation would be announced Monday.

"All the heads of administrations said they were satisfied by the measures taken when these officers were removed and they decided to keep their jobs," Alla Vlazneva, spokeswoman for the Chechen government, said in an interview from Grozny on Monday evening. "But they said they will closely follow the development of the investigation."

Moltenskoi told journalists that he had formally reprimanded his own deputy and two of his deputy's deputies, one in charge of coordination with the Defense Ministry, the other with the Interior Ministry. Interfax reported that he suspended the two lower-ranking officers. Vlazneva, however, said all three were suspended. Moltenskoi refused to name the officers.

Overall, 357 complaints from Chechens were registered in the three villages — Assinovskaya, Sernovodsk and Kurchaloi. It was not clear Monday how many of those complaints had been investigated. Moltenskoi said many of the complaints had similar phrasing, as if one person were dictating the text.

NTV television reported that the operations were conducted by 12 formations of federal police and Interior Ministry troops. In one of the villages, it was OMON troops from Stavropol that went door-to-door rounding up people and checking homes, the report said. Defense Ministry troops were used only to blockade the villages, NTV said.

In the days that followed, thousands of frightened villagers fled to Ingushetia.

Ruslan Badalov, head of the Union of Chechen Refugees in Nazran, said the investigators were not telling the truth.

"There were hundreds of people injured," Badalov said by telephone. "This investigation is interested only in covering up the violations, not revealing them. It should not be done by the structures related to those who committed the crimes; it must be independent."