On 20 March 2000, Russian president Vladimir Putin urged Chechen fighters to take advantage of an amnesty offered by the Russian parliament. He was speaking after arriving in Chechnya by fighter jet on a surprise trip ahead of this weekend’s presidential elections.
After a brief tour of parts of the devastated capital Grozny, Mr Putin indicated that Moscow was willing to discuss the republic’s future with rebels who laid down their arms.
He said that those “who have not stained their hands with the blood of Russian nationals, have not killed or robbed, have a choice”.
A Russian pilot taken hostage several months before was freed in Komsomolskoye, a Chechen town captured by federal forces after two weeks of heavy shelling. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Zhukov had been captured in October when his jet went down in Chechnya during a mission. Zhukov was freed in Komsomolskoye on Sunday when rebels there tried to break out of a Russian encirclement. He was said to be in good physical condition.
In March of 2000 federal officials announced that 72 rebel guerrillas had surrendered at Komsomolskoye and that all were being amnestied. Two women were also among them, a Chechen woman by the name of Biluyevna Lipa (who appears in the video below) and an ethnic Russian woman who identified herself as wife of one of the Chechen hostages. Ruslan Gelayev, the commander, had escaped 2 days earlier.
The prisoners were taken to Chernokozovo filtration camp, where despite the public declaration of amnesty – they were tortured and killed. Three men survived – two disappeared (disappearances are a common phenomenon in Chechnya) and one committed suicide, according to Novaya Gazeta.
One of the survivors, Rustam Azizov, told his story to Memorial Human Rights Center before he disappeared.
He also described the tortures they were subjected to; a short video shot by Russian army captured the treatment described click here for video segment (contains disturbing scenes)
First part of the video below captures the hostages after the surrender; 2 females are part of the hostages. Russian officer also describes the killing of “snipers’ girls” – it’s unsure if it refers to these 2 females
A different version of the prisoners footage
Chechen woman by name of Milueva Lipa is being asked to identify herself and admit on video that she was a sniper. She is in a visibly worsened state compared with the previous video
The male hostages captured on a 30 minute film, shortly before they died. The women can no longer be seen.
To read more about Chernokozovo filtration camp, click here Torture. atrocities (Emily Gillian’s excerpts)
The hostage video was made public in 2004 by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. According to her, making the video public was the idea of the Russian officer who had filmed it, as he hoped it will help “free him from a nightmare which continues to torture him right up to the present.”
The news report and video download link are still available on the newspaper website where Anna Politkovskaya worked.
Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in Moscow in 2006, supposedly for her human rights work and her open criticism of Kremlin’s corruption.
It was only through this video tape that the truth was revealed and the families of the prisoners finally learned of the faith of their missing relatives. It also reinforced declarations of Komsomolskoye witnesses like journalist Owen Matthews, who described seeing bodies with hands tied back and severe signs of torture.
The War in Chechnya had an extreme level of violence. To understand what role “violence” plays in Russian military culture, below is a so-called disciplinary video with young Russian conscript soldiers.
War crimes are a sad reality and a fact of every war. However, this particular event involved a declaration of amnesty from the highest state authority – the Russian president himself and the Parliament, and also involved a public statement from military officials of the prisoners “being amnestied” once they had surrendered.
The fact that the amnesty proved to be a false promise and that the real outcome was purposely disclosed from the public by the authorities – most probably with the knowledge of the President himself, affects the credibility of the authority in the Russian state on the highest level, not only in relation to the Chechens but also on international level.