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    Vostok battalion to remain in Chechnya

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    Russia's Defense Ministry will keep its Vostok special battalion, allegedly involved in a recent shootout with Chechen presidential guards, in the Chechen Republic, a high-ranking military official said on Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, June 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry will keep its Vostok special battalion, allegedly involved in a recent shootout with Chechen presidential guards, in the Chechen Republic, a high-ranking military official said on Tuesday.

    Russian military officials earlier denied that a shootout had taken place on April 14 involving rival security convoys under the command of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and Vostok's commander, Sulim Yamadayev.

    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 unit, along with another defense ministry special battalion, Zapad, could be disbanded.

    "The battalions are certain to be kept. They perform tasks not only in the framework of the Joint Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, but also peacekeeping tasks in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," said Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Armed Forces combat training directorate.

    Chechnya's Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said after the convoy incident that Sulim Yamadayev's brother, Badrudi, was suspected of having been behind the incident and that law enforcement officers were conducting an operation to try and trace him.

    The Chechen parliament then adopted a statement addressed to Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, requesting the dismissal of Commander Yamadayev and his brother from their posts in the battalion, which was specially formed to conduct military operations against Chechen militants.

    "The Yamadayev brothers are linked to a number of serious crimes, including murders and abductions, as well as the events in the Borozdinovskaya [village]," Kadyrov said.

    Vostok battalion troops conducted a special military operation in the Borozdinovskaya village in the summer of 2005. Four houses were burnt down, 11 people disappeared and a 77-year-old man died as a result of the operation.

    Sulim Yamadayev has accused Kadyrov of provoking the convoy incident in order to force the battalion's withdrawal from Chechnya. He also expressed his shock in an interview with the Russian Vlast magazine in April that his battalion's base had been surrounded by "people who fought against Russia [in the Chechen wars]."

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