I saw this disturbing piece in VZGLIAD this morning. Just so you know: the accompanying video does not show the actual death of Police Officer Magomed Nurbagandov. It only shows the moments leading up to his execution: the last few seconds in the life of a brave man who finds himself in extremis: trussed up and on his knees in front of men who he knows are going to kill him in the next few seconds.
The events on the vid happened back on July 10. But it was only a couple of days ago that the real story came to light, and the public learned about Magomed’s bravery. As a result of this discovery, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MID) of the Russian Federation has announced that Officer Nurbagandov will be awarded a medal postumously for his heroic deed. MID spokesperson Irina Volk issued the following public statement: “It is quite clear on the recording, how an armed militant is trying to force Nurbagandov to call on his friends and acquaintances to quit the police. To this, the police officer responded: ‘Keep on working, brothers.’ After which, they shoot him.” Volk also said that MID representatiaves will meet with members of the hero cop’s family and thank them for raising such a worthy son.
This is how it happened: A couple of days ago, police in the town of Izberbash, Dagestan were conducting one of their special operations against “militants”. Liquidating three of the militants (presumably in a firefight?), the police discovered a cellphone in the pocket of one of the bandits. The cellphone contained a video recording of the shooting of two men in the forest near a town called Sergokal. One of the men who was shot is Officer Magomed Nurbagandov. His death stood out because of a simple yet profound act of heroism. The terrorists/bandits, call them what you will, wanted to use Nurgabandov’s death to make propaganda for their own cause. They asked of him, in the moments before his execution, that he publicly call upon his fellow police officers to stop hunting bandits. He was supposed to say, “Quit the police, don’t join the police.” When instead Nurbagandov quietly and without Hollywood-style chest-beating, chose to defy the bandit leader and called on his fellow cops to “keep on working”, then he risked putting himself in a much worse situation than simply being shot. Anyone can see what a profoundly brave act this was, and how many of us, in that situation, would have risked it? Risked torture? Very few of us indeed. One can only hope that Magomed’s death was as quick as if he had complied with the bandit’s demands.
Dagestan is a federal Republic within the Russian Federation, one of the predominantly Muslim republics of the North Caucacus. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dagestan entered into a state of lawlessless and violence. On August 7, 1999 Islamist warlords from neighboring Chechnya invaded Dagestan, thus sparking the Dagestan War and the Second Chechen War. The goal of the Islamists was to combine Chechnya and Dagestan into a Shariah-based Emirate and to expel the Russians. Both of these separatist wars were eventually won, but at great human cost, by the Russian army. This wiki piece actually gives a decent historical background of these wars without much of the usual anti-Russian slant. It goes without saying that Western governments and agencies such as Saudi Arabia, the American CIA and the British MI-6 supported the Islamist side in these wars and provided them with weapons, training, and mercenaries. But that is all in the past, and my main point here is that in the North Caucasus, a mountainous region with an endemic history of banditry and gang violence, Islamist terrorism frequently blends seamlessly with just ordinary criminal gangs. This is why it is ambiguous whether Officer Nurbagandov was killed by Islamist terrorists, or simply by the leader of a robber band.
In recent years, with the main Islamist forces having been militarily defeated by the Russian army, the insurgency still continues to simmer on, but at a much lower level, is regarded as a policing issue, and is handled mainly by the local police. In Dagestan especially the police take the brunt of it and handle this (international) war on terror whenever it intrudes into their own space. It is the police and ordinary cops like Nurbagandov whose job it is to crawl around in the woods, ferreting out both ideological terrorists and ordinary criminal bandits alike.
What we see of the (edited) video is just the last 35 seconds of Nurbagandov’s life. In the first few seconds we see one of the bandits holding up Nurbagandov’s police badge and ID. At 16 seconds in, a very skinny and stressed looking Nurbagandov confirms that, yes, that is him. “Say it, say it,” an offscreen bandit urges the captive.
“Say what?” the other retorts.
“That they should stop working.” [meaning that he should call upon his fellow officers to quit their jobs and stop chasing bandits]
Nurbagandov looks up at the camera operator and mutters, “Keep on working, brothers.”