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Battle of Zhani-Vedeno
Part of the Second Chechen War
После боя. БТР, подбитый боевиками.jpg
DateMarch 29, 2000
LocationNear Zhani-Vedeno, Chechnya
Result Chechen victory
Belligerents
Flag of Russia.svg Russia Flag of Jihad.svg Chechen Mujahideen
Commanders and leaders
Valentin Simonov Ibn al-Khattab
Strength
107 OMON Troops
2 BTR-80s[1]
40+ fighters
Casualties and losses
43 killed[2]
15 wounded
11 captured
2 killed
5 wounded


The Battle of Zhani-Vedeno took place on March 29, 2000, when a column of Russian troops, was ambushed in southern Vedensky District of Chechnya by the mostly Dagestani mujahideen under Arab commander Ibn al-Khattab.

Battle

A Russian Interior Ministry force led by Major Valentin Simonov, consisting of 49 men according to the Russian account (41 of them members of the OMON paramilitary police from Perm Krai, mostly from the city of Berezniki), was on its way in one armoured personnel carrier (APC) and two military trucks to conduct a mopping-up operation in the villages of Tsentoroi or Dargo, near Vedeno. Russian airborne forces stationed nearby actually intercepted a rebel communication regarding the preparations for the ambush, but failed to warn the convoy (possibly on purpose, given the widespread hatred of OMON in Russia and especially in regard to the Chechen conflict).[3][4][5][6][7]

At 8 am, the column stopped after one of the trucks ran out of fuel. The Russian commander decided to check a bombed-out house nearby and accidentally discovered a small group of rebel fighters hiding there; he was the first to be killed, shot dead as he entered the door. Once the firing started, more rebels, who were hiding in the undergrowth and trees, encircled the column, blowing up the truck with the unit's grenade launcher and ammunition, before pinning down the rest of the convoy in a hail of gunfire from all sides with grenade launchers, machine guns, and sniper rifles. Some of the Russians hid in the nearby forest.[3][4][5][6][7]

Rocket strafing attacks by Russian attack helicopters, apparently unaware that some of their own men were hiding in the forest, failed to dislodge the guerrillas. A second Perm OMON convoy, including two APCs and 107 troops, was then sent to the rescue from the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Vedeno, but was itself attacked on Height 817, just 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the ambush site. At least three or six men in the second convoy were killed and 15 or 16 wounded before the relief mission was called off. Radio contact with the trapped unit was lost at 2:30 pm. When the shooting ceased, most of the men in the first column were dead or dying. Some injured Russians killed themselves with their own grenades. Nine to eleven were captured, while six managed to reach friendly lines.[3][4][5][6][7]

Aftermath

At first, Russian officials attempted to hide the losses; on the same day, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo claimed that the situation in Chechnya "is being fully controlled" by Russian forces.[3][8] Despite the fact that only six troops got away, the Kremlin's Chechnya spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, told reporters that "of the 49 troops who were in the column yesterday, 16 are alive and doing well. They are absolutely safe now." Russian units managed to secure the former battlefield two days later, in the afternoon of March 31. They spent the next two days collecting the booby-trapped corpses, many of them reportedly mutilated. A badly wounded OMON officer was also found alive three days after the battle. The rebels said they executed nine of their prisoners on the morning of April 4, 2000. According to the statement, the prisoners were shot because the Russians had refused to exchange them for a tank unit commander, Yuri Budanov, accused of raping and killing an 18-year-old Chechen woman, Elza Kungayeva. Meanwhile, three officers from the elite Alpha Group leading the search for the missing policemen were killed by a land mine. On April 30, the corpses were reportedly found beheaded.[3][7][8][9][10]

Mikhail Labunets, commander of the North Caucasus Internal Troops District, accused an airborne regiment stationed in Vedeno of failing to come to the rescue and said it was almost impossible for OMON units to secure proper air and fire support because of the long-standing enmity between the federal army and the police. Interior Minister Rushailo flew to Chechnya on April 4 to check out the allegations and ordered a full investigation. However, Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev blamed "a lack of firm, centralised command", while the commander of the airborne troops, General Gennady Troshev, said a mistake was the reason. In another controversy, Major Simonov's widow Nadya shocked the generals by refusing to accept the medal her husband had been awarded posthumously for his role in the battle, protesting the war in Chechnya.[2][3][5]

OMON officer Sergei Udachin had used about half of the film in his camera to take snapshots of his group. A rebel fighter picked up the camera and used it to document the Chechen side of the conflict, including the captured Russians. Eventually, the images became public. In 2002, CNN also discovered video footage of the ambush shot by OMON officer Sergei Sobyanin (killed alongside his commander during the initial shooting) and broadcast it for the first time in its documentary, Deadlock: Russia's Forgotten War.[5][7]

According to the investigation, the attack was conducted by a unit of "Wahhabis" led by an Arab commander named Abu Quteib and composed mostly of men from the Dagestani village of Karamakhi. Seven of them, arrested in Dagestan, were convicted by the republic's Supreme Court in 2001.[11][12]

References

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