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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian Defense Ministry denies ex-Vostok commander appointment

RIA Novosti

10/11/2008 15:33 MOSCOW, November 10 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Defense Ministry denied on Monday media reports that the former commander of the Chechen Vostok battalion, Sulim Yamadayev, had been assigned to a new post.

The Kommersant business daily reported earlier that Yamadayev had been appointed deputy commander of a special forces brigade in southern Russia.

"The rumors about Yamadayev's recent appointment as deputy commander of a special forces unit in the Rostov region are incorrect," a ministry official told RIA Novosti, adding that the ex-commander of the famed Vostok battalion had not received any new assignment.

Yamadayev was officially dismissed from his post as commander of the Defense Ministry's Vostok battalion on August 21 over an alleged involvement in the 1998 abduction and murder of a Chechen businessman.

On November 8, Col. Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi, deputy commander of Russia's Land Forces, said that the Vostok and Zapad battalions, the most combat-capable units in Chechnya, would be reorganized and become motorized infantry companies as part of the 42nd Motorized Infantry Division, which is stationed in the republic.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is seeking to minimize the number of Chechen units that are not under his direct control, has long been demanding that the Vostok and Zapad battalions be disbanded, the paper said.

Both battalions answer directly to the Russian Defense Ministry and the Chechen authorities have no effective control over them.

Kadyrov said previously he had nothing against the existence of the Vostok or Zapad battalions, but had concerns about some of their military leaders, whom he dubbed criminals.

Yamadayev was earlier accused of an attack on Kadyrov's security convoy in Chechnya during a clash between Vostok and the Chechen president's men on April 14. Russian military officials have denied however that a shootout took place between the rival forces.

What is known is that the two columns of vehicles crashed on a highway in Gudermes after refusing to give way to each other. The Vostok base was subsequently surrounded by Kadyrov's men. The incident led to wide-spread rumors that the Vostok and Zapad units could be disbanded.

Zapad battalion commander Beslan Elimkhanov, who is currently at a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds following an assassination attempt on September 17, called the decision to reorganize Vostok and Zapad "wrong and unfair," Kommersant said.

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