Mass graves

Chechen woman in Grozny cemetery Chechnya Russia war North Caucasus

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.


Grozny, 1995 - A man is searching for his 2 missing sons. he found one of them. Photo Anthony Suau

Grozny, 1995 – A man is searching for his 2 missing sons in a mass grave. He found one of them.
Photo by Anthony Suau

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.

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Russia: Chechen Mass Grave Found


Published: June 21, 2008

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.

A mass grave is discovered  in Chechnya and locals come looking for missing relatives


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.

North Caucasus Russia Chechnya war crimes atrocities russian soldiers chechen civilians rebels

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.

 Probe promise

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.

Russian troops in Chechnya

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.

Bodies of Chechen militants near Grozny in January 2000

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.

 UN resumes

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

February 27, 2001 (Human Rights Watch)

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.

Holly Cartner, Executive Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch

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.]

Mass Grave Uncovered in Chechnya

mass grave in chechnya. Source: memorial.ruA 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

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia — Several mass graves believed to contain the remains of at least 80 soldiers and abducted civilians have been found in Chechnya, an official in Chechnya’s Moscow-backed administration said Wednesday.The graves, found Monday in weed-covered fields near Stary Achkhoi, about 50 kilometers southwest of Grozny, are believed to date from the first Chechen war in 1994-96, the administration official said on condition of anonymity.The remains, which were being sent to a military forensic laboratory in Rostov-on-Don, have not been identified, he said.Rebel fighters had a prison camp nearby, military spokesman Colonel Ilya Shabalkin said in televised comments. “These were the bodies of servicemen and builders abducted by rebel groups” in early 1996, Shabalkin told Interfax.He said that rebels in the area had abducted 20 employees of the Germes-Yug energy company, 15 federal soldiers and 28 construction workers from southern Russia during the 1994-96 war, Interfax reported.Meanwhile, a high-level military official in the region, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Mi-26 military helicopter that crashed Aug. 19 in Chechnya, killing 118 people, was downed by two anti-aircraft missiles — one that hit it in the air and the second near the ground.The commission investigating the crash has not announced the results of its probe.Also Wednesday, rebel fighters clashed with federal troops near the village of Gansalchu in the Nozhai-Yurt district, the administration official said. Two soldiers died and five were wounded during the fighting, the official said. At least five rebels were also killed.

Chechen ‘mass grave’ exposed

The Russian army is facing fresh accusations that its soldiers have committed serious war crimes in Chechnya.

Battle for the Caucasus

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 Russian soldiers have faced repeated allegations of abuses
The pictures come after months of allegations of atrocities by Russian forces, which have repeatedly been denied by Moscow.The images are already prompting renewed calls for a full international investigation into all the allegations of recent months.”The Russian government has said consistently that our reports of summary executions and other abuses were lies,” Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Minky Worden told BBC News Online.

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.”


Chechen rebel “mole” – story of betrayal

source: Radio  Free Europe, Eurasia Daily Monitor

On January 23 2013, a group of rebel fighters lead by Gakayev brothers was “eliminated” during a shootout in the mountains of Chechnya, in Vedeno district.

The fighters had reportedly been pursued for days by a contingent of several thousand Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen police and security forces, who deployed combat helicopters and heavy artillery against them. They might have managed to escape, had their precise whereabouts not reportedly been betrayed, possibly under torture, by a member of the group.

At the time of the fighting, Chechen security forces was quoted as saying rebel fighter Islam Temishev (age 22) surrendered to the authorities following a gun battle on January 23 with Gakayev rebel group.

In the weeks after, it was revealed that Temishev was one of several “moles” who had infiltrated the rebels’ ranks over the past few years.


In this video, Islam Temishev and other alleged “mole” Algiriev Beslan – are seen talking as unsuspected members of the rebel group. The third man showing up in the video, Islam Atiev (age 24) was killed later in December 2013.

Islam Temishev and

Islam Temishev and Algiriev Beslan

Chechen rebel spies infiltrated in the rebel group

Chechen rebel spies infiltrated in the rebel group

Islam Atiev (kiled in december 2013) and 2 rebel fighters killed with Gukayev brothers

Islam Atiev (killed december 2013) and 2 rebel fighters killed during the January 2013 rebel-army confrontation

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Video of the questioning of the second spy (Algiriev Beslan) dispatched by the government. The rebels also show devices the spy possessed: —miniature bombs that were to be planted under certain commanders, signaling devices that were supposed to alert government forces about rebel locations, and so on. Algiriev Beslan says he was tortured and coerced into cooperating with government forces.

The video was designed to show that the government’s successes were the result of the “moles” they plant among the rebels. At the end of the questioning, the alleged spy is executed.


On January 23, the pro-insurgency website reported receiving information that the group had telephoned with the news that they were surrounded and had no hope of surviving. Video footage shows Muslim Gakayev having a head wound bandaged; another fighter asks jokingly why the enemy can’t fire more quietly.


Islam Temishev together with Russian and pro-Russian Chechen forces during the January 23 rebel-army battle


Bodies of the rebel group members in the forest



Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov shows up on television with Islam Temishev, whom he questions (among other things) about life inside the rebel enclave. Kadyrov portrays rebels as cowards and promises severe punishment.


On the night of February 18, the men accused by Islam Temishev of providing food and other essentials to the rebels – were brought to Vedeno and were humiliated by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in front of television cameras. One of the men was terminally-ill Said Gunkbayev (pictured below).


Said Gunkbayev on TV

Said Gunkbayev

At the end of the broadcast,  the media sources announced that “despite the severity of the crimes committed, Ramzan Kadyrov gave them a chance and let them go”. However, after the televised appearance a few of the men “disappeared” (common phenomenon in the region) and Said Gunkbayev’s body was found with signs of torture.

*A new measure to combat terrorism installed by Akhmad Kadyrov and later by his son Ramzan Kadyrov – extends the punishment of rebel fighters to their families and even neighbors, even if there is no proof of direct involvement or knowledge of their relative’s actions. Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights group and its member Natalya Estemirova accused Kadyrov of human rights violations in the “fight against terror”. Natalia Estemirova was murdered in July 2009 in Grozny.
(Source: “What Your Children Do Will Touch Upon You” Human Rights Watch report)

Life in Grozny after war

A few excerpts showing life in Grozny in 2001-2002 through the eyes of photographer Thomas Dworzak – after the end of the second war in May 2000.

All photos and text belong to T. Dworzak.

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Chechnya. Grozny. March 2001.

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Chechnya. Grozny. March 2001.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 19, 2002. One of the few remaining ethnic Russians. The 87 year-old blind woman lives with her daughter and receives no aid whatsoever. Her grandson was killed when Russian forced randomly rocketed their neighborhood late last year. She says that she feels permanently threatened by the Russian soldiers, “as they consider us as Chechens”.

Grozny Chechnya after war elderly russian woman

Grozny Chechnya after war old russian woman________________________

Chechnya. Grozny. Hospital March 2001.
Mother visiting her son in hospital after he was beaten up and kept in a ditch for 3 days by Russian soldiers.

Grozny Chechnya after war 09 North Caucasus wars

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Grozny, Chechnya. 02/2002. Chechen men having a picnic in a bombed out neighborhood near Minutka square. They try to find valuable scrap metal to resell. Very few people remain living in the destroyed apartment blocks.

Grozny Chechnya after war ruins

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Grozny, Chechnya. 02/2002. Outpatients in mostly destroyed “Republican Hospital”.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. People living in the ruins of their houses.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Hospital #9. More than a dozen civilians where heavily injured when a Russian Army APC run into a bus with Chechen civilians. Reckless APC driving is a common complaint of Chechens.

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Grozny Chechnya after war chechen man woman wounded North Caucasus wars

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Grozny Chechnya after war chechen women wounded North Caucasus wars________________________

Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Destruction in the city center. Nothing has been rebuilt since the two wars.

Grozny Chechnya after war destroyed North Caucasus wars

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Side street in destroyed residential area of Oktyabrsky Rayon. Body of an unknown middle aged man who was shot by four Makarov bullets in plain daylight a day earlier. No one wants to bury him.

Grozny Chechnya after war dead man shot sniper

Grozny Chechnya after war dead man________________________

Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Burning oil refinery on the outskirts of town. Russian soldiers at a nearby checkpoint target practice at the abandoned factories.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Destruction in the city center. Nothing has been rebuilt since the two wars.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 14, 2002. Relative showing the picture of a Chechen jobless civilian who disappeared several weeks ago. He crossed the street to see a neighbor shortly after darkness, was shot and picked up by unidentified Russian soldiers. The authorities deny any knowledge of the incident.

Grozny Chechnya after war missing chechen man North Caucasus wars________________________

Grozny, Chechnya. February 19, 2002. Chechen man who lives off digging oil in backyards. 3 days ago he was arrested and beaten unconscious by a Russian “death squad” when he wanted to cross the street in front of his home to continue drinking with a neighbor. He says what saved him was that he smelled of alcohol, a fact the “death squads” seem to appreciate. According to him, other detainees were tortured by electroshock, needles under the fingernails etc. until they admitted belonging to a rebel group. He was released the day before, has still difficulties to speak and his ears are ripped.

NOTE: He fears for his safety, only to be published with mosaic.

Grozny Chechnya after war beaten old man North Caucasus wars________________________

Grozny, Chechnya. February 18 2002.
House of the Blind. Oktyabrsky Rayon. Totally abandoned by any sort of State Welfare, a dozen blind survivors of the wars in Grozny live together in the remains of the former “House of the Blind”. Extremely sensitive to noise, they are particularly traumatized from the shooting and bombing. Though, most say they are happy to be unable to see the destruction.

Grozny Chechnya after war 14 Caucasus wars

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Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. House of the Blind. Without any Humanitarian Aid, on a 640 Ruble = 22$ pension – a remaining dozen of blind people survive in the badly hit by the bombing “House of the Blind”. One of the blind is creating energy to shave, listen to audio book tapes and “electricity for light bulbs!!!” with a bicycle turned generator.

Grozny Chechnya after war 13 Caucasus wars

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 20, 2002. Barely inhabited and almost entirely destroyed neighborhood in the “Zavodskoy Rayon”. 84 year old ethnic Russian woman living in a bunker.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 20/02/2002. 25-year-old Chechen shooting heroin in the backyard of a neighbors house. Uncontrolled gas burns in most houses as the pipes haven’t been fixed since the bombings. Since the wars and the “situation without exit” the number of young men taking drugs is exploding. To finance his habit (50 Rubels a shot, bought at one of the many neighborhood dealers) he steals and collects valuable metals in the ruins for resale. Almost all of the youngsters like him still live with their families.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
25 year-old Chechen drug-addict preparing a shot of heroine in a friend’s car. Drug addiction among young men is on a skyrocketing rise since the wars. Mostly, heroin is easily available (50 Rubels, = 1,5 $ a shot).

Grozny Chechnya after war chechen young man

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Grozny Chechnya after war chechen man heroin Caucasus wars________________________

Grozny, Chechnya. February 17, 2002.
Chechens collecting bricks in the rubble of the bombed out Zavadskoij Rayon. For 400 bricks they recieve 100 Rubels (= 3,5 $).

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Grozny, Chechnya. 02/2002. Trauma ward at hospital #9. Women with bullet or shrapnel wounds after they where shot at in a bus and in their home by Russian forces. Random shootings are common.

Grozny Chechnya after war chechen women hospital

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Grozny, Chechnya. 02/2002. Anti-war graffiti in the hallway of a destroyed house.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 02/2002. Former Cold-War nuclear shelter inhabited by a Russian family. They have been missing for several days.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Mother and uncle of a year old 24 Chechen girl who blew herself and the former Russian Army Commander of Urus-Martan, up in a Kamikaze attack. Commander was responsible for the death of her husband and 2 brothers. After the attack, Russian Forces confiscated all of the girl’s belongings.

Grozny Chechnya after war elderly chechens Caucasus wars________________________

Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Street in destroyed part of the city.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Street in a less destroyed part of the city.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Checkpoint near a police station. Pro-Russian Chechen police. There are 48 checkpoints of all sorts of Russian or pro-Russian police, army, and interior ministry troops around the town.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Bazaar, burning gas pipeline, in the Microrayon district, the only part of town where residence sometimes dare to venture out at nightfall.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
One of the few remaining ethnic Russians. The 80 years old woman lives in the basement of her bombed out house.

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Grozny Chechnya after war old russian woman .________________________

Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Chechen man, 52 years old, showing his torture marks. He was just released from custody with the Russian Forces. During a 10 days “Zatshiska” – a cleaning up or mobbing up operation, the village Stari Atagi was entirely sealed, and house to house searched, conducted by different groups of the Russian forces. Interior Ministry, Army, FSB, … The man was arrested, beaten unconscious and mock executed several times, apparently because he bears a name similar to a “Wahabbi Rebel”. After 5 days held in a ditch he was released, his passport confiscated. All in all, about 26 men had a similar faith, 4 villagers where killed in a shootout, apparently rebels, and 2 FSB soldiers where ambushed.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 02/2002. Hospital #9. Pro-Russian Chechen militia where shot at at a Russian checkpoint without obvious reason. Injured in the foot.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 02/2002. Some few remaining civilians live in the ruins of their houses. Zavadskoy Rayon. There is no running water or electricity. “Lijudi” (translated to “people”) written on the door in a vain hope to have the mercy of looting Russian soldiers.

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Ingushetia, Chechnya. February 2002. Home for retarded youngsters and kids where refugees/patients from Grozny live. Between 200 and 400 000 Chechens fled to neighboring Ingushetia since the 2nd Chechen war started in 1999. Chechens and Ingush where formerly in one Republic, their language is very similar.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Home of the elderly and mentally ill “Katajama”. Poster of Malik Saidulayev. Poor widow and her 3 kids moved in with the patients.

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A chechen widow moved in the sanatorium with her children

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Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Patients waiting in the Respublikansky Hospital – which is devoid of electricity.

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Grozny, Chechnya. 03/2002. Checkpoint of the pro-Russian Chechen militia, OMON. There are currently 48 permanent check-points in the city and regularly mobile ones.

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Grozny, Chechnya. February 2002.
Body of a Chechen man who worked in the Traffic Police Department of the Pro-Russian Chechen militia and was shot in his car. The man had been missing for several days. After he had left home one afternoon, his car was found bloodstained near a Russian checkpoint in town. The authorities denied any knowledge of the incident. A search party of relatives finally found the body, beaten to death, in a oil well-dump on the road to the main Russian military base Khankala.

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Grozny Chechnya after war .,




Chechnya. February, 2002. Russian conscript guards a site where deminers blow up mined houses.

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Chechnya’s dead



*NOTE – Billions of euros are currently being invested in ski resorts throughout the North Caucasus, yet Moscow refuses to invest in a single forensic laboratory in Chechnya to dig up and identify war victims (despite Europe’s offer to cover the expenses and provide all expert needs). In 2008, two mass graves of 800, and 300 victims were found in Grozny, yet no significant measures have been taken regarding this issue*

Chechnya Russia war chechen men prisoners genocide North Caucasus

Detainees under Russian guard in Chechnya in a photo by Adam Borowski that is part of a photo exhibition in Prague called “Chechnya: The Final Solution”


  Aslan Chadayev was well-known in his village of Shalazhi, in central Chechnya, for being an avid reader.

He was immersed in a book when Russian soldiers stormed into his house, dragged him out, a shirt pulled over his head, and threw him into their vehicle.

The 19-year-old student was never seen again.

In the 9 years since Aslan’s disappearance, his mother Malika has lost all hope of finding him alive. But she is still desperately searching for his remains.

“As soon as a new mass grave or an unidentified body is discovered, she rushes there. She’s traveled to every corner of the republic,” says Malika’s sister-in-law, Aset. “She’s constantly rummaging in these graves in the hope of finding even just a piece of her son’s clothing. Missing people definitely must be searched for and identified; the truth must be admitted.”


Aslan is one of thousands of Chechen civilians who disappeared without a trace after being picked up by armed fighters.

Rights groups say some 5,000 people are missing from Chechnya’s two wars, which began in 1994 when Russian soldiers marched into that small Caucasus republic to crush an independence drive.

The actual figure could be much higher. Still, there has been no government campaign to find and identify the dead.

Khozha Yakhyaev’s elder brother, Khasin, disappeared during the first war. After a 3 month search for his brother, Khozha learned that Russian soldiers had killed him and a group of civilians with flamethrowers.

He was able to identify Khasin by his teeth and bury him, together with the other, unidentified victims.

Khozha has since laid dozens of anonymous bodies to rest. He carefully numbers each grave, writes a description of the body, takes pictures, and stores the clothes of the deceased in plastic bags.

Chechnya Russia war chechen men prisoners genocide North Caucasus wars

“If only there was an opportunity to identify the bodies of those whom we buried in our village,” he laments. “I think many ordinary Chechens would gladly give up their monthly salary to help build a laboratory. I know people who would give their entire savings for this. That’s how badly this lab is needed in Chechnya.”

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s powerful Kremlin-backed leader, has himself vowed to help the families of those who have disappeared find out about their loved ones.

These hopes, however, were quashed this month when Russia’s Health and Social Development Ministry rejected Chechnya’s request for a forensic lab, dismissing the project as too expensive.

International rights groups and agencies such as the Council of Europe have repeatedly urged Russia to speed up work on identifying bodies exhumed in its war-battered republic, and have pledged support.

Systematic forensic work could also raise uncomfortable questions for the Kremlin about the Russian Army’s actions in Chechnya.

Unlike some other postwar countries, Russia has yet to prosecute war crimes in Chechnya.


The problem of identifying the dead is becoming all the more pressing as workers regularly stumble upon graves amid an oil-fuelled construction boom in the Chechen capital, Grozny.

A soldier stands over a mass grave in Chechnya in a photo by Adam Borowski that is part of the "Chechnya: The Final Solution" exhibition.

A soldier stands over a mass grave in Chechnya in a photo by Adam Borowski that is part of the “Chechnya: The Final Solution” exhibition


This summer alone, 2 huge mass graves were discovered containing a total of about 1,100 bodies.

Rights groups say there are dozens more known but unopened graves in fields, courtyards, and basements throughout Chechnya.

But Russia so far has focused its efforts on giving the capital a facelift that it can exhibit as a symbol of peace and stability. Grozny this year proudly inaugurated a brand new mosque, the country’s largest, with room for 10,000 worshipers.

To keep up with the frantic reconstruction pace, workers build around and often over graves, or quietly rebury bodies elsewhere.

Muhidin Tabakovic, from the Sarajevo-based International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), says this practice seriously compromises the identification process.

“The bodies in graves may have personal belongings such as wallets, identification cards, family photographs that can help identification,” says Tabakovic, who has directly participated in the exhumation of mass graves in former Yugoslavia. “Digging up bodies and reburying them in other locations causes huge problems because construction workers are not familiar with the whole process of excavation of human remains. The bones get mixed up and it’s then impossible to determine which bones belong to which bodies.”

The organization’s DNA-assisted identification program, the world’s largest, has already helped identify more than 14,000 people who disappeared in the 1990s Balkan wars, regions struck by natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, the 2005 Katrina hurricane in the United States, or the mass executions in Chile under dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Tabakovic has no doubt the ICMP, which receives funding from almost 20 governments, would be ready to prove technical and financial support in identifying Chechnya’s dead.

“Exhuming bodies from mass graves makes it possible to reveal inhuman treatment. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is still active and everything we do is directly related to these people sitting in The Hague,” says Tabakovic. “This is why the Russian government is finding excuses, saying it’s too expensive, which is nonsense. It’s not about money. It’s about truth, about what really happened, and who is responsible for it.”

The Kremlin’s European “alibi”

source: Prague watchdog (read full article here)

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Children killed on April 8, 2004 in Vedensky district of Chechnya

The discussion about the building of a forensic laboratory in Chechnya has been continuing for years now without any hint of an early conclusion.

The possibility of creating such a laboratory in Chechnya was first raised in the reports of human rights organizations in 2000. From there, the debate moved to the Council of Europe, where it became one of the key bargaining chips in talks with Russia.

We recently received a letter from some colleagues in a Spanish human rights organization. Expressing a desire to join in the creation of the laboratory, they were of the opinion that “you don’t need any special investigations to determine the cause of death.” The main task, in their view, is to establish the identity of each of the bodies that is found and to return the remains of the deceased to their relatives. “We’ll help to identify the bodies and bury them, but on the subject of who killed these people, how and why, we won’t breathe a word.”

The letter contains references to Alvaro Gil-Robles. As European Commissioner for Human Rights, he frequently visited Chechnya and Russia and conducted negotiations there. Under his chairmanship, the political problems, the problems of war and peace, and most importantly of all, the investigation of crimes and the prosecution of war criminals, vanished from the agenda of talks with the Russian government. In exchange, the Council of Europe obtained permission to conduct humanitarian operations in Chechnya and set up a laboratory there. The funding for this – 3 million euros – was allocated in 2005.

The laboratory has not been created. Not even the meetings of the newly appointed European Commissioner Thomas Hammerberg with Putin and Medvedev in late April last year were able to break the deadlock. After the routine “yeses” and “of courses” there was no response from Russia’s Ministry of Health on the advisability of building a “laboratory for the exhumation and identification of dead civilians”. The reason for the refusal was a lack of skilled manpower, and of financial and material resources.

If anyone believes that the problem is one of money, they are deeply mistaken. This is a purely political matter. Imagine that the remains of a man are found who upon forensic examination turns out to be an abducted resident of the republic, with a specific name, address and stolen life. At once the question arises: who abducted him?

According to the above letter, the post-mortem examinations should be achieved in a limited and truncated version. In other words, the lab should turn a blind eye to the causes of death and concern itself solely with the identification and return of the remains of deceased relatives. Unobtrusively, the Europeans are being invited to participate in the concealment of crimes.



War photographer in Chechnya

Eric Bouvet, war photographer – Chechnya, may 1995

Interview excerpt from The Guardian


“It was unbearable. Two crazy weeks and the most unbelievable story I ever did. I was with a Russian special commando. They were torturing, killing and raping. I saw them do it, and I couldn’t stop them. Someone of a normal constitution can’t accept that. I was working on the edge.

This is the morning after a night that left four men dead and 10 wounded. It was heavy fighting, and I was very afraid. I discovered a dead Chechen four metres from me when I got up in the night. You see movies, you read books, you can imagine anything. But when you are in front of something, it’s not like the movies. We started out as 60 and came back 30 – one in two people injured or killed. I was lucky.

As soon as it was light, I took pictures. This is the first thing I saw. The guy with the bandage on his head has lost his friends. He has fought all night long. I don’t feel pity, but at the same time they took me with them and did everything to protect me. Without them, I couldn’t have done the story. I was the only witness. It’s very complicated.”





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Russian soldiers Chechnya war chechen rebels fighters terrorists North Caucasus


Chechen men from village rounded up in famous "filtration camps"

 Chechen men from a village rounded up for the infamous “filtration camps”

Chechen hostages, such as this one, are taken, interrogated under torture and then executed by Russian special forces of infiltration and intelligence. Source:


For two weeks, Eric Bouvet accompanied Russian special forces of infiltration and intelligence on their mission. Using night-glasses to see in the dark, they occupied strategic positions behind enemy. Source:


Russian soldiers eating Chechnya war chechen rebels fighters terrorists North Caucasus

Chechen civilians victims Russian soldiers Chechnya war chechen rebels fighters terrorists North Caucasus wars


For more on the filtration camps go here “War crimes” (testimonies from French editor Sophie Shihab, Russian journalist Andrei Babitski and Emma Gilligan’s book “Terror in Chechnya”)

Babitsky’s talks about his detainment at the filtration camp in video below