Chechens in South Ossetia

In Chechnya, it is believed that the official counts of Russian military losses during the fighting in South Ossetia have been greatly understated. In Chechnya alone, many bodies of killed soldiers have been delivered from the Intelligence Directorate special purpose battalions “Vostok” and “Zapad”, which consist of ethnic Chechens. The Ministry of Defense reports 74 soldiers killed altogether.

The Chechen special forces, though they prefer not to speak of losses suffered, express strong displeasure regarding their commanders. In the words of one “Vostok” soldier, they were “set up”.

“Our battalion was added to the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Southern Ossetia last fall. Before the beginning of these events (meaning the Georgian offensive into Tskhinvali), there were two companies of our battalion here.” said one of the “Vostok” servicemen, who called himself Vakhid, “Even though we were ready for possible provocation, a mass attack on Tskhinvali was nevertheless unanticipated.”

“They practically set us up there. The turrets on the tanks given to us didn’t work; our armored vehicles broke down nearly every hundred meters. The Georgians, meanwhile, brought massive fire on our positions from “Grad” rocket launchers and long-range artillery, Georgian planes bombed us, and we, realistically, weren’t able to give them a serious response. Men were killed in our group, including our commander.”

“There (in Tskhinvali), it was real hell. Over the course of all of these days we weren’t able to communicate with our families, who naturally were very worried, because there was no way to reach us and we were unable to recharge our cell phones. My older brother broke through to us on the third day because there was information that we had all been killed. We were practically all on the brink of extermination, if not for the ‘Kadyrovsky’ regiment[1] , who came to our aid.” he said unexpectedly. “They stopped the Georgian attack and saved us from certain death.”

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