Missing in North Caucasus – Where do people disappear?

“Please save me from here!”

From left to right: Zhanna Ismailova is showing a picture of her youngest son, Rashid Ismailov, 26, who was abducted on May 8, 2012. Wwitnesses saw him being dragged away by men in black uniforms. Oksana and Burliyat Danilin are showing pictures of their husband and son Timur Danilin, 35, abducted on March 24, 2012. Timur managed to call his wife's cell and say: "Please save me from here." Those were the last words she heard from him. Image by Anna Nemtsova. Russia, 2012.

From left to right: Zhanna Ismailova is showing a picture of her youngest son, Rashid Ismailov, 26, who was abducted on May 8, 2012. Wwitnesses saw him being dragged away by men in black uniforms. Oksana and Burliyat Danilin are showing pictures of their husband and son Timur Danilin, 35, abducted on March 24, 2012. Timur managed to call his wife’s cell and say: “Please save me from here.” Those were the last words she heard from him. Image by Anna Nemtsova. Russia, 2012.

 ***

September 11, 2014 Mahachkala, Dagestan – Abduction caught on tape with the infamous “men in black”
***
Click on links to view full official reports from Human Rights organizations (PDF files). Reports also contains detailed cases of both male and female victims.

Human Rights Watch  –  “Disappearances” in Chechnya—a Crime Against Humanity

Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia

Amnesty International –  Torture, “disappearances” and alleged unfair trials in Russia’s North Caucasus

***

Missing in North Caucasus – Where do people disappear?

More than a decade after the end of the last Chechen war, enforced disappearances in Chechnya have become so widespread and systematic that they constitute crimes against humanity. The phenomenon spread to all neighboring republics especially Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia.
Russia contends that its operations are its contribution to the
“global campaign against terrorism”. However, the disappearances of people after being taken into custody represent an unjustified and unlawful abuse of basic human rights.
 –
Victims
 –
Between 1999-2004, up to 5.000 people went missing in the small republic of Chechnya. In 2007 – 2.000 unresolved missing cases in Dagestan.
The victims are usually civilians or individuals who, when taken from their homes, checkpoints or other locations, are unarmed. They are predominantly men, although after the 2002 Moscow theater siege where Chechen women were involved, females have also increasingly become victims of disappearances.
One of the witnesses, a woman who chose not to file a formal complaint about the recent disappearance of her son, told Human Rights Watch:
“I searched [for him] everywhere, but did not write a petition [to the
prosecutor]… Here, many who write petitions [themselves]
“disappear”… I was afraid… I have two other sons at home. If I were to
tell someone, [they] might take them away as well.”
The relatives of 13 victims of disappearances who spoke to Human Rights Watch insisted that they not publicize information about their cases. In almost all cases where the disappeared person was subsequently released or the relatives found the body, the families either refused to be interviewed or asked not to disclose the names of the victim and his relatives, their place of residence, or any other details that may allow the authorities to identify the witnesses.
Victims who return alive to their families testify of torture during interrogation and of being coerced to admit to criminal acts. Once individuals have signed a “confession”, they are reportedly transferred to another detention facility where they have access to a lawyer of their choice and relatives; the confession is used as evidence in court in order to secure a conviction. Amnesty International learned of such cases in Chechnya, as well as in the neighboring republics of Ingushetia and North Ossetia.
Perpetrators
 –
In the vast majority of cases, the perpetrators are allegedly government agents—either Russian federal forces or local Chechen security forces who are subordinate to the Russian federal Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Defense. According to a Chechen official, 1,814 criminal investigations were opened into enforced disappearances in 2004 yet not a single one has resulted in a conviction.
Kadyrov publicly denied his units’ involvement in abductions and threatened to sue human rights groups accusing them of such crimes.
The Russian authorities deny such acts and in certain cases they accuse Chechen rebels of committing the kidnappings.
Lack of criminal investigation and prosecution into disappearances
 –
 The lack of progress in missing persons investigations is indicative of the authorities’ resistance to bringing perpetrators to justice. Not a single person has been convicted in relation to a disappearance.
According to Memorial, most of the criminal cases are closed or suspended after several months, “due to the impossibility of establishing the identity of the perpetrators.” Law enforcement agencies usually make no effort
to conduct even the most rudimentary investigative actions, such as questioning witnesses or searching for a particular car that had allegedly been used by the perpetrators.
 –
“Enforced disappearance” – or kidnapped by the authorities
Definition – An enforced disappearance takes place when a person is taken into custody by state agents, and the authorities subsequently deny that the victim is in their custody or conceal the victim’s whereabouts or fate in a way that places the victim beyond the protection of the law.
Often victims of disappearances also suffer torture or are summarily executed.
Video below describes the use of torture on Chechen women held by authorities in what can be described as “enforced disappearance” during peacetime.

“You are BVP (missing presumed dead). You dont exist and time for you has stopped.”

Report by Memorial Human Rights Center in regards to Chechnya disappearances. Relatives talk about their missing family; teacher describes his experience after going missing for 3 months.

Usam Baysayev, member of Memorial human rights group describes treatment of detainees (male and female) who were officially “missing persons”.  Letter from Memo.ru translated HERE.

***

Disappearances in Dagestan

*source Human Rights Brief

Report from 2013 connected to Sochi Olympics “anti-terror” campaign  analyses the overall situation regarding disappearances in Dagestan.

A growing number of abductions and forced disappearances in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, presumably linked to Russia’s efforts to improve security before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, have raised concerns among human rights groups. Between January and October 2013, men in unmarked cars abducted 58 people in Dagestan, 19 of whom have yet to resurface.

Russian security forces have abducted suspected militants in the region for decades. In fact, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR, Court) issued two separate judgments finding violations of both the people who disappear and their families’ human rights.

Numerous relatives of young men abducted between the late 1990s and 2005 in Dagestan filed applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), alleging Russian security forces were responsible for the disappearances and that the Russian government failed to properly investigate. In response to the high volume of applications, the ECtHR began jointly hearing cases in Aslakhanova and others v. Russia, which was decided in December 2012.

The Court found that Russia violated the right to life, guaranteed by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”), of all the disappeared men. In addition, the Court also found Russia violated the rights of the applicant family members by causing them to suffer inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the ECHR) .


***

Kidnappings Abound in Ingushetia and Transcend its Borders

source

On October 18, hundreds of people blocked a federal highway near Magas, the capital of Ingushetia. The protestors demanded that the government put an end to abductions in the republic. Dzhamaleil Gagiev’s disappearance from the village of Ali-Yurt in Ingushetia on October 14, and the failure of the government to respond to his relatives’ inquiries, triggered a protest action that included slogans like “Against the Terror of the Security Services.” (read more here)

Quick list of unresolved cases of missing people (result of kidnappings) in Ingushetia, made by Mashr human rights NGO – appearance in the news report below
Kidnapped list

***

When the missing persons are found

Magomed Aushev Abdulaevich, born 1976 in Nazran district of Ingushetia, went missing on July 28, 2010 while heading for work in North Ossetia.

Magomed Aushev Abdulaevich with family

Magomed Aushev Abdulaevich with family

His body was found on July 30, 2010 with signs of extreme torture (source mashr.org, memo.ru)

Video below shows the state he was found in (warning – graphic content)

***

Russia’s Efforts to Block the United Nations Draft Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances
In 2001 the U.N. Commission on Human Rights started to elaborate  a legal draft for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearances. This process started in the late 1980s in order to help eradicate the scourge of “disappearances” in all regions of the world.
While initially mildly supportive of the initiative, Russia became hostile
to the idea of an international treaty aimed at preventing enforced disappearances.
Russia insisted that the definition of “disappearances” should include private actors as perpetrators on the same footing as governments. The Russian proposal represents a violation  international human rights law, which ensures that the rights of individuals are protected and prohibits states from
engaging in activities that would violate those rights. The particular horror of
“disappearances” is that they are a mechanism used by state agents to bypass their own legal institutions and obligations when they find these obligations inconvenient.
 ***

Russia Keeps Killing Suspects in the North Caucasus

The news headlines constantly show Russian federal forces killing terrorism suspects across the North Caucasus. This act is officially called “liquidation”.

Those accused of terrorism are almost always dispatched (killed) by the state rather than being brought to trial. “The accused can’t then reveal their accomplices, the middlemen, the organizers who financed terrorism” says lawyer Igor Trunov. After the official news of suspect liquidation, little else is presented about the cases. No proof, no details, nothing.

There is no doubt that certain suspects will oppose arrest. However, the flow of  terrorism suspects killings, the lack of any trials coupled with the official reports regarding extrajudicial killings, disappearances and impunity, can only raise suspicion regarding the manner in which liquidations occur.

February 21, 2013 – Extrajudicial Arrests and Killings on the Rise in Ingushetia

Jan 18, 2014 Seven “possible” suspects killed in Dagestan

No further details were offered about the case after the shootout.

Bodies of four killed suspected militants are seen in Derbent region of Dagestan, April 18, 2011.

***

Memorial Human Rights Center on parallels between Crimea and Chechnya

source

Reports from the Crimea are emerging about the detainment and subsequent disappearance of people- journalists, civic activists, and Ukrainian soldiers.

We hope that the detainees and missing persons will be found. However, considering the experience of the armed conflict in Chechnya, these events cannot fail to cause serious concern.

In early March 2014 it was reported that the Russian forces in the Crimea are headed by a general whose troops in the years 1999-2000 were responsible for the enforced disappearance of at least 7 people during the second war in Chechnya. (read more here)

***

A recent move by the Russian parliament restricts the activity of Human Rights organizations in Russia – Human Rights NGO’s decapitated by Kremlin

Journalism in N. Caucasus – Executions and censorship

In the troubled North Caucasus, free uncensored journalism is intrinsically intertwined with the denouncement of human rights abuses, which are still taking place on an almost daily basis.

Below are the stories of a few of the journalists committed to documenting realities of life in North Caucasus republics – in many cases at the price of their own life.

Beyond the sacrifices of a few brave men and women, what’s left behind is the never-ending lack of reaction from the international community and the same brutal reality, hidden behind flashy photographs of  a rebuilt Grozny and Russian news reports of a miraculous return to normality in the region.

UPDATE: Human Rights NGO’s decapitated by Kremlin

 ________________________________

Anna Politkovskaya Russian journalist Chechnya warsAnna Politkovskaya – born on August 30, 1958 to a family of Soviet diplomats of Ukrainian origin. She graduated Moscow state University with major in Journalism.

In 1999 she was invited to work as an observer to an independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Since then, Anna Politkovskaya dedicated herself to uncovering human rights abuses and denouncing the corruption in Kremlin.

In November 1999, she organized the evacuation of 89 residents of Grozny Nursing Home (ethnic Russians) from the war zone, and helped them settle in various regions of Russia. In the summer of 2000, 22 elderly where forcefully returned to Grozny by the Russian authorities. Politkovskaya wrote: “the purpose of this action was to demonstrate to the world that the conflict in Chechnya is over”. The elderly found themselves without water, medication, food and clothes. On her initiative, Novaya Gazeta collected 5.5 tons of humanitarian aid and 5000 dollars to help them.

In 2001, while reporting on the war in Chechnya, she was detained by Russian troops. During the interrogation, she was reportedly beaten and threatened.

Seven years on the front line – Anna’s 7 years of work with exclusive footage

One of the cases she worked on was a false amnesty promised by Putin in 2000. See video below and full story here Cruel amnesty

In October 2002, Anna participated in negotiations with the Chechens who had seized the theater in Moscow. Together with Doctor Leonid Roshal, she was allowed into the building of the Theater. They handed fresh water and other food and drinks to the hostages.

When the Beslan school siege happened, Politkovskaya flew to Beslan in hope to speak with the terrorists and prevent the final tragedy. She was heavily poisoned in the plane, but survived the assassination attempt.

On October 7 2006, she was shot dead while entering her apartment block.

Anna Politkovskaya Funeral

Books by Anna Politkovskaya (click on photo)

Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy

Putin's_Russia_book_cover

A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya

A Small Corner of Hell Dispatches from Chechnya war north caucasus

Is Journalism Worth Dying For?

Is Journalism Worth Dying For Final Dispatches

________________________________

Natalia Estemirova in Grozny Chechnya war Russia victim

 

 

 Natalya Estemirova – born on 28 February 1958 to Russian and Chechen parents. She graduated from Grozny University with a degree in history.

In 1991 she started her journalism career; during the first Chechen war she started to document human rights abuses on civilians by the Russian army.

Estemirova was a frequent contributor to the independent Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and personally collaborated with Anna Politkovskaya.

Her documentation of human rights abuses continued as she became a board member of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial.

On 15 July 2009, Estemirova was abducted in front of her flat in Grozny as she was leaving for work. Two days later, her body was found in neighboring Ingushetia.

Testimonies of Novy Aldy massacre survivors, interviewed by Natalya

In 2007, Natalya was the first person to be awarded the Anna Politkovskaya award for her work

________________________________

“Accident” during which an opponent of Russian policies is killed while in police custody

Maksharip Aushev, the man who continued his work, was assassinated one year later

Ingush Opposition Activist Laid to Rest

________________________________

Pulitzer Center’s project “Journalism and Censorship in the Caucasus”

Elena Maglevannaya exposed the torture of Chechen detainees in Russian prisons. Read more here

Zurab Markhiev (of Ingushetia): “If you are a journalist in the Caucasus you have to be a human rights defender at the same time.”

Read more here

Fatima Tlisova on reporting journalist murders in the Caucasus

________________________________

Caucasian Knot, one of the few independent newspapers in North Caucasus – which reports both in Russian and English – has lost two journalists in the last 4 years. See their news website here

Murder reports Caucasian Knot correspondent assassinated in Dagestan

Akhmednabiev, "Caucasian Knot" correspondent murdered in July 2013

Akhmednabiev, “Caucasian Knot” journalist murdered in July 2013

NOTE: The above stories reflect only a few examples of brutality against journalists as the real numbers of abuses are countlessly multiplied.

To read about ongoing human rights abuses in North Caucasus, click on the links below

Chechnya today – “Worse than war”

Clean up anti-terror operations

Enforced disappearances (kidnappings by the authorities)

Analysis on Russian media censorship (minute 11:35)

Chechnya today – “worse than war”

“It’s worse than a war. During the war, we weren’t so scared. We knew that we might be hit by a bullet, no one was safe from that. But now how can one
sleep through the night? They wake people, take them away, shoot them. I’m
terrified to talk, the prosecutor’s office is terrified – we’re all scared! At any moment [the security forces] might come after anyone of us. Ask anyone here – we are all weeping from fear.”
A father of a young man who was summarily executed in June, 2004, Chechnya, February 4, 2005

“During the war, you could always hide from the bombs. There was always somewhere you could run to. But today you don’t know who to trust. You start to doubt and be suspicious of even your own colleagues. That’s the most frightening thing, worse than during the war.”

Kheda Saratova, Human Rights advocate and head of the Information-Analytical Agency “Objective”

***

The war is officially over in Chechnya. However, human rights violations continue to take place.

In 1999 during the second Chechen war, Vladimir Putin ordered federal cleansing operations during which all men aged 15-60 were held for interrogation. Following these operations, thousands of people have disappeared without a trace in the last 15 years.

Today, the operations have switched to “anti-terror operations” and they spread to Ingushetia and Dagestan, and occasionally to Kabardino-Balkaria or Karachai-Cherkessia.

In 2003, Vladimir Putin handed over responsibility to local militias in Chechnya after appointing Pro-Russian Ramzan Kadyrov as acting president, although Russian troops are still present in large numbers in the Chechen republic to carry out various operations. This process has been called “Chechenization” of the conflict.

As noted by photographer Stanley Greene who documented the Chechen conflicts for a decade – some of the men who work to “maintain order in Chechnya” are criminals released from prison. Photo and text by Greene

Vladimir Putin and Beslan Gantemirof. This poster plastered on the wall of a pro-Moscow Chechen shows Gantemirof, a criminal released from prison to take command of the pro-Russian forces in Chechnya. He was serving time for stealing reconstruction funds for Chechens from the 1995 war in Chechnya. Vladimir Putin, who has made the military campaign in Chechnya a deterrent to other would-be secessionists, has brushed aside any suggestion of foreign involvement on Russia’s turbulent southern rim.

Vladimir Putin and Beslan Gantemirof. This poster plastered on the wall of a pro-Moscow Chechen shows Gantemirof, a criminal released from prison to take command of the pro-Russian forces in Chechnya. He was serving time for stealing reconstruction funds for Chechens from the 1995 war in Chechnya. Vladimir Putin, who has made the military campaign in Chechnya a deterrent to other would-be secessionists, has brushed aside any suggestion of foreign involvement on Russia’s turbulent southern rim.

***

Disappearances in Chechnya – Crime against humanity

A Human Rights Watch report (see here ) argues that the pattern of enforced disappearances in Chechnya has reached the level of a crime against humanity. It shows that, as part of Russia’s policy of “Chechenization” of the conflict, pro-Moscow Chechen forces have begun to play an increasingly active role in the conflict, gradually replacing federal troops as the main perpetrators of “disappearances” and other human rights violations.

Read more on Missing in North Caucasus – Where do people disappear?

***

The following are reports of torture and murder against civilians, human rights activists and journalists which are taking place during peace-time. 

***

Bombing of civilian targets continued

Although the second Chechen war ended in May 2000, bombing campaigns continued to take place.

In April 2004, the village of Rigakhoy was subjected to aerial attack. A family of 6 was killed, including 5 small children. Upon seeing the house ruins, the Military Prosecutor’s Office told Imar Damaev (father of the children) that there were no grounds for opening a criminal case, and that the house had been destroyed as a result of the explosion of a gas cylinder or an explosive device that Damaev himself had been storing.

Human Rights Center “Memorial” and the European Human Rights Advocacy Center assisted Imar Damaev in suing the Russian authorities for “violating the right of life” in respect to his relatives. The Court found Russia guilty.

***

The following report describes the repeated looting, kidnappings and aerial attacks which took place in the village of Zumsoy in 2005 – click here

As a consequence, all the residents were forced to leave the village. In 2008, upon the return of a handful of residents in what was to be a state-sponsored rebuilding plan – the village was yet again attacked for unexplained reasons.

***

Human rights abuses continued after war

Photographers Stanley Greene and Thomas Dworzak captured two such incidents.

Aki-Yurt, january 2003 Zulpa Zakrieva, 52, and her daughter in law Medina Vizirova, 28, left Sputnik refugee camp to attend a funeral in Urus Martan in Chechnya. Close to the checkpoint Kavkaz-1, a Russian tank drove straight over the little Zhiguli car in which they were travelling. It did not stop. Her car was crushed in an actthat the injured and concussed Zupla describes as “common practice”. She has seen many civilian cars smashed by tanks.

Aki-Yurt, january 2003
Zulpa Zakrieva, 52, and her daughter in law Medina Vizirova, 28, left Sputnik refugee camp to attend a funeral in Urus Martan in Chechnya. Close to the checkpoint Kavkaz-1, a Russian tank drove straight over the little Zhiguli car in which they were traveling. It did not stop. Her car was crushed in an act that the injured and concussed Zupla describes as “common practice”. She has seen many civilian cars smashed by tanks. Photo/ text by Stanley Greene

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. Photo/ info by Thomas Dworzak

More of Dworzak photo series here

Grozny Chechnya after war 2 North Caucasus wars

 

Inside the torture chambers of Grozny

For six years, the torture chamber lay hidden in the cellars of what had once been an orphanage for deaf children. The residents of Grozny’s October district knew about it. They could hear the screams emanating from its sinister bowels.

The Russian authorities who first controlled it, though, insisted that it was just an ordinary prison.

56-year old teacher returned a crippled man after 3 months of detention

The Chechen government the Kremlin appointed to succeed them denied it existed at all. But when representatives from the Russian human rights group Memorial managed to sneak in this summer just before the building’s demolition, the truth was finally laid bare.

The chilling graffiti on the prison’s walls, some of it written in blood, gave some of the most compelling evidence yet of what activists had claimed for years: state-sanctioned torture had been carried out in Chechnya, perhaps systematically, ever since Russian forces took Grozny in early 2000.

Inmates had scrawled their names and even the dates of their incarceration across the chamber’s fetid walls alongside desperate messages of the ordeals they had suffered.

“What day is it?” read one. “What year is it? Am I still alive?”

Those inmates who survived at the October prison had frequently tried to complain about their experiences, but they had been ignored. With the new evidence, however, the Kremlin may now have to listen to their stories.

One of the most harrowing is told by Alavdi Sadykov, a 56-year-old former PE teacher, who spent three months in the prison in 2000. Mr Sadykov does not know for sure why he was arrested, or why he was tortured for 83 days or even why he was released when so many of his fellow inmates were killed.

Six years later, still looking for answers and justice, Mr Sadykov told his story from his grimy one-room home on the outskirts of Grozny.

Moments after he was dragged into the October prison in March 2000, a sack over his head, he felt the blows of rifle butts smashing down on to his body that would become part of a grim daily routine for the next three months.

He vividly recalled a mock execution ordered by one of his chief tormentors, a man he identified as Igor who would frequently make him eat his own excrement.

“There was blood everywhere,” he recalled. “On the floor, on the walls. I could see brain tissue on the ceiling. Under my foot I saw a severed finger.

“They made me face the wall and then fired a few rounds above my head. After that they said they were going to play football and I was the football. I prayed for my own death.”

Soon after, Igor entered the cell with a colleague called Alexander. “Alexander knocked me off my feet and then stepped on my leg. He took a large souvenir dagger from his vest, pinched my left ear and cut it off.”

Barely conscious, he watched as Alexander cut off the ears of other inmates and killed at least one of them. The next day Alexander returned wearing a necklace of severed human ears.

When a new unit took over the prison, Mr Sadykov was eventually released without explanation.

Despite his harrowing ordeal, he remembered and then recorded the names of his tormentors – officers from the Khanty-Mansyisk division of the Russian army.

With the help of sympathetic officials in the Chechen administration, he even tracked down their addresses in Russia, evidence that could become crucial in the quest of so many held at the October prison for justice.

According to Natalya Estemirova, the head of the Memorial office in Grozny, there may be 15 secret torture chambers still operating in Chechnya.

It is not something the Kremlin, which is intent on showing that things have improved in Chechnya, wants to hear.

There is no doubt that some things have changed. Beneath the freshly painted facades of newly built internet cafes and coffee houses, drivers in recently purchased Ladas do battle on the Grozny’s Victory Boulevard.

Even if most of the city is still a ruin, Grozny is finally being rebuilt, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is able to show some tangible evidence to support his claims that the brutal second Chechen war is over.

Yet people still live in fear, not of the handful of militants still lurking in the mountains or even of Russian forces who brought misery to the province for so long, but of the fellow Chechens the Kremlin has chosen to lead them.

Around the city are placed militiamen in army fatigues – members of a 10,000-strong private army that pledges fealty to Ramzan Kadyrov, the lion-owning, 30-year-old prime minister anointed by the Kremlin.

Former rebels turned loyalists, many are radical Muslims bent on imposing the strict Islamic strictures Russia once fought to eradicate from the province. In recent months, they have shaved the heads of women accused of adultery, before stripping their victims and beating them.

Video footage of their ordeals are circulated by mobile phones as a warning to others.

It is not just women who have suffered at their hands, as anyone present in the village of Kurchaloi on Aug 5 would testify.

From a gas pipe suspended in the village square, hung the severed head of a rebel leader the Kadyrovtsy, as they are known, had captured two days earlier.

Russia’s top investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, was among those watching the gruesome scene that late summer’s day. She was shot dead by an assassin.

In an article published posthumously, Mrs Politkovskaya alleged that the man responsible for the atrocity in Kurchaloi was Mr Kadyrov’s former deputy, Idris Gaibov. Among other cases she highlighted was the ordeal of Mr Sadykov.

Mrs Politkovskaya had dedicated her professional life to chronicling human rights abuses in Chechnya, and her murder caused outrage around the world.

She had worked courageously and methodically to expose the lie that torture in Chechnya had died.

***

Unofficial Places of Detention in the Chechen Republic

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights published a list containing unofficial places of detention in Chechnya, which were under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, and were then gradually transferred to the militias lead by Pro-Russian leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

” The existence of numerous places of illegal detention is a novel trait of the present penitentiary system of Chechnya. Filtration camps, zindan pits, metal storage containers put into pits and filled with water, underground pedestrian street-crossings used as illegal prisons – everything of this kind has existed for quite some time now in in the Chechen Republic. “

Click on the link below to see the full 37 page report, including the full list of detention sites.

http://www.refworld.org/docid/46963b020.html

 Usam Baysayev, a Human Rights Center “Memorial” employee recounts one of the hundreds of stories he worked on, which involved the use of a detention place as those described above – a tank filled with water.

The 21st Century: Is it Still Possible to Hide Monstrous Crimes?

***

January 13,  2009 – 27 year-old Umar Israilov ran on the streets of Vienna when he saw two men approaching him. The men pursued him and shot him repeatedly. Umar died on the way to hospital.

Umar Israilov Austria Russia chechen men murder

Umar Israilov (left) and Ramzan Kadyrov (right)

Umar had pledged for protection from police, fearing his life was in danger. According to an Austrian news report, his pledges were ignored and an important key-witness was deported back to Russia, where he disappeared without a trace. After Israilov’s murder, the police was accused of negligence (source).

Within a few months, the Austrian police linked Chechen president Kadyrov to the murder case.

Ignorierte_die_Polizei_Hinweise_auf_bevorstehende_Tat-Israilov-Mord-Story-219038_476x250px_2_Jy8UeVXtkZn3M

Umar Israilov was a former bodyguard of Ramzan Kadyrov. He had arrived in Austria two years earlier as political refugee. He formally accused Russia’s government of allowing a macabre pattern of crimes in Chechnya.

In written legal complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, Mr. Israilov described many brutal acts by Mr. Kadyrov and his subordinates, including executions of illegally detained men. One executed man, Mr. Israilov said, had been beaten with a shovel handle by Mr. Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov, now a member of Russia’s Parliament. Another prisoner was sodomized by a prominent police officer and at Mr. Kadyrov’s order put to death.

Mr. Israilov said he and others had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov, who amused himself by personally giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet.

Israilov’s father had also been detained and tortured for a period of 11 months. According to him, Umar fought against the Russian forces during the second Chechen war, most probably as revenge for his mother’s death during the first war. He was captured in 2003 and forced to become part of Kadyrov’s team. This didn’t spare him from being tortured and threatened and he also was forced to witness various crimes.

The application of Umar Israilov’s father at the European Court of Human Rights is available here Israilov application (pdf file). He describes the tortures he was subjected to and other events he witnessed during the 11 month detention period.

Read Umar’s full story here, including details of the tortures applied by Ramzan Kadyrov himself – Slain Exile Detailed Cruelty of the Ruler of Chechnya

In June 2014, Gerard Depardieu (friends with Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin) hit Russian theaters with his new movie “Viktor,” starring Depardieu and British actress Elizabeth Hurley. Shot in Moscow and Chechnya, it purports to be a revenge film, with Depardieu taking on the criminal underworld that killed his son. It also presents the “extraordinary redevelopment” of Chechnya under Russian rule.

The movie contains torture scenes, an uneasy detail considering human rights organizations have accused  Ramzan Kadyrov of such crimes. On a different note, another movie presenting Chechen deportations was banned this year in Russia

***

DISTURBING CONTENT

***

Prosecuting human rights violations in Chechnya

Former Russian army colonel Yury Budanov had been convicted of killing 18-year-old Elza Kungayeva.

Yuri Budanov

elza kungaeva's mother chechen girl murdered

Elza’s mother

elza kungaeva chechen girl murdered

Elza’s father and brother

Russian officer Yuri Budanov was one of only a handful of Russian officers to be prosecuted over what human rights groups say are widespread atrocities in Chechnya. In 2003, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the kidnap, rape and murder of Elza Kungaeva, 18-year-old girl from Chechnya.

On 24 December 2008, the court satisfied Budanov’s request to release him prior the end of the term.

Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov presented the interests of the family of Elza Kungaeva‘s family; he appealed the court ruling on granting Budanov parole.

Markelov had also represented Anna Politkovskaya (journalist murdered in 2006), Mikhail Beketov (journalist severely beaten in 2008), victims of the Moscow theater hostage crisis (who seeked compensation from the Russian state for the mishandling of the rescue operation) and Chechen civilians who had been tortured.

After attending a press conference regarding Budanov’s release, the lawyer was shot in the face in broad daylight together with a female colleague, 25 year old Anastasia Baburova.  According to Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, the details of the murder indicate the involvement of Russian state security services.

Stanislav Markelov

***

Detention and “questioning”

On 27 April 2010, 20 year-old Zelimkhan Chitigov was taken away by 30 armed officers from his home. He was a Chechen refugee living in Ingushetia.

zelimkhan chitigov chechen men victims russia

On 29 April 2010 at 14:05, police officers from the Karabulak OVD conducted a search of the rooms where Chitigov lived with his family while his family was absent. While searching the children’s room, they allegedly found a grenade. His mother is certain that the grenade was planted.

When Zelimkhan’s mother went to question the authorities, the head of the criminal investigation told them that Zelimkhan would be shown on TV giving his confession. Officially, in accordance to the interrogator’s petition, Zelimkhan was officially arrested on 30 April 2010 at 20:00, more than two days after his abduction.

Zelimkhan became sick during the court proceedings and he was taken by ambulance with police escort to the hospital. In a conversation with a lawyer, Zelimkhan said that police officers beat and tortured him. The lawyer made a request for a medical examination, but it was not granted. The denial was challenged in court, but the court also rejected the petition.

While in hospital, Zelimkhan was allegedly forced to decline a lawyer. His lawyer was also advised to decline the case.

Chitigov was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair as he was not able to walk on his own. The arguments of the lawyers with reference to  Chitigov’s condition did not have an effect on the court and he was left under arrest.

As of 18 June 2010, Zelimkhan Chitigov remained under arrest in the hospital with the following diagnosis:

– burns caused by electrical shock

– muscle injuries

– brain trauma

– ataxic aphasia

– lower back injuries

– spinal chord injury

– lower body paralysis

– pelvic organ injuries causing incontinence

– severe post-traumatic stress disorder with a general stress-induced speech impediment

– kidney damage

– ear canal abscesses

– numerous injuries to the torso

– third degree burns on his feet.

Zelimkhan couldn’t walk on his own and spoke with difficulty.

Despite several attempts by Zelimkhan’s family to urge the authorities to identify and prosecute those responsible for his detention and torture, an investigation into his case began only after a protest was staged by local police officers who refused to obey what they called “unlawful orders to use violence”.

On December 5 2011, the mother of the victim Zelimkhan Chitigov moved a petition on providing her family with state protection after reportedly receiving threats from the defendants. The judge rejected the petition and the family was forced to leave Russia.

In October 2012, the court found several ex-officers guilty of torture. The case had gained attention due to the involvement of Memorial  group – basically the only Human Rights still acting in North Caucasus.

Zelimkhan has recovered from the vegetative state, but he was left disabled and has a speech impediment.

***

Federal force abuses spilled into neighboring republics 

Suspected "terrorist" killed in his home in Dagestan. Over 100 bullets were found in his body. No proof has been brought to link the man to terrorist organizations. His family sued the Russian security forces, but to no avail. (source)

Suspected terrorist killed in his home in Dagestan. Over 100 bullets were found in his body. No proof has been brought to link the man to terrorist organizations. His family sued the Russian security forces but to no avail. (source)

Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who devoted herself to uncovering human rights abuses in Chechnya during and after the end of the war. One after the other, she uncovered physical proof of serious human rights abuses, including the false amnesty promised by Vladimir Putin himself.

In 2006, she was shot in her apartment building.

anna-politkovskaya-russian-women-journalists-murdered

Her last (unfinished) report regarded proof of torture in detention centers. Photos from video extracts

Her last (unfinished) report regarded proof of torture in detention centers. Photos from video extracts

***

Natalia Estemirova

Friends and colleague of Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova was another human rights activist and Memorial center employee who succeeded Anna in her work. She uncovered numerous abuses taking place in Chechnya and she was living in Grozny, when she herself fell victim to kidnapping and murder in 2009.

After Estemirova’s murder, Memorial Human Rights Group closed its offices.

Natalia Estemirova in Grozny Chechnya war Russia victim

Natalia in Grozny 2005

A month later, two aid workers (husband and wife) were abducted from their office. Their bodies were found 2 days later, the pregnant woman bared signs of beating. www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/2123

***

Natalia's work is carried on by the "Joint Mobile Group", a group of human rights workers who work in teams of three people one month each (through rotation), to ensure continuation of the work in case one of them is hurt. The team received threats from the Chechen leader in a televised appearance in 2012 (source).

Natalia’s work is carried on by the “Joint Mobile Group”, a group of human rights workers who work in teams of 3 people through rotation – one month each, in order to ensure continuation of the work in case one of them is hurt. The team received threats from the Chechen leader in a televised appearance in 2012 (source).

More about Joint Mobile Group – Monitoring Rights in Chechen Region, a Month at a Time

***

A few weeks after Anna’s murder, an ex-FSB officer who had accused Putin of ordering political killings and of orchestrating the 1999 apartment bombings (which were blamed on Chechnya) gave his last breath in London following intentional poisoning. These are his last words written on his death bed – from Alexander Litvineneko.

“As I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

“You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed. You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value.

“You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women. You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. “

***

New Anti-Terrorism Law to Target Families of North Caucasus Insurgents

New legislation adopted by the Russian parliament in November aimed at punishing families and relatives of terrorist suspects, intends to legalize the “hard” form of counter-insurgency already practiced in several North Caucasus republics.

One of the common punishment practices involves destruction of property (blowing up residences) on the basis of suspicion. Upon proof of innocence, no compensation is offered  (read more here).

***

Conclusion from Human Rights Watch report regarding the current situation in Chechnya (and elsewhere)

Perpetrators of crimes against humanity are criminally responsible for their acts. Given the particular seriousness of these crimes, international law sets out special rules of responsibility for them. Thus, criminal responsibility cannot be avoided by invoking that the suspect holds an official position including that of head of state (referring to the lack of reaction from the international community). Statutes of limitations do not run in the cases of crimes against humanity and those responsible do not benefit from refuge in third countries.

Officials have often tried to attribute these crimes to Chechen fighters. However, it is inconceivable that ordinary criminals or Chechen rebel groups could so freely and openly stage the abduction and murder of hundreds of people without interference of the authorities in areas of Chechnya that have been under Russian control since early 2000. Thus, direct and circumstantial evidence points to forces under Kadyrov’s command and other Russian units.

 ***

UPDATE: In 2013, Kremlin promulgated a law which restricts the activity of Human Rights organizations. More here Human Rights and Kremlin

***

 

Russia’s tourism investments in the North Caucasus

sources: New York Times, Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Mount Elbrus highest mountains in europe Great North Caucasus  mountains beautiful landscape scenery

Mount Elbrus, the highest peak of Europe

At the World Economic Forum of 2011, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev presented a huge-scale investment in North Caucasus – a $15 billion project to put a European-style ski area in each of the 7 republics of the North Caucasus.

According to official statistics from the Russian National Tourist Office, 90% of the tourists in North Caucasus republics are Russians. In 2011, when the $15 billion project was adopted, the Russian authorities were hoping to rise the popularity of the region and also attract (and double) the number of foreign tourists.The Northern Caucasus Resorts company (see their website here) promised that Russia’s complex visa procedures will be streamlined to make it easier for European skiers.

Davos 2011 Video presentation of the project for the World Economic Forum

 

The 2014 Sochi Olympics were meant to achieve this purpose, but given the current circumstances in Crimea and the unsure prospects of future military actions, tourism in Russia is being anything but encouraged.

However,  the Northern Caucasus Resorts company cites the example of Tel Aviv, where people have learnt to survive in a tense area, and says that the government will protect the tourists, even if that means deploying metal detectors on ski lifts and fencing off the resorts.

North Caucasus ski resorts mountains Chechnya Ingushetia Dagestan kabardino Karachay

There are very few, if any, world-class ski resorts in Russia. Russia is a flat country for the most part, and the only other mountainous regions are located far off in Eastern Russia. The North Caucasus with its impressive mountains peaks (highest of Europe), its gentle climate ( it’s the warmest part of Russia) and its relatively convenient location (close proximity to Europe) – makes it all an attractive location for Russia’s world-class money-making ski resorts.

According to them, the development of an enormous infrastructure is a strategy to break the cycle of poverty and violence. North Caucasus has an unemployment rate of over 50% and a weak infrastructure, if any.

The question is – will the money really flow into the local communities and benefit the severely impoverished population?

The following are a few of the projects being developed in the Caucasian republics.

KARACHAY-CHERKESSIA

A Russian company opened a small portion of its resort near the dilapidated village of Arkhyz as a test site, advertising a bunny slope, a chairlift and a gondola imported from France, along with plans to install another gondola and open7 ski runs next season.

Arkhyz valley in the Caucasus mountains

Arkhyz valley in the Caucasus mountains

 

A Russian magnate who won a large government contract for the Games in Sochi and will help coordinate preparations for the 2018 World Cup has built 2 modern hotels — called Romantik-1 and Romantik-2 — along the slopes.

Despite the flow of government money, people in town say they have seen little, if any, trickle-down effect.

 For now, said Pavel Vedentsov, a 25-year-old transplant from St. Petersburg who manages the mountain staff members and ski patrol, skiers will have to content themselves with a single trail for beginners that closes at 5 p.m.

“There isn’t much to do at night,” Mr. Vedentsov said. The bars have not yet been built.

Asked about the risk of terrorism in the region, Mr. Vereshchagin conceded that it was a concern but said the danger had been exaggerated. In more violent republics like Dagestan and Chechnya, he said, the company would provide transportation from regional airports directly to the resorts.

Aleksandr Khloponin, the presidential envoy for the North Caucasus, told the editor of a Russian news site in an interview that Russian tourists were not easily intimidated.

“Is it less dangerous in Egypt?” he asked, naming a popular destination for Russian vacationers. “Or in Libya, or on the Moroccan coast? Nothing will scare away one of our tourists.”

Gregory Shvedov, editor of The Caucasian Knot, a regional online news agency, said in an interview that he was skeptical of the returns Northern Caucasus Resorts would bring to local communities.

“If it is all owned by the state, by huge companies based in Moscow, then I don’t see the benefit in this,” Mr. Shvedov said.

He emphasized that increasing minority ownership and integrating small, local businesses into the plan could create thousands of jobs in a new tourism industry. “But are they doing all of this?” he said. “We don’t see it.”

An Arkhyz street vendor. “Just look how great things here are now,” said one vendor. “Does it seem like people are working?”

Neither, it seems, do residents. While the government money started flowing three years ago, they say they have seen little, if any, trickle-down effect.

On a recent day in Arkhyz, just 5 miles from the resort, women were selling handpicked teas and luminescent honeys flavored with mint and barberry, but customers were few and far between.

“Just look how great things here are now,” said Shamshiyat Batasheva, 53, who was offering hand-knit socks for sale. “Does it seem like people are working?”

Residents complained that the workers at the resort had been brought in from outside the region. “Wherever that money is going, it isn’t coming to us,” Ms. Batasheva said. “We can count on that.”

CHECHNYA – Billionaire builds $500 million ski resort

The Veduchi project – with Chechnya’s mountains in the background

2011 interview – Billionaire and businessman Ruslan Baysarov, “close friend” of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, is building a big hotel complex in Veduchi, along with 20 chalets “in the national architectural style,” 19 ski tracks with varying degrees of difficulty, nine ski lifts and other pleasant tourist facilities — like a spa center or a heated open-air pool.

The Russian company Mostovik is responsible for the construction work.

Regarding the republic’s instability and lack of security, Baysarov says “the head of the region should ensure its security” — the head being his close friend, Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov has been accused by international Human a Rights NGO’s of gross human rights violations, torture and murder against Chechen civilians. He is strongly supported by the Kremlin.

https://i1.wp.com/www.chechentourism.ru/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/proekt-kurorta-chechnya-veduchi-11-1024x682.jpg

Not all residents of the republic are positive to the idea of building a ski resort in Chechnya, noting that the authorities should better concentrate their efforts on restoring the republic’s industrial potentials, not on implementing the projects that can bring profits only to a small group of people.

“After two wars our republic has almost no large enterprises or factories,” said Saikhan T., a resident of Chechnya, who had once worked for one of the local ministries. He also noted the mass unemployment in the republic.

“There’s practically no economy here, but we keep building all these high rise ‘Grozny-City’, ski resorts, recreation centres and the like. People need enterprises, where they can work and earn money, rather than the place where they could spend it. Nobody needs entertainments instead of bread,” said Saikhan.

https://i0.wp.com/bsdg.ru/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Veduchi.jpg

Note – Chechnya’s  unemployment rate stands at 80%. Corruption is rife, bribes must be paid on every level. Infrastructure (roads, electricity etc) are non-existent is lacking in many areas.

Promotion event for the Veduchi ski resort in 2013 – Russian business people and celebrities were also invited to the event. (source: RIA Novosti)

The ceremony ended with colorful fireworks.

DAGESTAN

Northern Caucasus Resorts, the Northern Caucasus resort property company, has said that 1.32 billion Euros will be invested in the construction and development of the Matlas ski resort in the Republic of Dagestan as part of the North Caucasian tourist cluster project, according to Interfax.

Dagestan Matlas resort project North Caucasus mountains

The sum will cover the construction of internal and external transportation lanes, resorts and ski slope development.

The resort will be able to accommodate 9,900 visitors. Four 5-star, six 4-star, and ten 3-star hotels, as well as lodges, apartments and a golf centre will be build as part of the project.

Khunzakh plateau Matlas dagestan

Khunzakh plateau near Matlas dagestan

ADYGEA

Lago-Naki, Adygea (The Caucasian Biosphere Reserve) which will be negatively impacted by the new projects (click on photo to see more)

Lago-Naki, Adygea (The Caucasian Biosphere Reserve) which will be negatively impacted by the new projects (click on photo to see more)

 

February 3, 2012 (ENS) – The Russian government is preparing to allow construction of a cluster of ski resorts and roads in the Caucasus region that will alter one of Europe’s few untouched mountain wilderness areas. The development is expected to impact two biosphere nature reserves, two national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and a World Heritage Site.

Previously, the construction of tourist infrastructure in protected areas has been either illegal or restricted by Russian federal environmental laws.

Read more here Russia Allows Ski Resort in Caucasus World Heritage Site

CONCLUSION

North Caucasus – a region with high tourism potential, which could offer a window out of the poverty that’s ravaging the region and feeding the social and political instability. But, just like in the oil business (an abundant resource in the region), any profit will most likely never benefit its residents.

Experienced personnel will be brought from outside (leaving no jobs for locals), all services will be provided within the enclosed resorts (local businesses will not benefit), profits will go to big tourist companies (instead of local communities), and the middle-upper class clients will be living cocooned in their luxury resorts, protected by metal detectors on ski lifts and fenced resorts.

Why is Russia so eager to invest 

North Caucasus has obvious high tourist potential. But there is another major reason for the sudden influx of billions of dollars.

Russia is running out of oil/gas resources due to lack of alternative extraction methods and modern technologies. Though North Caucasus has huge unexplored resources, it risks oil depletion alike Siberia. Russia needs new technologies and foreign investments in order to avoid a future Siberia scenario. But investors are cautious of an insecure war-torn Caucasus.

The Sochi Olympics and the grandiose ski resort plans are part of a plan to make Caucasus attractive to tourists and investors alike, and give it a more “investment-friendly” face. Despite criticism, a very confident Russia constantly brings up Israel as example of how a country can flourish in a war atmosphere.

Razvaliny Koki Vainakh towers North Caucasus mountains Inghusetia

Ingushetia

Genocide by famine – Ukraine, North Caucasus

source: dyarneward.com; United Human Rights Council

A Le Temps journalist took this photo in Buguruslan in 1921, 11 years before the so-called Holdomor took place in 1932. The famine had been going on for longer than the Russian officials admitted. No foreign journalists were allowed in and the government took no responsibility for it, and so the truth was put together through bits and pieces collected in time.

File:Children affected by famine in Berdyansk, Ukraine - 1922.jpg

Children in Berdyansk, Ukraine – 1922

 

Gareth Jones – “Everywhere was the cry “There is no bread. We are dying. This cry came from every part of Russia, Volga, Siberia, North Caucasus, Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves to see what was happening.” (source)

Russia never prosecuted any of its mass murderers, as Germany did.

We know all about the crimes of Nazis Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler; about Babi Yar and Auschwitz.

But who remembers Soviet mass murderers Dzerzhinsky, Kaganovitch, Yagoda, Yezhov and Beria? Were it not for writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, we might never know of Soviet death camps like Magadan, Kolyma and Vorkuta. Movie after movie appears about Nazi evil, while the evil of the Soviet era vanishes from view or dissolves into nostalgia.

The souls of Stalin’s millions of victims still cry out for justice.

Read the rest here The forgotten Holocaust

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 5

English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge who went on a secret (and risky) trip to Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus in 1933:

“The novelty of this particular famine, what made it so diabolical, is that it was the deliberate creation of a bureaucratic mind, without any consideration whatsoever of the consequences in human suffering”

Writer Arthur Koestler described what he saw from his train:

“Starving children who looked like embryos out of alcohol bottles … the stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs and swollen, pointed bellies.”

Vasily Grossman:

“Their heads [were] like heavy balls on thin little necks, like storks, and one could see each bone of their arms and legs protruding from beneath the skin, how bones joined, and the entire skeleton was stretched over with skin that was like yellow gauze.

“And the children’s faces were aged, tormented, just as if they were 70 years old. And by spring they no longer had faces at all. Instead, they had birdlike heads with beaks, or frog heads – thin, wide lips – and some of them resembled fish, mouths open. Not human faces.”

Ukraine and the North Caucasus have some of the most fertile soils in Europe. Yet an (induced) famine killed millions of people in the 1930’s, in an attempt to bring under control rebellious people of Ukraine who had refused the new Soviet system. Though North Caucasians were not particularly reticent, they were indiscriminately affected.

soil fertility map europe ukraine north caucasus

Map below showcases mollisols (in dark green) which are an indicator of high soil fertility. Full world map here

Between 1918 and 1933, the Bolshevik regime embarked on a systemic plan to exterminate the peasant population of the Northern Caucasus and Ukraine. This was a deliberate tactic meant to collect wealth and “exterminate” farmers who refused to follow the mass collectivization program imposed by the Soviet regime.

North Caucasus lost a quarter of its population and Ukraine lost an estimate 5 million people. Ukraine called it “the Holodomor” (which means death by starvation). The great famine also affected Lower Volga, Kazakhstan and Siberia.

In 1918, in a ploy to increase the state’s wealth, the Bolsheviks prohibited ownership of private property and empowered the Secret Police (Cheka) to oversee the operation. Selected villages were blacklisted and surrounded by armed militia. A quota was imposed on the villagers and crops and livestock were confiscated in order to fulfill this quota. The peasants were unable to meet the targets and so they starved to death. The actions of the Bolsheviks would dramatically alter the socio-economic structure in Kazakhstan, the Northern Caucasus and Ukraine.

Map of the famine

In Northern Caucasus the death toll exceeded 1 million. The areas effected were the Republic of Adygea, Krasnodar Krai, the Republic of Karachay–Cherkessia, Stavropol Krai, Kabardino-Balkaria, the Republic of North Ossetia, the Republic of Ingushetia, the Republic of Chechnya and the Republic of Dagestan.

Stalin continued to impose radical reforms under his 5 year plan and entire populations  starved to death under his collectivization policy.

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide

Excerpts from an 1933 article written by Malcolm Muggeridge after his Caucasus/ Ukraine trip – read the full article click here Soviet and the peasantry

“How are things with you?” I asked one man. He looked round anxiously to see that, no soldiers were about. “We have nothing, absolutely nothing. They have taken everything away,” he said and hurried on. This was what I heard again and again and again. “We have nothing. They have taken everything away.” The famine is an organised one. Some of the food that has been taken away from them—and the peasants know this quite well – is still being exported to foreign countries.

Soviet party secretary for the North Caucacus said in a speech delivered at Rostov:

“But, you may urge, is it not true that we have deported Kulaks (name given to independent farmers) and counter-revolutionary elements before? We did deport them, and in sufficiently large numbers. But at the present moment, when what remains of the kulaks are trying to organise sabotage, every slacker must be deported. That is true justice. You may say that before, we exiled individual kulaks, and that now it concerns whole stanitzas (villages) and whole collective farms. If these are enemies they must be treated as kulaks …The general line of our party is to fight dishonesty by means of the extreme penalty, because this is the only defense we have against the destruction of our Socialist economy,”

GENOCIDE:
Stalin’s Ukrainian famine – the Holodomor

 As millions died, and others moved in search  of food, armed guards sealed off the border  with Russia, where there was food. As millions  died, the USSR exported grain. According to Dr  Taras Hunczak of Rutgers University, 28  million tons were exported during 1932 and  1933 – four tons of grain per each man, woman and child who starved. There was no physical reason that they should have died. It was a deliberate policy.

Read full story http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=2923

April 1933 – Letters from Ukraine on the famine

“Oh, Mr. Ambassador! We cannot express in a letter all our misery; we are being forced to cannibalism by our Workers’ Government of Desperates; save us!” 

*Cases of cannibalism had been reported in Ukraine;  (extremely disturbing) photos exist as clear evidence.

 Documentary below starts with a detailed description of the famine and its causes

 

Malcolm Muggeridge 1983 interview about his secret trip to Ukraine and North Caucasus:

“I’ll tell you another thing that’s more difficult to convey, but it impressed me enormously. It was on a Sunday in Kiev, and I went into the church there for the Orthodox mass. I could understand very little of it, but there was some spirit in it that I have never come across before or after. Human beings at the end of their tether were saying to God: “We come to You, we’re in trouble, nobody but You can help us.”

Their faces were quite radiant because of this tremendous sense they had. As no man would help them, no government, there was nowhere that they could turn. And they turned to their Creator. Wherever I went it was the same thing.”

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 2

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 1

Famine Russia Ukraine North Caucasus genocide 7

Holodomor memorial

Holodomor memorial

 ♦

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.

angela merkel vladimir putin russia war north caucasus

Russia: Chechen Mass Grave Found

By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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

By MICHAEL WINES
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.

Unhindered

“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.”

RUSSIA
RUSSIA
***

Chechnya war veterans – How Russia treats its heroes

« One shared assumption is that the way a society treats soldiers will reflect its humanity by measuring the value that it places upon compassion »

Russian soldiers were often young boys coming from poor backgrounds; they usually received little or no military training

Russian soldiers were often young boys coming from poor backgrounds; they usually received little or no military training. Photo by Heidi Bradner from the “Lost Boys” series

Forgotten Victim of Chechnya: Russian Army

Soldiers in ripped sneakers and frayed uniforms beg for food at city markets from here to Moscow. Outside the Chechen war theater, suicides accounted for one-third of the army dead last year. As many as half of all Russian draftees now simply refuse to serve. For those who do, housing shortages have become so acute that thousands live in boxes or forage for space in abandoned factories. Even the general staff in Moscow acknowledges that a quarter of all servicemen have no place to live.

”Anya, I have solved my housing problems,” Capt. Andrei Golubev, based in remote eastern Kamchatka, wrote in an all-too-typical suicide note to his wife last month. He then drew his service revolver and blew his head off. (read the full article here)

***

Report on the situation of Chechen war veterans

source: http://www.pipss.revues.org

Veterans of local wars in post-Soviet Russia consider themselves as victims of negligence and bad treatment, often exposed to unnecessary risks on the battlefield.
Once returned to civil life, they speak about rejection and abandonment. Although the history of the Soviet Union demonstrates that lost wars lead to the social abandonment of veterans as much as victorious wars, the fate of disabled veterans seems to be conditioned by the cultural heritage of the Soviet period which glorifies a muscular body and favors work capacity as a criterion for Russian citizenship.

The fate of disabled veterans seems to be a particularly unhappy one, conditioned by a Soviet cultural heritage which glorifies a muscular body and favors work capacity as a criterion for citizenship.

1. Sending conscripts to the battlefield with a minimal training
Sergei, 35 years old, was born in Novokouznetski, Kemerovo Oblast. He was conscripted during the first Chechen war he was sent to the front with one week of training. He was badly wounded during the storming of Grozny in 1994.
 –
Officers knowingly allowing conscripts to use defective weapons:
Aleksandr, 28 years old, was born in Kovrov, Vladimir Oblast. He volunteered to fight in the second campaign in Chechnya, serving as an artillery sergent.. A few weeks before his demobilization Kovrov’s gun was ordered to fire despite being in dire need of maintenance. He was assisted by four newly arrived volunteers, his old crew having already been discharged. The gun exploded. Sergei was the only survivor.

2. Aberrant orders given under the influence of alcohol leading to accidents and injuries.
Valentin is 27 years old. He chose to go to Chechnya deliberetely. He loudly and clearly insists: « We were betrayed by our commanding officer ». Valentin and his fellow soldiers were ordered by their commander to pursue Chechen guerillas on February 23rd, Defender of the Fatherland day in Russia – a day many servicemen celebrate with alcohol. They were dropped by helicopter and told they would be picked up again three days later.
But on the third day, his commanding officer, obviously still drunk, refused to pick them up. The only other route back for the patrol required them to cross an extensive Russian laid minefield of 12 km. Unwilling to send a helicopter, the commander ordered them across the minefield.
Their sergent was the first to activate a mine. Valentin was the second, suffering severe leg and foot injuries. He also lost his right eye. Vision in his left eye is now also declining.

Russian soldier in Chechnya war North Caucasus checkpoint

The currency of passage at Russian checkpoints in Chechnya was often cigarettes. Sometimes it was food to fight off starvation. The Union of Soldiers’ Mothers Committees of Russia joined with Chechen women in Nazran to find their lost sons, often lacking even basic information such as the regiment name. Critics claimed that the Russian army treated its conscripts as cannon fodder or slave labour for officers.
Source: theaftermathproject.org

3. Neglect by medical staff

Valentin, mentioned above who tripped a mine was treated with improper surgical materials in a military hospital; the doctors using corroded needles instead of stainless steel needles to bind his bones together. .As a result of thismedical negligence, Valentin developed severe complications and almost died.

Sergei was a conscript who was sent to Chechnya during the first war against his will . He was trapped during the storming of Grozny and shot in the stomach. He lay unattended for several hours and was conscious enough to hear the medic say that there was no use doing anything for him as he would not survive until the next morning.

4. Rehabilitation in a State sanatorium (or any psychological care) is an alternative rarely offered to veterans.
Most do not even know they are legally entitled to this service and never file an application for admission.
Several of the interviewees mentioned that they were sent to a sanatorium (dom otdykha) in Abkhazia, in an ironically improper environment.
Albert fought in Chechnya as an officer, where he was wounded and sent, along with his wife and daughter, to the sanatorium in Abkhazia. A war was fought here between 1992 and 1993 between Georgian government forces and Abkhaz/ Russian forces. Albert recalls that the medical complex was surrounded by signs « Beware of the mines », by destroyed houses and signs of gunfire and artillery. « From a walking distance towards Sochi, there is a river Psu in which you could see the skeleton of a tank ».
During his stay in hospital which lasted more than a year and a half, Valentin was visited by a young female psychologist who asked him all sorts of questions and records their conversations.
He says of her : « She exhausted me, she tormented me », and he recalls : « she left. Then two days later she showed up again and said – ‘you are all sick, you need to get help’ – and she never came back ».

5. The state denial of responsibility towards wounded soldiers.
In January 2005, a regional court of the Orel region overruled the decision of a lower court compelling the Ministry of Defense to compensate Gennadi Uminsky, a military contractor gravely wounded during the battle of Grozny during the first Chechen war.
Young Russian soldiers in Chechnya, year 1995

Young Russian soldiers in Chechnya, year 2000

Cut off in a cave, his section remained isolated there until the end of the war. Left for dead, Uminsky and his companions survived, although they were officially declared “killed in combat”.

After a year in hospital he was released, and classed as an “invalid of the second group”, implying that he would be in need of constant medical supervision. After having tried in vain to obtain a pension from the Ministry of the Defense, Uminsky went to court. No pension was granted and compensation was awarded to Uminsky. Some plaintiffs demanding compensation for war wounds were asked to provide proof that the Federal Army was responsible.

In the end, they were told to request compensation from the Chechen combatants, those in fact responsible for the wounds.

Ex: Disabled Soldier Sues Rebels “I know Basayev (chechen rebel) will laugh when he learns about this, and I will laugh with him over this idiocy. But what else can I do if the Russian government and the Russian courts have put this absurdity on me?”

6. The idea that veterans themselves are responsible and that the state cannot be held responsible for their resulting suffering.
Valentin was told by medical authorities that his loss of eyesight due to an exploding mine could not be linked to his service in the Federal Army. Therefore he was ineligible to be treated in a military hospital nor would his expenses not be met by the State.
Chechnya Russia wars russian soldiers chechens North Caucasus
7. Delegating social and medical care for the disabled to private networks (family, friends) and to Philanthropic Organizations

The economic crisis of the 1990s led Yeltsin’s government to neglect the social services and to transfer the economic burden of the army to the local authorities. Some local authorities provides assistance for disabled veterans, while others were unable or unwilling to become involved.

Pensions granted by the state are not sufficient to cover medication, prostheses, wheelchairs etc. therefore associations and personal networks are solicited to compensate for the failure of the state.

Veterans organization struggle to get funding for medical equipment and medication for disabled veterans.
In the December 2004 issue of Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, the case of a disabled veteran from Afghanistan is mentioned. This veteran is able to survive only thanks to the support of his former comrades. The man lost his sight and his two legs as a result of his service in Afghanistan.
 –
 –

In 2003, The All Russia Organization of Invalids of Afghanistan (joined also by Chechen veterans) conducted a survey among its members and found that

  •  -46% of them have an income only sufficient to meet basic needs;
  • 90,7% have a difficult time finding a job;
  • 87,7% have no professional qualification for use in civilian life;
  • 50,7% have no apartment and will have to wait several years before getting one;
  • 91,4% have received no monetary allowance whatsoever.

Half of the respondents had never been to hospital or to a sanatorium despite having obtained invalidity status.

From 1990 to 2005 the Center for Sociological Research of the Ministry of Defense conducted a series of annual studies showing that war invalids constituted the most underprivileged citizens of Russia.
  • 26,6% are forced to live with parents or relatives;
  •  35,2 % have been waiting for housing for more than five years;
  •  79,6%, their disability pension is their only means of subsistence.

Only 5.8% of disabled invalids receive financial support for civil life rehabilitation; 5.2% are cared for in military hospitals; 4.3% in convalescent homes 1,5% receive help in psychological and medical centers in their district; while more than 80% do not receive any medical and psychological help from the government.

As Sergei, aconscript who served during the first Chechen campaign, says:

« The soldier who is going to war to serve his country has to give up his health, although he would like only to adapt and find himself in a social environment, but the state does not want this. You are left to your fate, and you are not needed by anyone. You are given a miserable allowance on which you are supposed to live.
When my mother found out how much I was given, she burst into tears […] and then she said : « Sergei I will send that money to the Kremlin, to Yeltsin with the following note : – take this money and just give him back his health ».
Today, the only rehabilitation home for invalids of local wars in Russia (Dom Sheshira) is a philanthropic organization which has struggled for its survival since its creation in the 1980’s.

8. There is no official data on the number of victims in the Russian Army for the Chechen wars.

Although veterans associations estimate that the counting of the missing and dead in Afghanistan is not finished, official figures that have nonetheless been published and tend to coincide with Western estimates.

The situation is completely different for the campaigns in Chechnya: here the only estimates are those made by Russian military journalists or Western military specialists. The absence of statistics testifies to the total disregard by the State for the veterans.

9.The Non-Recognition of the Chechen war

 (how Non-Recognition of the Chechen war affects the other side of the conflict – read here Difference between combatant and insurgent “Fighter” or “Terrorist“)

The status of veterans and the social policy depends on how the state defines war: if it refuses to call a conflict a “war”, then the war does not exist and there are no veterans. The official aim of the first Chechen conflict was to “restore constitutional order” and the second, beginning in 1999, was fought as a “struggle against terrorism”. It was only in 2002 that Chechnya was added to the list of “operations outside Russian borders”, granting veterans a legal status, along with rehabilitation measures and financial compensation. As noted by Sergei Oushakin, prior to this amendment, veterans of Chechnya were handed documents in which they were categorized as invalids of the Great Patriotic War. The “absence” of war led to the denial of the existence of veterans and their sufferings, and therefore a belated response to the needs of this population.

10.Hiding the failure of Social Policy -Victorious war veteran vs Crippled reality

From the 1920s to the aftermath of WWII, the state tended to hide the crippled veterans that tarnished the image of the Soviet Union as a nation free from social problems.

In 1947, the cities were cleared of beggars (most of them veterans). These unfortunates were allegedly sent to Valaam Island in Karelia. The Samovary – men without legs and arms – died there during the following winter in terrible conditions. Working Camps were created for invalids of the civil war, WWI and WWII.

“There are no invalids in the USSR!”

A more recent account of the state relationship to disability was made by a journalist who was in Moscow in 1980 on the Olympic games. The journalist asked an official organizer of the Olympic games if the Soviet Union would participate to the paralympic games. The Russian official responded « There are no invalids in the USSR ! ».

Some of the interviewees, when complaining to their fit companions about their impossibility to find work in their physical condition heard themselves told: “Well, stay at home” (“Nu, sidi doma”).

The culture of Heroism opposed the image of the Mutilated Body
December 1995, Russian soldier wounded in Chechnya

December 1995, Russian soldier wounded in Chechnya tries on a prosthesis

Post-Soviet Russia has inherited a culture which glorifies heroes and muscular bodies. Post-Soviet cinema and State patriotic programs glorify heroes of Russian history. The persistence of a heroic, militaristic conception of masculinity is still perceptible in today’s Russia. One need only look Putin’s press photographs flying military planes, riding horses, firing weapons etc.
As far as newspapers are concerned, there are very few accounts of the fate of disabled veterans of the Afghan war and none from the Chechen campaigns. The subject remains taboo in the Russian media.

11. The capacity of Work as a criteria for Russian Citizenship
Since the Second World War, pensions aim to compensate for the loss of income rather than physical damage, and that does not cover the expenses of medical care.

The state sends two messages: work has healing virtues and veterans have duties, even debts, to the state.

As if it were not enough to have risked their lives in the service of the homeland, veterans discovered on their return that having a place in society was linked to continued work and that they will be receiving social benefits and state aid only after additional service (work).

Chechnya

In Chechnya

The military press has also continuously to refer to the additional obligations of veterans:

“Veterans must take part in the organization of special days for conscripts, in competitions for the best preparation of citizens for military service, in the organization of the draft in municipal establishments and schools. They must to the best of their ability aid in the training of youth for military service. They must organize the implementation of the State Program in the Armed Forces “Patriotic Education of Citizens of the Russian Federation, 2006-2010”. It is also evident that they must contribute to the preparation of manifestations linked to the 65thanniversary of various events of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.”

As far as disabled veterans are concerned, being unable to be useful to the state – they are not included in those state patriotic project and therefore not promised any examination of their situation.

Conclusion

Most of the disabled veterans interviewed have internalized the idea that they cannot be useful to society and describe themselves as the waste:

Sergei « […] When I came back home, I had a strong inclination for alcohol. I drank really a lot. For a year I kept drinking. My mother tried to make me stop : « Sergei stop, your health is not good, do you wish it to worsen? » You feel completely rejected, abandoned to your fate. You are not useful to anyone, you are similar to waste… »

Valentin when questioned “Why does Russian state refuse to care about us ? Because they don’t want to, that’s why. Maybe we are not indispensable. The state, they probably see us as the scum of society ».

***