Below are news reports of different mass graves discoveries in Chechnya – keep in mind the reports are scarce and they don’t reflect the full scale of the the situation, which remains unclear to this day, given Moscow’s refusal to investigate or allow international intervention and assistance.
Grozny built on graves
Mass graves are constantly being discovered in Grozny during the rebuilding process, but with the lack of proper forensic laboratories and investigation – the reconstruction frenzy continues, on the graves of war victims. Read more Chechnya’s Capital Rises From the Ashes, Atop Hidden Horrors
The unresolved issue of mass graves HERE
During a trip to the Caucasus in 1860, French writer Alexandre Dumas described how he was invited to go “hunting locals” – a common pastime for the Russian army.
Despite the fact that the multiple discoveries of mass graves fall under “crime against humanity” category and require immediate investigation, no serious measures have been taken by the international community and business continues as usual between Russia and other major states.
Human Rights organizations find themselves powerless in front of passive governments and Kremlin’s refusal to cooperate in this matter.
Russia: Chechen Mass Grave Found
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A grave containing about 800 bodies was reported in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, human rights officials said. A Grozny resident told Russia’s human rights representative in Chechnya that the bodies had been buried between Jan. 2 and Oct. 31, 1995. The resident told Nurdi Nukhadzhiyev, the rights representative, that they were mostly civilians, a spokeswoman said.
Fifty-seven mass graves have been identified in Chechnya, and it is not unusual for construction crews in Grozny to run across collections of bodies.
Russia to Investigate a Mass Grave in Chechnya
Published: February 26, 2001 (New York Times)
Russian military officials promised today to investigate a grave containing a number of bodies found near a Russian military base outside the Chechen capital, Grozny. But they made it clear that they believed that its inhabitants had been killed by Chechen rebels and not by Russian soldiers.
A rebel spokesman denied that, and contended that the grave contained the bodies of Chechen civilians who had been rounded up by Russian troops in local mopping-up operations, never to be seen again.
The grave, said to conceal the bodies of anywhere from 11 to several score of Chechen citizens, was uncovered by local residents last week at a dairy not far from the Russian military base of Khankala.
Local military officials said mines had been placed on many bodies, apparently to kill anyone who sought to retrieve them. Russian reports said three bodies had been identified as those of Chechen residents. Most had been killed by gunfire.
The Russian-appointed prosecutor in Grozny, Vsevolod Chernov, said that the area was being surveyed by helicopter and that witnesses were being interviewed.
But a spokesman for the rebel administration in Chechnya told Agence France-Presse that local residents had suspected that the area held the bodies of civilians who had been imprisoned and killed at the Khankala base, but that they had been afraid to search because the area was too close to the outpost.
Separately, Russia’s human rights commissioner and its prosecutor general said they would examine reports by a journalist for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta that the Russian Army maintains a so-called prisoner pit in Chechnya, where detained civilians have been held for ransom and have sometimes died.
The reporter, Anna Politkovskaya, was detained by Russian officials near the town of Khatuni as she was investigating accounts by people who said they had seen one such pit.
Military officials said Ms. Politkovskaya had been stopped because she had false accreditation papers for her trip, a charge she denied.
The Russian Army has operated so-called filtration camps in Chechnya, where civilians suspected of illegal acts have been detained; and reports of beatings, rapes and ransoms at some camps have been publicized. But the military has denied that such abuses occur.
Mass grave found on Chechen border
9 september 2002, BBC NEWS
Police in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia have discovered a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of 15 people arrested by Russian troops in neighboring Chechnya several months ago.
The grave – on the Chechen-Ingush border – was reportedly found after relatives of the victims paid some Russian soldiers a large amount of cash for information.
The human rights group Memorial said seven of the bodies – of ethnic Chechen men who were uncovered last Friday – had been identified.
Correspondents say the discovery, which comes as the UN resumes activities in Chechnya, is a fresh blow to Moscow’s human rights record.
Some of the bodies in the grave had plastic bags wrapped over their heads and showed signs of “violent death”, according to the press service linked to Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov.
Rights groups have often attacked Russia’s tactics in Chechnya
A spokesman for the Kremlin office responsible for relations with Chechnya said Russian officials would not be making any comment on the report.
Mr Maskhadov’s office said the 15 had been detained during “mopping-up” operations by Russian troops in north-western Chechnya in mid-May, although Memorial said the arrests began two weeks earlier.
Memorial said that in June military chiefs and prosecutors had promised to probe the detentions and begin inquiries for the release of the 15.
”But nothing happened after this promise,” the group said.
An estimated 20,000 Chechen militants have been killed in the conflict
The news of the discovery comes two weeks after Russian intelligence released a video of a mass grave found in Chechnya that contained the remains of about 100 Russian soldiers and civilians – all reportedly beheaded.
The dead, believed to be victims of the first Chechen war from 1994 to 1996, were found in the village of Stariy Achkhoy, close to the alleged site of a death camp run by Chechen militants.
Russian troops stormed back into Chechnya in October 1999 in a self-declared anti-terrorist operation which has been repeatedly criticized as heavy-handed by human rights groups.
About 4,500 Russians have died in the conflict so far, according to official figures, although anti-war groups believe the actual toll may be three times higher.
Russian military officials estimate that 20,000 Chechen guerrillas have been killed.
The discovery of the mass grave came as the UN announced it was resuming aid operations in Chechnya halted in July after the abduction of Russian aid worker Nina Davydovich.
Russia Must Account for “Disappearances” in Military Custody
We have established a clear pattern of cases when people ‘disappear’ in the custody of Russian troops. So the discovery of this mass grave is very alarming.
Human Rights Watch urged an urgent investigation into the mass grave discovered Saturday near the main Russian military base in Chechnya.
In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the international monitoring organization called on the Russian government to make public all available information about the grave, to allow relatives of missing persons to search for their loved ones among the bodies, and to ask the Council of Europe to provide a team of forensic medical experts to participate in the investigation. Human Rights Watch also wrote to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe urging the organization to offer its assistance investigating the grave.
On February 24, local residents discovered a mass grave-possibly containing as many as 200 dead bodies-in an abandoned village in the vicinity of the Khankala military base. According to press reports, after news of the grave became known, a Grozny man found among the corpses his sixteen-year-old son, who had been missing since December 2000. He also found the body of the young man with whom his son had gone missing. Russian law enforcement agents have apparently sealed off the area to prevent people from looking for missing relatives.
“We have established a clear pattern of cases when people ‘disappear’ in the custody of Russian troops,” said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division. “So the discovery of this mass grave is very alarming.” The mass grave discovered near Khankala is not the first unmarked grave to be found in Chechnya. Throughout the past six months, unmarked graves containing the bodies of people who had previously “disappeared” in the custody of Russian troops were found in several villages, including Starye Atagi, Dzhalka, Gekhi, Duba-Yurt and Mesker-Yurt. Many of the bodies had been severely mutilated. Injuries commonly found on these bodies included broken limbs, scalped body parts, cut off fingertips, knife and gunshot wounds.
Human Rights Watch and Memorial, a leading Russian human rights group, have recently documented more than fifty cases in which relatives or others witnessed Russian forces detaining individuals, but were unable to obtain any further information about their whereabouts. In most cases, law enforcement agencies flatly denied that the detention had ever taken place. [Human Rights Watch issued a field update on abuses in Chechnya on January 22, 2001 with further information on this trend.]
In one case, the parents of three young men managed to receive confirmation that their sons had been taken to the Khankala military base. After Islam Dombaev (15), Murad Lianov (17), and Timor Tabzhanov (18) were detained on June 28, 2000 in Grozny, local Chechen police informed the parents that Ministry of Interior forces had detained the three and taken them to Khankala. Parents’ inquiries at the base have yielded no result. The head of the unit that detained the three refused to appear for questioning at the Grozny prosecutor office. The military prosecutor claims military servicemen had nothing to do with this “disappearance.”
Russian prosecutors have opened criminal investigations into some of these “disappearances.” However, the investigations are plagued with serious deficiencies, and so far produced no results. [On February 9, 2001, Human Rights Watch issued a memorandum on domestic prosecutions.]
A mass grave containing the remains of some 300 people has been uncovered at an asphalt plant in the Republic of Chechnya. As the Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday (RUS), the site dates from the Second Chechen war, and likely contains civilian victims of an attack by Russian forces.
Russia has led two wars against separatists in the region, and both sides have targeted and killed civilians. Russian troops have been accused of a systematic campaign of torture and “disappearances,” a charge the defense ministry denies.
In recent years, major fighting has died down, although eruptions of violence and attacks on the armed forces continue periodically.
Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, the Republic’s official human rights ombudsman, said the grave contained the bodies of refugee men, women and children shelled by Russian troops in October 1999. The refugees were traveling together in an attempt to leave Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, via a special “green corridor” opened to allow peaceful residents to flee areas of fighting.
“After completely destroying the convoy of refugees, the soldiers buried the corpses together with their vehicles and belongings in a big pit on the territory of the asphalt plant, which is located near the road,” Reuters quoted Nukhazhiyev as saying.
The grave was first discovered in 2000, but was never exhumed. Nukhazhiyev said he had petitioned Yury Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, to send an investigative team and establish a special laboratory to help identify the victims.
The announcement comes just over a week after another mass grave, containing some 800 bodies, was discovered in Grozny.
As many as 100,000 civilians are thought to have perished in the two conflicts. According to Nukhazhiyev, some 60 mass graves have been found throughout Chechnya.
Mass grave discovered in Grozny contains bodies of guerrillas and civilians
By Umalt Chadayev
April 5th 2006 · Prague Watchdog
CHECHNYA – In early April it was reported that a mass grave had been discovered in the grounds of Kirov Park, in Grozny’s Leninsky district. The remains of a total of 57 people have been extracted from the place.
According to representatives of the law enforcement agencies, six bodies have not yet been identified. It is planned to send their remains to the South Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for forensic medical examination.
One of the inhabitants of Grozny who was an eyewitness of the sad events told Prague Watchdog’s correspondent that the burial of people in the grounds of Kirov Park took place in the winter of 2000, when Russian soldiers stormed the Chechen capital.
“Someone was buried there almost every day,” says 44-year-old Adlan. “After all, it was precisely in January-February 2000 that Grozny underwent the most intensive shelling and air raids. Among the people killed were both guerrillas and civilians.”
“There was almost no possibility of transporting the bodies to the villages, as is usually done. The city was completely blockaded, and it was subjected to continuous bombing and shelling with all kinds of weaponry. Like many tens of thousands of Grozny’s inhabitants, I found myself in the blockaded city. It was a terrible time. There was no heat and no light, and the shortage of food supplies and water constantly made itself felt. It was impossible to evacuate the sick and wounded, and many of them died because they did not receive aid in time,” he asserts.
“I also took part several times in the burials of those who had been killed. I even had a list of the surnames of everyone who was buried there, but later on I lost it. In addition, we placed a note (usually in jars or bottles) in each grave, showing the surnames and first names of the victims. As far as I know, in April-May of 2000 nine graves were uncovered in Kirov Park, and the relatives took away the remains for burial in cemeteries,” Adlan says.
“I can’t speak with certainty today, but I think that many more people were buried there. As for the bodies which could not be identified, they were most probably buried as unknowns,” the respondent believes.
As is now known, a criminal case has been opened by the Leninsky district Prosecutor’s Office concerning the discovery of the mass grave in the Chechen capital. However, local residents express doubt that the Russian soldiers who are to blame for the deaths of people in the winter of 2000 will ever be punished.
“As a result of non-selective artillery fire, which included the use of multiple-launch rocket systems such as ‘Grad’, ‘Uragan’ and ‘Smerch’, and of vacuum, needle and other bombs, thousands of innocent civilians perished in Chechnya, and in particular the city of Grozny, during 1999-2000,” says Alikhan Isayev, who teaches at one of Grozny’s institutions of higher education.
“The responsibility for this lies first and foremost with the high Russian military command, including Yeltsin and Putin as commanders-in-chief,” he is convinced.
“I would like to see them charged with criminal responsibility. For that reason, I consider the opening of a criminal case concerning the discovery of a mass grave in Kirov Park to be a pure formality.”.
On the site of the former Kirov Park the local authorities plan to build a large entertainment center which will bear the name of Akhmat-Khadji Kadyrov, the late Moscow-backed Chechen leader.
Mass Graves Found Near Old Chechen Prison Camp
By Yuri Bagrov, The Moscow Times
Video footage shot by a German journalist shows bodies of men believed to be Chechen fighters in a mass grave.
Many of them had been mutilated. Some were wrapped in barbed wire. Soldiers are seen throwing one body into the grave from a tank and dragging another behind a truck.
|Russian soldiers have faced repeated allegations of abuses|
With evidence like this there should be no more pussyfooting around by the international community
|Human Rights Watch spokeswoman|
“They just can’t argue with this footage. It is entirely consistent with what our investigators have found from talking to refugees on the Chechen border.
“With evidence like this, there really should be no more pussyfooting around by the international community.”
Ms Worden said economic sanctions such as the withholding of loan payments from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should now be imposed.
But British Labour MP Donald Anderson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he believed pressure would not affect Russian policy immediately.
“There is no way the tactics of the Russians will alter betwen now and the election,” he told the BBC.
“Vladimir Putin relies on his reputation as a nationalist, as a strong man, and his electoral success depends on that.”
The German journalist who took the pictures says he believes the troops themselves may disagree with the work they are having to do. He says this would explain the unhindered access he was given to the site of the mass grave.
Throughout Chechnya, Russian soldiers have been searching captured villages and towns for Chechen fighters.
Many men have been detained and their families have had no word on their whereabouts.
There was no immediate Russian reaction to the footage, but in Friday’s Izvestia newspaper, Mr Putin vowed to continue the campaign.
In an “open letter” to electors, Vladimir Putin said the Russian army was defeating what he called the “Chechen bandits” in a move towards establishing “a dictatorship of the law which is fair to all.”