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, 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 aged between 15 to 60 (“of fighting age”) could be detained for questioning into the infamous filtration camps. What happened after detention was a subject of controversy.

The clean-up operations continued after the war and are still taking place today. 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 an UN Refugee Agency report, some cities and villages have had 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 a Dagestani 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 movements outside the village. The soldiers deploy in all the streets, there are posts every 10, 20 or 30 meters and then 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. The soldiers are masked most frequently and 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 between 6-11 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.



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 a 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

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.

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.

Abuses 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 video contains disturbing content 

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.

In the last 25 years, the abuse in the Russian army has risen to human rights violations.

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)


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.”


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.



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.



  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.”



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



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


“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:


News report

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


Read more in Torture and atrocitiesIn 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 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.

Read more in Chechnya veterans – How Russia treats its ‘heroes’Orders given under the 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 poverty, social rejection and humiliation.

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya - first war

Russian teen soldier in Grozny, Chechnya – first war


Russian conscript soldier

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


Published: June 21, 2008

A grave containing about 800 bodies was reported in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, human rights officials said. A Grozny resident told Russia’s human rights representative in Chechnya that the bodies had been buried between Jan. 2 and Oct. 31, 1995. The resident told Nurdi Nukhadzhiyev, the rights representative, that they were mostly civilians, a spokeswoman said.

Fifty-seven mass graves have been identified in Chechnya, and it is not unusual for construction crews in Grozny to run across collections of bodies.

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


Russia to Investigate a Mass Grave in Chechnya

Published: February 26, 2001 (New York Times)

Russian military officials promised today to investigate a grave containing a number of bodies found near a Russian military base outside the Chechen capital, Grozny. But they made it clear that they believed that its inhabitants had been killed by Chechen rebels and not by Russian soldiers.

A rebel spokesman denied that, and contended that the grave contained the bodies of Chechen civilians who had been rounded up by Russian troops in local mopping-up operations, never to be seen again.

The grave, said to conceal the bodies of anywhere from 11 to several score of Chechen citizens, was uncovered by local residents last week at a dairy not far from the Russian military base of Khankala.

Local military officials said mines had been placed on many bodies, apparently to kill anyone who sought to retrieve them. Russian reports said three bodies had been identified as those of Chechen residents. Most had been killed by gunfire.

The Russian-appointed prosecutor in Grozny, Vsevolod Chernov, said that the area was being surveyed by helicopter and that witnesses were being interviewed.

But a spokesman for the rebel administration in Chechnya told Agence France-Presse that local residents had suspected that the area held the bodies of civilians who had been imprisoned and killed at the Khankala base, but that they had been afraid to search because the area was too close to the outpost.

Separately, Russia’s human rights commissioner and its prosecutor general said they would examine reports by a journalist for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta that the Russian Army maintains a so-called prisoner pit in Chechnya, where detained civilians have been held for ransom and have sometimes died.

The reporter, Anna Politkovskaya, was detained by Russian officials near the town of Khatuni as she was investigating accounts by people who said they had seen one such pit.

Military officials said Ms. Politkovskaya had been stopped because she had false accreditation papers for her trip, a charge she denied.

The Russian Army has operated so-called filtration camps in Chechnya, where civilians suspected of illegal acts have been detained; and reports of beatings, rapes and ransoms at some camps have been publicized. But the military has denied that such abuses occur.

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

Mass grave found on Chechen border

9 september 2002, BBC NEWS

Police in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia have discovered a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of 15 people arrested by Russian troops in neighboring Chechnya several months ago.

The grave – on the Chechen-Ingush border – was reportedly found after relatives of the victims paid some Russian soldiers a large amount of cash for information.

The human rights group Memorial said seven of the bodies – of ethnic Chechen men who were uncovered last Friday – had been identified.

Correspondents say the discovery, which comes as the UN resumes activities in Chechnya, is a fresh blow to Moscow’s human rights record.

 Probe promise

Some of the bodies in the grave had plastic bags wrapped over their heads and showed signs of “violent death”, according to the press service linked to Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Russian troops in Chechnya

Rights groups have often attacked Russia’s tactics in Chechnya

A spokesman for the Kremlin office responsible for relations with Chechnya said Russian officials would not be making any comment on the report.

Mr Maskhadov’s office said the 15 had been detained during “mopping-up” operations by Russian troops in north-western Chechnya in mid-May, although Memorial said the arrests began two weeks earlier.

Memorial said that in June military chiefs and prosecutors had promised to probe the detentions and begin inquiries for the release of the 15.

”But nothing happened after this promise,” the group said.

Bodies of Chechen militants near Grozny in January 2000

An estimated 20,000 Chechen militants have been killed in the conflict

The news of the discovery comes two weeks after Russian intelligence released a video of a mass grave found in Chechnya that contained the remains of about 100 Russian soldiers and civilians – all reportedly beheaded.

The dead, believed to be victims of the first Chechen war from 1994 to 1996, were found in the village of Stariy Achkhoy, close to the alleged site of a death camp run by Chechen militants.

 UN resumes

Russian troops stormed back into Chechnya in October 1999 in a self-declared anti-terrorist operation which has been repeatedly criticized as heavy-handed by human rights groups.

About 4,500 Russians have died in the conflict so far, according to official figures, although anti-war groups believe the actual toll may be three times higher.

Russian military officials estimate that 20,000 Chechen guerrillas have been killed.

The discovery of the mass grave came as the UN announced it was resuming aid operations in Chechnya halted in July after the abduction of Russian aid worker Nina Davydovich.

Russia Must Account for “Disappearances” in Military Custody

February 27, 2001 (Human Rights Watch)

We have established a clear pattern of cases when people ‘disappear’ in the custody of Russian troops. So the discovery of this mass grave is very alarming.

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

Human Rights Watch urged an urgent investigation into the mass grave discovered Saturday near the main Russian military base in Chechnya.

In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the international monitoring organization called on the Russian government to make public all available information about the grave, to allow relatives of missing persons to search for their loved ones among the bodies, and to ask the Council of Europe to provide a team of forensic medical experts to participate in the investigation. Human Rights Watch also wrote to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe urging the organization to offer its assistance investigating the grave.

On February 24, local residents discovered a mass grave-possibly containing as many as 200 dead bodies-in an abandoned village in the vicinity of the Khankala military base. According to press reports, after news of the grave became known, a Grozny man found among the corpses his sixteen-year-old son, who had been missing since December 2000. He also found the body of the young man with whom his son had gone missing. Russian law enforcement agents have apparently sealed off the area to prevent people from looking for missing relatives.

“We have established a clear pattern of cases when people ‘disappear’ in the custody of Russian troops,” said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division. “So the discovery of this mass grave is very alarming.” The mass grave discovered near Khankala is not the first unmarked grave to be found in Chechnya. Throughout the past six months, unmarked graves containing the bodies of people who had previously “disappeared” in the custody of Russian troops were found in several villages, including Starye Atagi, Dzhalka, Gekhi, Duba-Yurt and Mesker-Yurt. Many of the bodies had been severely mutilated. Injuries commonly found on these bodies included broken limbs, scalped body parts, cut off fingertips, knife and gunshot wounds.

Human Rights Watch and Memorial, a leading Russian human rights group, have recently documented more than fifty cases in which relatives or others witnessed Russian forces detaining individuals, but were unable to obtain any further information about their whereabouts. In most cases, law enforcement agencies flatly denied that the detention had ever taken place. [Human Rights Watch issued a field update on abuses in Chechnya on January 22, 2001 with further information on this trend.]

In one case, the parents of three young men managed to receive confirmation that their sons had been taken to the Khankala military base. After Islam Dombaev (15), Murad Lianov (17), and Timor Tabzhanov (18) were detained on June 28, 2000 in Grozny, local Chechen police informed the parents that Ministry of Interior forces had detained the three and taken them to Khankala. Parents’ inquiries at the base have yielded no result. The head of the unit that detained the three refused to appear for questioning at the Grozny prosecutor office. The military prosecutor claims military servicemen had nothing to do with this “disappearance.”

Russian prosecutors have opened criminal investigations into some of these “disappearances.” However, the investigations are plagued with serious deficiencies, and so far produced no results. [On February 9, 2001, Human Rights Watch issued a memorandum on domestic prosecutions.]

Mass Grave Uncovered in Chechnya

mass grave in chechnya. Source: memorial.ruA mass grave containing the remains of some 300 people has been uncovered at an asphalt plant in the Republic of Chechnya. As the Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday (RUS), the site dates from the Second Chechen war, and likely contains civilian victims of an attack by Russian forces.

Russia has led two wars against separatists in the region, and both sides have targeted and killed civilians. Russian troops have been accused of a systematic campaign of torture and “disappearances,” a charge the defense ministry denies.

In recent years, major fighting has died down, although eruptions of violence and attacks on the armed forces continue periodically.

Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, the Republic’s official human rights ombudsman, said the grave contained the bodies of refugee men, women and children shelled by Russian troops in October 1999. The refugees were traveling together in an attempt to leave Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, via a special “green corridor” opened to allow peaceful residents to flee areas of fighting.

“After completely destroying the convoy of refugees, the soldiers buried the corpses together with their vehicles and belongings in a big pit on the territory of the asphalt plant, which is located near the road,” Reuters quoted Nukhazhiyev as saying.

The grave was first discovered in 2000, but was never exhumed. Nukhazhiyev said he had petitioned Yury Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, to send an investigative team and establish a special laboratory to help identify the victims.

The announcement comes just over a week after another mass grave, containing some 800 bodies, was discovered in Grozny.

As many as 100,000 civilians are thought to have perished in the two conflicts. According to Nukhazhiyev, some 60 mass graves have been found throughout Chechnya.

Mass grave discovered in Grozny contains bodies of guerrillas and civilians

By Umalt Chadayev

April 5th 2006 · Prague Watchdog

CHECHNYA – In early April it was reported that a mass grave had been discovered in the grounds of Kirov Park, in Grozny’s Leninsky district. The remains of a total of 57 people have been extracted from the place.

According to representatives of the law enforcement agencies, six bodies have not yet been identified. It is planned to send their remains to the South Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for forensic medical examination.

One of the inhabitants of Grozny who was an eyewitness of the sad events told Prague Watchdog’s correspondent that the burial of people in the grounds of Kirov Park took place in the winter of 2000, when Russian soldiers stormed the Chechen capital.

“Someone was buried there almost every day,” says 44-year-old Adlan. “After all, it was precisely in January-February 2000 that Grozny underwent the most intensive shelling and air raids. Among the people killed were both guerrillas and civilians.”

“There was almost no possibility of transporting the bodies to the villages, as is usually done.  The city was completely blockaded, and it was subjected to continuous bombing and shelling with all kinds of weaponry. Like many tens of thousands of Grozny’s inhabitants, I found myself in the blockaded city. It was a terrible time. There was no heat and no light, and the shortage of food supplies and water constantly made itself felt. It was impossible to evacuate the sick and wounded, and many of them died because they did not receive aid in time,” he asserts.

“I also took part several times in the burials of those who had been killed. I even had a list of the surnames of everyone who was buried there, but later on I lost it. In addition, we placed a note (usually in jars or bottles) in each grave, showing the surnames and first names of the victims. As far as I know, in April-May of 2000 nine graves were uncovered in Kirov Park, and the relatives took away the remains for burial in cemeteries,” Adlan says.

“I can’t speak with certainty today, but I think that many more people were buried there. As for the bodies which could not be identified, they were most probably buried as unknowns,” the respondent believes.

As is now known, a criminal case has been opened by the Leninsky district Prosecutor’s Office concerning the discovery of the mass grave in the Chechen capital. However, local residents express doubt that the Russian soldiers who are to blame for the deaths of people in the winter of 2000 will ever be punished.

“As a result of non-selective artillery fire, which included the use of multiple-launch rocket systems such as ‘Grad’, ‘Uragan’ and ‘Smerch’, and of vacuum, needle and other bombs, thousands of innocent civilians perished in Chechnya, and in particular the city of Grozny, during 1999-2000,” says Alikhan Isayev, who teaches at one of Grozny’s institutions of higher education.

“The responsibility for this lies first and foremost with the high Russian military command, including Yeltsin and Putin as commanders-in-chief,” he is convinced.

“I would like to see them charged with criminal responsibility. For that reason, I consider the opening of a criminal case concerning the discovery of a mass grave in Kirov Park to be a pure formality.”.

On the site of the former Kirov Park the local authorities plan to build a large entertainment center which will bear the name of Akhmat-Khadji Kadyrov, the late Moscow-backed Chechen leader.

Mass Graves Found Near Old Chechen Prison Camp

By Yuri Bagrov, The Moscow Times

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

Chechen ‘mass grave’ exposed

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

Battle for the Caucasus

Video footage shot by a German journalist shows bodies of men believed to be Chechen fighters in a mass grave.

Many of them had been mutilated. Some were wrapped in barbed wire. Soldiers are seen throwing one body into the grave from a tank and dragging another behind a truck.

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

With evidence like this there should be no more pussyfooting around by the international community
Human Rights Watch spokeswoman

“They just can’t argue with this footage. It is entirely consistent with what our investigators have found from talking to refugees on the Chechen border.

“With evidence like this, there really should be no more pussyfooting around by the international community.”

Ms Worden said economic sanctions such as the withholding of loan payments from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should now be imposed.

But British Labour MP Donald Anderson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he believed pressure would not affect Russian policy immediately.

“There is no way the tactics of the Russians will alter betwen now and the election,” he told the BBC.


“Vladimir Putin relies on his reputation as a nationalist, as a strong man, and his electoral success depends on that.”

The German journalist who took the pictures says he believes the troops themselves may disagree with the work they are having to do. He says this would explain the unhindered access he was given to the site of the mass grave.

Throughout Chechnya, Russian soldiers have been searching captured villages and towns for Chechen fighters.

Many men have been detained and their families have had no word on their whereabouts.

There was no immediate Russian reaction to the footage, but in Friday’s Izvestia newspaper, Mr Putin vowed to continue the campaign.

In an “open letter” to electors, Vladimir Putin said the Russian army was defeating what he called the “Chechen bandits” in a move towards establishing “a dictatorship of the law which is fair to all.”


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


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.

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).


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.


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 ».


Chechen rebel “mole” – story of betrayal

source: Radio  Free Europe, Eurasia Daily Monitor

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

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

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

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


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

Islam Temishev and

Islam Temishev and Algiriev Beslan

Chechen rebel spies infiltrated in the rebel group

Chechen rebel spies infiltrated in the rebel group

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

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

chechen men-rebels-north-caucasus people-chechnya-war-32


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

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


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


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


Bodies of the rebel group members in the forest



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


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


Said Gunkbayev on TV

Said Gunkbayev

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

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

Nazran Museum to Ingush and Chechen victims of oppression


Nazran, Ingushetia – Memorial complex dedicated to the Ingush and Chechen victims of Stalinist political oppression.

The monument was erected in early 1998, on the anniversary of the 1944 deportation (which killed almost half of the population). The hosts of the opening ceremony were Ruslan Aushev, Ingushetia’s president, and Aslan Mashadov,  Chechnya’s then president.