Clean up operations (mop up, sweep, cleansing)

source: Human Rights Watch; Memorial

The following material contains victims’ photos, some may find it disturbing


Officially, clean-up operations are called “checking the registration of the citizens on their place of residence and during their travels in the Republic of Chechnya”. In a sweep operation, Russian forces typically seal off a village and conduct house-to-house searches to detain suspected fighters or their supporters.

However, there is something deeply wrong about the clean-up operations carried out in North Caucasus. Most people who are detained disappear without a trace. Other human rights violations are reported.

Operations began during the Chechen war. Virtually all men of ages between 15 to 60 (“of fighting age”) could be detained for questioning into the infamous filtration camps. What happened after detention was subject of controversy.

The clean-up operations continued after the war and are still taking place as we speak. The operations have spread to Ingushetia, Dagestan and also Kabardino-Balkaria and neighboring republics. In Chechnya, Vladimir Putin handed over responsibility to local militias in 2003 after he appointed Pro-Russian Ramzan Kadyrov as acting president, although Russian troops are still present in the area and still carry out various operations.

Numerous human rights violations have been reported during these operations: shooting people on spot, rapes on spot, robbery, destruction of property (blowing up houses/ setting houses on fire), torture.

According to UN Refugee Agency report, some cities and villages have suffered over 30 sweep operations.

During mop-up operations, civilians fall victims indiscriminately. Photo taken in Dagestan village.

During mop-up operations, civilians fall victims indiscriminately. Photo taken in Dagestan village.

“Memorial” is a Moscow-based Human Rights organization which has documented numerous violations. Memorial can be considered the single most active organization in North Caucasus, which despite having its own members falling victims to constant threats and even murder – it continued to carry out its work.

 

Several events from Argun, Chechnya as reported by Memorial – the following are extracts  Read full content here

Argun 2003 – “Disappeared” found in unmarked graves

 

Sometimes people are “found”. On 2 March, another man was found in Argun who had disappeared during a mopping-upoperation a year ago.

Yashurkaev Abdul-Vakhab Sulimovich, born 1940 and a resident of Argun, was arrested during a mopping-up operation carried out by federal troops in Argun between 11 and 14 March 2001 and “disappeared”. In total, 11 people disappeared after being detained in the operation.

On 13 March 2001, in Khankaly, the main federal military base in Chechnya, a grave was found containing the bodies of four of the 11 “disappeared” from Argun. The bodies all bore signs of a violent death and the military prosecutor opened an investigation (No. 14/33/0132-01) into the discovery.

The relatives of those who had disappeared made enquiries with various official bodies, but were unable to obtain any information on A-V.S. Yashurkaev.

One year later, the relatives finally obtained details of the grave near the elevator.

On 2 March 2002, three bodies were exhumed. One of them was identified as that of Yashurkaev Abdul-Vakhab Sulimovich. On 3 March 2002, the remains of A-V.S. Yashurkaev were handed over to his relatives.

 

Statement of Yashurkaeva Zalpa, widow of Yashurkaev Abdul-Vakhab

The corpse was headless and there were knife wounds on the body. The body was preserved as if he had only died a week ago. There were blue weals on his legs and across his ribs as if they had beaten him with clubs. The body was clean, as if they had washed him. On his chest was hair from his beard. The left shoulder had been smashed and you could see the bones.

When he had the operation, he had a skin graft and they took 58 centimetres of skin from his leg. I recognized him by the marks from the operation.

As for the other bodies: the bones of one had been separated; the bones of the lower half of the other one’s body had remained together and the muscles were still there on the legs below the knees. It looked as though the flesh had been cut from the bones. Maybe the dogs had gnawed them. They weren’t able to identify anyone else. There were no heads.

The youths saw that the dogs were digging up something and pulling at it. They went up, pulled at it and realized that it was a human leg. They went to the commandant’s office and said there were bodies behind the flour factory. That was on Thursday (28 February). But the soldiers wouldn’t let us get there. For three days they said there were no bodies. We said we wouldn’t leave until they were exhumed. On 2 March at 4.00pm two armoured personnel carriers went out there. They dug them up and brought them back to the commandant’s office. 

In 2005, Memorial group made a documentary on Zumsoy, a village in Itum Kali, emptied by repeated clean up operations. A summary execution can be seen at 6:50. Also, Myandi Muhaev (who makes an appearance in this doco) is later detained and tortured.

Argun 2003 – Four men picked up during clean up operation are found dead near commandant’s office

On Saturday 2 March at around midday, 4 Argun residents were seized and taken away to an unknown destination by soldiers who arrived in armoured vehicles. The residents were: Bekhaev Beslan, born 1974, Muzaev Alikhan, born 1979, Idrisov Shamil, born 1984, and Bargaev Apti, born 1983. According to their relatives, 3 were seized in their homes, and Idrisov was seized at a nearby crossroads. It appears that the soldiers simply grabbed the first people they could find. The soldiers were in all likelihood internal ministry troops from the 34th shumilovskaya region operational brigade. Within an hour, relatives had made written statements to various official authorities. For 2 days they were unable to obtain any information.

By chance, on 4 March at the offices of the town administration, they heard that four bodies were lying in the courtyard of the military commandant’s office with multiple gunshot wounds. The relatives identified them as those who had been arrested two days earlier.

According to the soldiers, they were fighters who had been killed in a skirmish during the night of 3 March, from Sunday to Monday.

Beslan Bekhaev, born 1974 has multiple stab wounds to his chest and abdomen

Beslan Bekhaev, born 1974, has multiple stab wounds to his chest and abdomen, which does not coincide with the reported rebel-army shooting.

Alkhazur (Idrisov Shamil relative)

Shamil Idrisov, born 1984 chechen men Argun

Shamil Idrisov, born 1984

The first people to see the bodies were builders working at the commandant’s office. It was morning and they saw the bodies being dumped into a room at the commandant’s office. One of the workers recognised Shamil. Then the soldiers chased them away.

 

Arbi (Muzaev relative)

Alikhan Muzaev born 1979 chechen men Argun

Alikhan Muzaev born 1979

I bathed and cleaned Muzaev Alikhan. There were knife wounds on his legs. They were made before he died. There was blood. His skull was smashed. He had clearly been dragged by the hair before he died. On the crown of his head there was almost no hair. There was a large bruise on his left hand. The skin on his cheekbone was torn. His knees were swollen and it looked as if he had been forced to kneel for a long period.

 

Bargaev Apti’s father

Apti Bargaev, born 1983 chechen men Argun

Apti Bargaev, born 1983

We collected the bodies and spoke with the senior investigator from the prosecutor’s office. He is called Sasha. But he said to me: they called us at 7.00am and said to us that they had been involved in an attack during the night from Sunday to Monday. When we arrived there were four bodies and by all four there were weapons.

I asked him (Sasha), how they could have been fighting between Sunday and Monday if they were arrested on Saturday. Their arms bear marks from having been tied. How could they fight if they were tied up?

Father of Alikhan

Alikhan Muzaev chechen men Argun

Inspection of the body of Muzaev revealed stab wounds to his legs

Each of them had three knife wounds to the back. Above the knees there were other knife wounds. There were also wounds on their buttocks. On my son, there were no wounds at all on the front of his body, only on the back. 16 bullet wounds. 7.62 calibre bullets. He had been beaten heavily. There were even bruises under his armpits and there were holes, which looked as if they had been made with a knife.

The bodies of B. Bekhaev and A. Bargaev. A. Bargaev's wrist shows clearly visible marks from having been tied up for an extended period (probably with wire). Similar marks were on all four bodies.

The bodies of B. Bekhaev and A. Bargaev. A. Bargaev’s wrist shows clearly visible marks from having been tied up for an extended period (probably with wire). Similar marks were on all four bodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweep operations described by the International Federation for Human Rights  (read full report here)

The federal troops surround the village with armored vehicles and prevent the movements outside the village. The soldiers deploy in all the streets, there are posts every 10, 20 or 30 meters, the village is divided in several zones. At night, the soldiers withdraw to their bases most of the time, but firing persists in the streets and flares are launched. It is impossible for the inhabitants to get the wounded or the sick out of the village.
Army vehicles bear no visible numbers and the license plates are covered with earth or mud.he soldiers are masked most frequently, but the inhabitants only very seldom know who they are faced with.
The soldiers band together to enter the houses. Frequently and in an arbitrary way, the Russian soldiers take away men, aged 15 to 60. These operations are supposed to “check the registration of the citizen on his place of residence”, yet, when arresting somebody, the soldiers often don’t even look at his passport.
They can also propose not arresting the person if he or his relatives pay immediately. Often times, even after offering “ransom” the person is still detained.
Almost every person who went through the “filtration” system can testify the practice of ill-treatments and torture. A frequent torture method is torture by electric shocks.

If the person is still alive after going through the filtration places, his family is often offered the possibility to “buy him back”. It is often impossible for the person to move on his own, due to the assaults and torture inflicted.
Sometimes, the bodies can be found thrown in the wild, near the village or much further. But the persons arrested often simply disappear and the families are unable to trace.

Although most times it is men who are targeted, women fall victims as well. Women describe their time in detention

Staryi Atagi 6-11 march, 2002 – Federal authorities claimed Staryi Atagi harbored rebel fighters.

In what was to be the 20th sweep operation in Staryi Atagi, 15 men were detained between6-11 March.

On March 7, an abandoned house was blown up by the Russian army in Atagi and the villagers found 5 completely cremated bodied in the house. Although they were beyond identification, one was recognized (by gold teeth) as being one of the men detained on previous day. Not far from the spot, a car with another 3 cremated bodies was found.

Atagi bodies Chechnya Russia operation

Mother of Imran Kuntaev recognized her son among the cremated bodies

Atagi houses burnt down Chechnya Russia operation

Torture and rape stalk the streets of Chechnya

At 5am on 14 April 2002, an armoured vehicle moved slowly down Soviet Street. A young brown-haired man, covered in blood, his hands and feet bound, stood onboard. The vehicle stopped and the man was pushed off and brought over to a nearby chain-link fence. The car took off and there was a loud bang. The force of the explosion, caused either by a grenade or dynamite, sent the man’s head flying into the neighbouring street, called Lenin’s Commandments.

Blowing people up, dead or alive, she reports, is the latest tactic introduced by the federal army into the conflict. It was utilised perhaps most effectively on 3 July in the village of Meskyer Yurt, where 21 men, women and children were bound together and blown up, their remains thrown into a ditch.

From the perspective of the perpetrators, this method of killing is highly practical; it prevents the number of bodies from being counted, or possibly from ever being found. It has not always succeeded in this respect, however. Since the spring, dogs have been digging up body parts in various corners of Chechnya, sometimes almost daily.

READ MORE HERE – “THE GUARDIAN” REPORT

 

A man finds his brother’s remains in an abandoned factory; he had been detained 2 months earlier. A school teacher describes his period of detention; he returned home with various mutilations.

The report below starts with the story of a sweep operations undergone by 400 soldiers on a family house, where a 27 year-old architect was detained.

Extract from “Anna, Seven Years on the Frontline” – contains footage of teenage boy beaten and detained during operation; story of teenage girl detained and murdered. Anna Politkovskaya, who had collected the information and footage, was murdered in 2006 in Moscow.

Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who was dedicated to documenting human rights abuses; she was murdered in 2006 in Moscow. Watch the full documentary below

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Cruel amnesty

On 20 March 2000, Russian president Vladimir Putin urged Chechen fighters to take advantage of an amnesty offered by the Russian parliament.  He was speaking after arriving in Chechnya by fighter jet on a surprise trip ahead of this weekend’s presidential elections.

Vladimir Putin flying a jet in Chechnya

Vladimir Putin flying a jet in Chechnya

After a brief tour of parts of the devastated capital Grozny, Mr Putin indicated that Moscow was willing to discuss the republic’s future with rebels who laid down their arms.

He said that those “who have not stained their hands with the blood of Russian nationals, have not killed or robbed, have a choice”.

 

A Russian pilot taken hostage several months before was freed in Komsomolskoye, a Chechen town captured by federal forces after two weeks of heavy shelling. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Zhukov had been captured in October when his jet went down in Chechnya during a mission. Zhukov was freed in Komsomolskoye on Sunday when rebels there tried to break out of a Russian encirclement. He was said to be in good physical condition.

Not much was left of Komsomolskoye village

Komsomolskoye Chechnya Russia war chechen rebels russian men soldiers fighters

In March of 2000 federal officials announced that 72 rebel guerrillas had surrendered at Komsomolskoye and that all were being amnestied. Two women were also among them, a Chechen woman by the name of Biluyevna Lipa (who appears in the video below) and an ethnic Russian woman who identified herself as wife of one of the Chechen hostages. Ruslan Gelayev, the commander, had escaped 2 days earlier.

The prisoners were taken to Chernokozovo filtration camp, where despite the public declaration of amnesty – they were tortured and killed. Three men survived  – two disappeared (disappearances are a common phenomenon in Chechnya) and one committed suicide, according to Novaya Gazeta.

One of the survivors, Rustam Azizov, told his story to Memorial Human Rights Center before he disappeared.

War in Chechnya: a Chechen militiaman tells his story

He also described the tortures they were subjected to; a short video shot by Russian army captured the treatment described click here for video segment (contains disturbing scenes)

 

 First part of the video below captures the hostages after the surrender; 2 females are part of the hostages. Russian officer also describes the killing of “snipers’ girls” – it’s unsure if it refers to these 2 females

 

A different version of the prisoners  footage

 

Chechen woman by name of Milueva Lipa is being asked to identify herself and admit on video that she was a sniper. She is in a visibly worsened state compared with the previous video

 

The male hostages captured on a 30 minute film, shortly before they died. The women can no longer be seen.

 

To read more about Chernokozovo filtration camp, click here Torture. atrocities (Emily Gillian’s excerpts)

 

The hostage video was made public in 2004 by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. According to her, making the video public was the idea of the Russian officer who had filmed it, as he hoped it will help “free him from a nightmare which continues to torture him right up to the present.”

The news report and video download link are still available on the newspaper website where Anna Politkovskaya worked.

http://politkovskaya.novayagazeta.ru/pub/2004/2004-031.shtml

Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in Moscow in 2006, supposedly for her human rights work and her open criticism of Kremlin’s corruption.

 

It was only through this video tape that the truth was revealed and the families of the prisoners finally learned of the faith of their missing relatives. It also reinforced declarations of Komsomolskoye witnesses like journalist Owen Matthews, who described seeing bodies with hands tied back and severe signs of torture.

The War in Chechnya had an extreme level of violence. To understand what role “violence” plays in Russian military culture, below is a so-called disciplinary video with young Russian conscript soldiers.


War crimes are a sad reality and a fact of every war. However, this particular event involved a declaration of amnesty from the highest state authority – the Russian president himself and the Parliament, and also involved a public statement from military officials of the prisoners “being amnestied” once they had surrendered.

The fact that the amnesty proved to be a false promise and that the real outcome was purposely disclosed from the public by the authorities – most probably with the knowledge of the President himself, affects the credibility of the authority in the Russian state on the highest level, not only in relation to the Chechens but also on international level.

Abuse in the Russian army

source: Human Rights Watch, BBC News, English Pravda

Russian soldier boys North Caucasus

Young conscript soldiers being “disciplined” for being deserters or committing other petty crimes. WARNING! the scenes are disturbing, contains extreme violence

Conscription in Russia is a 12 month draft, mandatory for all male citizens age 18–27. The mandatory term of service was reduced from 18 months at the beginning of 2008.

“Dedovshchina” is the subjection of new junior conscripts to brutalization by the conscripts serving their last year of compulsory military service, as well as NCOs and officers. It is often cited as a major source of poor morale in the ranks.

Every army has a certain level of abuse. In the last 25 years, the abuse in the Russian army has risen to level of  “human rights violations”.

Many young men are killed or commit suicide every year because of dedovshchina. Tens of thousands of soldiers run away, while thousands more are left physically and or mentally scarred.
The Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia was created in 1989 in order to protect the rights of young soldiers.

In 2012, a draftee from Chelyabinsk region, Ruslan Aiderkhanov, was raped and tortured to death by his seniors. The lone witness who testified against the alleged perpetrators, Danil Chalkin, was later found shot dead in his military base. A contract soldier, Alikbek Musabekov was later arrested in this incident. (read news report here)

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Arkady Babchenko, veteran of the Chechen war:

Russian boy soldier Chechnya

Arkady and his parents before his departure for Chechnya

“It’s no longer a secret in Russia. It’s existed for 30 years. We never talk about it in the media, but nothing has changed. They’re just the rules of the game. If you have a son, you know one day he’ll have to leave for two years to do military service, and that for those two years, he’ll be beaten. The military reflects society, therefore, if society is cruel, the military will be cruel.”

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Russian soldier jailed for abuse

Bullying victim Andrei Sychev

The victim, Andrei Sychev, developed gangrene after being told to crouch

A Russian soldier has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for abusing a conscript soldier so badly that his legs and genitals required amputation.

The incident took place at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy in the Ural Mountains on New Year’s Eve 2005, while Sgt Sivyakov’s unit went on a drinking spree to celebrate the holiday.

The conscript soldier was tied to a chair and beaten, and made to crouch for so long that the blood flow to his legs was cut off and he developed gangrene.

Nine months after the attack, he remains in hospital.

Sivyakov, was convicted of exceeding his authority and using violence. He always denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecution had demanded a penalty of six years in jail. Pte Sychev’s family denounced the punishment – even before it was handed out – as inadequate.

More than 6,000 soldiers were victims of abuse last year, the military has said.

Junior Sgt. Aleksandr V. Sivyakov is charged with abusing Private Sychyov. He has pleaded not guilty.

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SEX SLAVERY

According to the UN International Panel for Struggle against Sexual Exploitation, the Russian army is plagued with male prostitution. A small amount of money is enough to find a Russian soldier-prostitute in the center of Moscow.

Servicemen may become male prostitutes in the Russian army for various reasons. There are young men who voluntarily offer sexual favors to their homosexual clients; others are forced into prostitution against their own will. Newcomers, especially those who finished higher schools before joining the army, suffer from sexual harassment more often than others. Brave soldiers try to protect their honor and rights, although there is no one to help them: commanders and military officials may often be involved in the sex business too.

“When I was standing on duty, two bullies came up to me and shoved me into the stockroom, a soldier serving at one of Moscow’s military units recollects. “They raped me there in turn. It was very painful and revolting. It didn’t take them much time to finish, but the next day I started noticing other soldiers giving me strange looks. I instantly realized that those bastards let everyone know what they had done to me. An officer came up to me one day and said to me point-blank: “Tomorrow you will to serve two clients.” I knew that if I said “no” then I would spend my last days spitting blood. But still, I told him “no.” When the officer heard that, he pulled out pictures of me being raped in the stockroom. “If you don’t serve the clients, you mother will see these pictures,” said he. I was forced into prostitution,” the soldier said.

Another serviceman, named only as Ilya, became a male prostitute during his second month in the army. The young man received a letter from his girlfriend. “The sergeant told me that day that I would no longer need girls. He and three other men forced me to go behind the barracks to the abandoned construction site. They made me kneel their, tied me up to a lamppost and hit me several times in the groin. The pain was so strong that I lost the will to fight them back. They made me open my mouth and raped me. I don’t remember how long it continued. When I came to my senses I didn’t want to live. I was seriously thinking about committing suicide. I was shocked that the rapists were visiting me regularly afterwards bringing fruit and vodka for me. When it ended they made me a prostitute,” Ilya said.

There were many incidents when soldiers prefer bid farewell to their lives being unable to cope with humiliation. However, military officials mostly say that such stories occur because of the unbalanced state of mind of the soldiers.

FULL STORY HERE http://english.pravda.ru/society/stories/15-02-2007/87441-army_prostitute-0

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  Boys beaten by older officer. The abuse gets gradually worse

International group Human Rights Watch has published a detailed study of what it calls “horrific violence” against new conscripts in the Russian army.

The 86-page report was called “The Wrongs of Passage: Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of New Recruits in the Russian Armed Forces”

The report says organized bullying has not only continued since Soviet times, but has become harsher.

Human Rights Watch says that although the abuse has been known about for several years, Russia’s leadership has done nothing to address the problem.

One conscript, Alexander D, told Human Rights Watch that “the one way to avoid physical abuse was complete submission – turning into a ‘lackey’ who does whatever he is asked no matter how humiliating or senseless”.

He says he was repeatedly beaten for refusing to sew collars on senior soldiers’ jackets. Another time Alexander D’s belongings were taken away and he was sent out, along with others, to beg for money to buy vodka.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that most conscripts are ill-educated and frequently come from backgrounds with severe social problems, the report says.

Many junior officers either do not care about the welfare of their soldiers, or passively encourage the bullying as it gives a certain “discipline” to the barrack block.

First-year conscripts could also be forced to act out an old army joke called “dried crocodile”, he says.

The conscripts had to put their hands and feet on the posts at the head and feet of the bed and remain in push-up position for long periods of time.

“They [the dedy] lie down on the bed [beneath you] and God forbid you fall. They beat you up and then start from scratch. Sometimes they even burn your leg from down there… when they were drunk they could make you hang all night.”

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March 1994 – Mass shooting committed by two abuse victims 

MOSCOW — For months, the two young draftees had been subjected to the routine cruelty inflicted on Russian army recruits. Then came a painful, ritualized hazing to mark the completion of basic training.

Such abuse is common throughout Russia’s armed forces. Its teenage victims frequently end up with serious injuries. An alarming number are killed or driven to commit suicide.

Almost always, the mistreatment is ignored or covered up. This time, though, the results were so unusual-and so ghastly-that there was no way the army could keep them secret.

The tragedy unfolded at a remote base on a bleak, impoverished island in the Pacific Ocean. In the wee hours of the morning last Tuesday, the two recruits decided they had had enough. They crept into the room where their tormentors were sleeping and opened fire with machine guns.

When the shooting stopped, 6 soldiers were dead and 3 others were badly wounded, according to official reports. The two recruits, identified only as Beltsov and Agdashev, then held off an army assault, even shooting down a helicopter, before finally surrendering hours later.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the barracks murders on the tiny island of Tanfilyev near Japan is how little they shocked ordinary Russians, who long have accepted vicious brutality as an unavoidable fact of military life.

“The relationship between older and younger soldiers is very primitive, almost on a savage level,” said Vladimir Romanov, a retired army colonel who did five years of research on the physical and psychological abuse of recruits and now teaches at a Moscow military academy.

“The root of the problem lies in the broader society, where people have been dehumanized and denied their rights for such a long time. The situation in the army is just a mirror of this. New recruits are treated like they have no rights. Older soldiers feel they can do whatever they like to them.”

FULL STORY HERE In Russia’s Army, Cruelty A Way Of Life

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SUICIDE OR MURDER?

It is suspected that many reported suicides in the Russian Army are in fact cases where the soldiers were simply “hazed to death”. Read about the case of Ruslan Ayderkhanov here The Ayderkhanov Case.

Official letter from the Human Rights group “Memorial” addressed to the president of the Russian Federation Appeal to President Medvedev by Human Rights Defenders on the Death of Ruslan Ayderkhanov

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“The lost boys” – photo series by Heidi Bradner about Russian conscript soldiers in Chechnya, most of them inexperienced 18-19 years olds

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus lost boys

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus war tank

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus wounded

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys North Caucasus

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldier boys North Caucasus wars

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers boys table

Chechnya Grozny Russian soldiers war

Russian soldiers boys mother

Russian soldier mother

Russian soldier in Chechnya war North Caucasus checkpoint

Russian soldier stands at checkpoint in Chechnya. Photo by Stanley Greene

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

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News report

Two young conscripts humiliated, then physically abused by a larger group in the dorm rooms

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In previous posts you can read about the chaos, brutality, corruption and lack of consideration for soldiers’ safety and lives in the Russian Military.

Torture and atrocities – “In Russia, winning wars has always been a matter of quantity, not quality,” said one conscript. “They don’t even count us as losses. We’re just meat.” A few episodes also describe young “poorly-dressed exhausted soldiers” being sent ahead of the infamous mop up operations to check passports. They warn villagers of the massacre that the “bloodhounds” (Special Forces teams and contract soldiers) are being sent to carry on soon.

Chechnya veterans – How Russia treats its ‘heroes’ – Orders given under influence of alcohol lead to unnecessary loss of young conscripts’ lives; neglect by government, authorities and medical staff; for survivors – the return to a life of extreme poverty, social rejection and humiliation, which means young men’ lives destroyed before they even began.

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya - first war

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya – first war

Conscripts

Russian conscript soldier