Missing in North Caucasus – Where do people disappear?

“Please save me from here!”

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

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

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

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

Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia

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

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Missing in North Caucasus – Where do people disappear?

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

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

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

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

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Disappearances in Dagestan

*source Human Rights Brief

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

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

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

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

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


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Kidnappings Abound in Ingushetia and Transcend its Borders

source

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

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

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When the missing persons are found

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

Magomed Aushev Abdulaevich with family

Magomed Aushev Abdulaevich with family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Memorial Human Rights Center on parallels between Crimea and Chechnya

source

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

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

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

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

Journalism in N. Caucasus – Executions and censorship

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

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

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

UPDATE: Human Rights NGO’s decapitated by Kremlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Politkovskaya Funeral

Books by Anna Politkovskaya (click on photo)

Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy

Putin's_Russia_book_cover

A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya

A Small Corner of Hell Dispatches from Chechnya war north caucasus

Is Journalism Worth Dying For?

Is Journalism Worth Dying For Final Dispatches

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Natalia Estemirova in Grozny Chechnya war Russia victim

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Testimonies of Novy Aldy massacre survivors, interviewed by Natalya

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

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

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

Ingush Opposition Activist Laid to Rest

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

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

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

Read more here

Fatima Tlisova on reporting journalist murders in the Caucasus

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

Murder reports Caucasian Knot correspondent assassinated in Dagestan

Akhmednabiev, "Caucasian Knot" correspondent murdered in July 2013

Akhmednabiev, “Caucasian Knot” journalist murdered in July 2013

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

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

Chechnya today – “Worse than war”

Clean up anti-terror operations

Enforced disappearances (kidnappings by the authorities)

Analysis on Russian media censorship (minute 11:35)

Chechnya today – “worse than war”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Disappearances in Chechnya – Crime against humanity

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

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

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

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Bombing of civilian targets continued

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

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

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

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

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

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Human rights abuses continued after war

Photographers Stanley Greene and Thomas Dworzak captured two such incidents.

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

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

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

More of Dworzak photo series here

Grozny Chechnya after war 2 North Caucasus wars

 

Inside the torture chambers of Grozny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unofficial Places of Detention in the Chechen Republic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Umar Israilov Austria Russia chechen men murder

Umar Israilov (left) and Ramzan Kadyrov (right)

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

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

Ignorierte_die_Polizei_Hinweise_auf_bevorstehende_Tat-Israilov-Mord-Story-219038_476x250px_2_Jy8UeVXtkZn3M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DISTURBING CONTENT

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Prosecuting human rights violations in Chechnya

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

Yuri Budanov

elza kungaeva's mother chechen girl murdered

Elza’s mother

elza kungaeva chechen girl murdered

Elza’s father and brother

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

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

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

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

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

Stanislav Markelov

***

Detention and “questioning”

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

zelimkhan chitigov chechen men victims russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

– burns caused by electrical shock

– muscle injuries

– brain trauma

– ataxic aphasia

– lower back injuries

– spinal chord injury

– lower body paralysis

– pelvic organ injuries causing incontinence

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

– kidney damage

– ear canal abscesses

– numerous injuries to the torso

– third degree burns on his feet.

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

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

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

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

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

***

Federal force abuses spilled into neighboring republics 

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

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

Anna Politkovskaya

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

In 2006, she was shot in her apartment building.

anna-politkovskaya-russian-women-journalists-murdered

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

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

***

Natalia Estemirova

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

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

Natalia Estemirova in Grozny Chechnya war Russia victim

Natalia in Grozny 2005

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

 ***

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

***

 

Mass graves

Chechen woman in Grozny cemetery Chechnya Russia war North Caucasus

Below are news reports of different mass graves discoveries in Chechnya –  keep in mind the reports are scarce and they don’t reflect the full scale of the  the situation, which remains unclear to this day, given Moscow’s refusal to investigate or allow international intervention and assistance.

Grozny built on graves

Mass graves are constantly being discovered in Grozny during the rebuilding process, but with the lack of proper forensic laboratories and investigation – the reconstruction frenzy continues, on the graves of war victims. Read more Chechnya’s Capital Rises From the Ashes, Atop Hidden Horrors

The unresolved issue of mass graves HERE

During a trip to the Caucasus in 1860, French writer Alexandre Dumas described how he was invited to go “hunting locals” – a common pastime for the Russian army.

 

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

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

Despite the fact that the multiple discoveries of mass graves fall under “crime against humanity” category and require immediate investigation, no serious measures have been taken by the international community and business continues as usual between Russia and other major states.

Human Rights organizations find themselves powerless in front of passive governments and Kremlin’s refusal to cooperate in this matter.

angela merkel vladimir putin russia war north caucasus

Russia: Chechen Mass Grave Found

By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Published: June 21, 2008

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

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

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

◊◊◊

Russia to Investigate a Mass Grave in Chechnya

By MICHAEL WINES
Published: February 26, 2001 (New York Times)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mass grave found on Chechen border

9 september 2002, BBC NEWS

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

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

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

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

 Probe promise

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

Russian troops in Chechnya

Rights groups have often attacked Russia’s tactics in Chechnya

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

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

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

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

Bodies of Chechen militants near Grozny in January 2000

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

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

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

 UN resumes

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

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

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

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

Russia Must Account for “Disappearances” in Military Custody

February 27, 2001 (Human Rights Watch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mass Grave Uncovered in Chechnya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mass grave discovered in Grozny contains bodies of guerrillas and civilians

By Umalt Chadayev

April 5th 2006 · Prague Watchdog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mass Graves Found Near Old Chechen Prison Camp

By Yuri Bagrov, The Moscow Times

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

Chechen ‘mass grave’ exposed

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

Battle for the Caucasus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unhindered

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSSIA
RUSSIA
***

Russia-Europe-US economic relations and implications

source: U.S. Department of State, New Republic, Agence France-Presse

Russia is one of the largest import and export merchandise trade partners for US and Europe. The following is a summary of economic relations and dependency, which automatically affect political relations.

Germany Russia

Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in 2012

One of the two largest oil producers in the world, Russia surpassed Saudi Arabia again by pumping almost 10.4 million barrels per day (BPD). It is also one of the world’s largest exporters of oil, with nearly 5 million BPD. With the world’s largest proven reserves of natural gas, Russia is also the top producer of natural gas, accounting for about 20 percent of the world’s total. This makes Russia’s oil and gas supply the best geo-strategic tools.

Since Rosneft bought Russia’s third-largest private company, TNK-BP, it has become the largest publicly traded oil company in the world by output. As a result, the state share of Russia’s oil production increased from 20% in the early 2000 to 56% today, with Rosneft accounting for 48% of the total. The increase in the state ownership paralleled a steady rise in overall production.

Click on the image for a detailed look (PDF file)

Oil and Gas pipelines from Russia to Europe

RUSSIA – EUROPE

Russia is Europe’s biggest single energy supplier and its natural gas pipelines mainly run through Ukraine, where some is used and the rest passes through to major Western economies such as Germany.

From the International Energy Agency, here is the breakdown of Germany’s oil imports by country of origin:

German oil imports by country

The same chart for Germany’s natural gas imports:

German natural gas imports

Germany’s position in the European Union is particularly important as Germany often dictates monetary policy set by the European Central Bank, basically controlling the markets and policies in its favor.

Other than being a major oil supplier, Eurostat data shows that Russia is also European Union’s third most important trading partner, behind the USA and China.

RUSSIA – UNITED STATES

Last year, Russia was a $11.2 billion market for the US as well according to Commerce Department data.

Over the period from 2004 to 2011, U.S. exports to Russia rose an average of 16 percent per year; in 2011 U.S. exports to Russia rose by 40 percent. U.S. companies reported numerous major business deals in Russia, including Boeing’s sale of 50 aircraft to Aeroflot and 40 planes to Russian airline UTAir, a joint venture between Exxon-Mobil and Rosneft to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic, and GE’s joint ventures with Russian partners Rostekhnologii and InterRAO. In December 2011, after 18 years of effort, Russia was invited to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). This major accomplishment will bring the largest economy outside the WTO into the organization.

________________________

POLITICS

According to the Wall Street Journal, Phillip Missfelder, a senior member of the German legislative body, said,  (referring to the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis) “Economic sanctions against Russia would damage Germany itself. Sanctions are always bad for Germany as an export-driven nation.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said on Sunday that the G7 countries should not kick Russia out of the G8.

Late 2013, while Ukraine protests were unfolding, Russia also threatened the tiny country of Moldova (ex-Soviet republic) for seeking closer ties with Europe.  During a visit to Moldova’s capital, the Russian deputy prime minister declared “We hope that you will not freeze this winter”, referring to Moldova’s dependency on Russian gas.

Read full article here Russia Putting a Strong Arm on Neighbors

“Being nice to Mister Putin – Chechnya”

Documentary made by Marcel Theroux

“With moves to increase Russian influence within Nato, it seems that Chechen suffering will go virtually unchallenged by Western governments. What seems important is that Russia is kept open for business.”

Government proposes opening up North Caucasus for returning Russians

source: Moscow Times
Putin poster in Grozny, Chechnya. It reads "To great Russia - together."

Putin poster in Grozny, Chechnya. It reads “To great Russia – together.”

Under the program, in effect since early 2007, the government pays a 240,000 ruble ($7,300) resettlement fee to Russians returning from abroad to live in what the government has designated as “priority regions,” . Another 120,000-ruble payment is offered to each family member, on condition they all stay in their new district for at least two years. Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyayev has proposed adding the North Caucasus to the list of “priority regions,” Interfax reported Thursday.”We had developed a concept of priority resettlement for compatriots who want to return from abroad to Russia,” Slyunyayev said.
“I have given orders to add to the priority settlement territories the regions of the North Caucasus and above all, the Stavropol region.”Unlike some of its neighboring North Caucasus regions, such as Chechnya or Dagestan, the Stavropol region enjoys relative stability and is populated mostly by ethnic Russians.
A residential district in Stavropol, one of the most stable regions in the North Caucasus.

About 250,000 former Russian natives and former citizens have returned during the seven years the program has been running, he said, adding that another 25 million may also be interested in coming back.More than 65 percent of those returning are ethnic Russians or other Slavic people, such as Ukrainians, and the majority are moving from other former Soviet republics, officials have said.

_____________________

In a region where unemployment for locals is over 50%, where basic infrastructure like electricity or running water are still waiting to be rebuilt – ethnic Russians are receiving subsides to “repopulate ” the area. If the government wants long-term economic development for Caucasus region, it needs to think beyond ethnic policies programs and come up with real economic reforms.

In other news Moscow Puts Restrictions on Circassian Immigration to the North Caucasus (click to read)

War Crimes

“The worst thing about war is not the death or torture, as repulsive as they may be… the worst thing is that it turns a man into a beast”

(excerpt from Russian documentary “Prisoners of Caucasus”)

Chechnya Russia war atrocities chechen people victims women North Caucasus

 REMINDER – According to the Geneva conventions and the International Criminal Court, the widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population constitutes a war crime (crime against humanity).

 Also, Russia stands accused of using internationally proscribed weapons, especially forbidden bombs.

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(various footage of civilians during the war)

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The Koran and the Bible both say that if you sin, you go to hell.

We have lived through that hell already.”

Quote from ‘Anna Seven years on the frontline’ – watch below Anna Politkovskaya’s work to uncover human rights abuses in Chechnya

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VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW

(source Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch)

1. Bombardment and shelling of civilian targets – despite the Russian official claims of “precision bombing” on so called terrorist targets, it was obvious that villages were attacked indiscriminately causing huge civilian casualties. The most clear proof of indiscriminate bombardment was the capital city Grozny itself, which was subjected to “carpet bombing” and was completely leveled down.

Hospital packed with wounded civilians. Towards the end of the clip – bodies of women and children who hadn’t survived. Note – throughout the war hospitals were left with no electricity, water or even basic medicine. Humanitarian help was blockaded by Russian army on Chechnya’s borders, making it even more difficult for civilians to survive.

Footage below shows what’s left after Russian shelling – house ruins and funerals. Most civilians didnt receive compensation for loss of their homes to this day

Attack in Grozny

Following the 2 wars, over 200.000 civilians and combatants were killed – most of them civilians killed during aerial bombardments. However, the Russian army denies attacking civilians and no one has been prosecuted.

2. Bombardment and shelling of refugees – related story below

Revealed: Russia’s worst war crime in Chechnya

(from british newspaper The Guardian)

Vladimir Putin is the new hero of Russian democracy, courted by Western leaders. He is also responsible for one of the most savage atrocities since the Second World War.

The village of Katyr Yurt, ‘safe’ in the Russian-occupied zone, far from the war’s front line and jam-packed with refugees, was untouched on the morning of 4 February when Russian aircraft, helicopters, fuel-air bombs and Grad missiles pulverised the village. They paused in the bombing at 3pm, shipped buses in, and allowed a white-flag convoy to leave – and then they bombed that as well, killing Taisa’s entire family and many others. (read the full story here)

3. Deployment of multiple internationally proscribed weapons

The following link shows victims in Vedeno district (children) after Russian bomb attack in 2000. The bombs used on civilian targets would not only kill, but almost pulverize a person’s body (GRAPHIC CONTENT)

http://vk.com/wall-1262161?offset=320&own=1&z=video-1262161_169179198%2Fa8588a45046d96120f

The village in which the children died

5. Purges of villages – arbitrary arrest during clean up operations, where all men aged 15-60 years old were detained for interrogation and taken to concentration camps, which are illegal by international law. According to Human Rights Watch, torture and disappearances were intrinsically related to this illegal detainment of male civilians – disappearances often times equaling murder.

Men were often detained in ground pits or other improvised spots.

chechnya russia war chechen men north caucasus chechen rebels

6. Targeted destruction of cultural monuments, which caused incommensurable damage to Chechnya’s national legacy.

Numerous monuments had already been destroyed during Russia’s conquer of the Caucasus. Stalin and the Soviets inflicted even more harm during the deportations (when ancestral villages/monuments were blown up and history archives were destroyed in an attempt to wipe out their existence). The last 2 wars added one last drop in the destruction of Chechnya’s cultural heritage.

7. Use of torture

Photo and story by Greg Marinovich

Crowds of relatives and villagers pray and sing outside. On the porch women weep. Into the lounge, where a group of men stand around a sheet-draped body laid out on the floor. Patches of blood show through the cloth. They gently pull it off and the sickly sweet reek of decaying flesh is just a foretaste of the shocking sight. His head is formless from repeated beating that caved the skull in, his throat is slit from ear to ear and there are holes and wounds gouged out all over the torso. He had been severely tortured. He had also been castrated before death gave him relief.

Crowds of relatives and villagers pray and sing outside. On the porch women weep. Into the lounge, where a group of men stand around a sheet-draped body laid out on the floor. Patches of blood show through the cloth. They gently pull it off and the sickly sweet reek of decaying flesh is just a foretaste of the shocking sight. His head is formless from repeated beating that caved the skull in, his throat is slit from ear to ear and there are holes and wounds gouged out all over the torso. He had been severely tortured. He had also been castrated before death gave him relief.

8. Murder – during raid operations, during detention.

Bodies of 2 missing men (aged 25 and 28) from Novye Atagi are found nearby after having been detained for interrogation following a Russian clean-up operation. Bodies have obvious signs of severe torture (GRAPHIC CONTENT)

The following is a Human Rights Watch report that describes how the 2 men were taken away – Human Rights Watch RUSSIA

9. Rape – on both men and women

Rape is a taboo subject in Chechen society and women are unlikely to admit to it, men are even more unlikely as it is inconceivable for them to be subjected to this kind of degradation. Rape is a common occurrence within the Russian army, especially on young conscript soldiers.

10. Trafficking – with the living (return of detainees to their families) and the dead (return of dead bodies for proper burial).

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NOTE – among the native locals there were also Russian citizens who had been living in Chechnya for decades. They received no help or support from the Russian government to resettle in other parts of Russia (most of them had no relatives in other republics after having lived in the Caucasus for a prolonged period) and so they were left vulnerable in war-zone.

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WAR CRIMES IN CHECHNYA

Testimony by the Emergencies Researcher at Human Rights Watch – March 2000 (end of second Chechen war)

Russia talks about fighting a war against terrorism in Chechnya, but it is Chechen civilians who have borne the brunt of the Russian offensive in this war, as in the first Chechen conflict.

Atrocities in Chechnya

Since the beginning of the conflict, Russian forces have indiscriminately and disproportionately bombed and shelled civilian objects, causing heavy civilian casualties. The Russian forces have ignored their Geneva convention obligations to focus their attacks on combatants, and appear to take few safeguards to protect civilians: It is this carpet-bombing campaign which has been responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths in the conflict in Chechnya. The Russian forces have used powerful surface-to surface rockets on numerous occasions, causing death tolls in the hundreds in the Central Market bombing in Grozny and in many smaller towns and villages. Lately, Russian commanders have threatened to use even more powerful explosives. The bombing campaign has turned many parts of Chechnya to a wasteland.

Russian forces have often refused to create safe corridors to allow civilians to leave areas of active fighting, trapping civilians behind front lines for months. The haggard men and women who came out of Grozny after a perilous journey told me of living for months in dark, cold cellars with no water, gas or electricity and limited food.

Men especially face grave difficulties when attempting to flee areas of fighting: they are subjected to verbal taunting, extortion, theft, beatings, and arbitrary arrest. On several occasions, refugee convoys have come under intense bombardment by Russian forces, causing heavy casualties.

For many Chechens, the constant bombardment was only the beginning of the horror. Once they came into contact with Russian forces, they faced even greater dangers. Human Rights Watch has now documented three large-scale massacres by Russian forces in Chechnya. In December, Russian troops killed seventeen civilians in the village of Alkhan-Yurt while going on a looting spree, burning many of the remaining homes and raping several women. We have documented at least fifty murders, mostly of older men and women, by Russian soldiers in the Staropromyslovski district of Grozny since Russian forces took control of that district: innocent civilians shot to death in their homes and their yards. In one case, three generations of the Zubayev family were shot to death in the yard of their home.

On February 5, a few days after Secretary of State Albright met with President Putin in Moscow, Russian forces went on a killing spree in the Aldi district of Grozny, shooting at least sixty-two and possibly many more civilians who were waiting in the street and their yards for soldiers to check their documents. These were entirely preventable deaths, not unavoidable casualties of war. They were acts of murder, plain and simple. Refugees are returning to Grozny to find their relatives or neighbors shot to death in their homes.

In the past month, the Russian authorities have begun arresting large numbers of civilian men throughout Chechnya. These men, numbering well over a thousand, and some women, have been taken to undisclosed detention facilities, and their relatives are desperately trying to locate them. I have spoken to men who have been able to pay their way out of these detention facilities, and they have given me consistent testimony about constant beatings, severe torture, and even cases of rape of both men and women. One of the men suffered from a back injury after being hit with a heavy metal hammer; a second man had several broken ribs and suffered from kidney problems from the severe beatings.

The Refugee Crisis and the lack of humanitarian help

The constant attacks by Russian forces against the civilian population have caused more than two hundred thousand Chechens to flee into neighboring Ingushetia, overwhelming the local population, which numbers only some 300,000. Many more internally displaced persons are trapped inside Chechnya, especially in the southern Argun river gorge, unable to seek safety because of the refusal of Russian forces to create safe corridors.

The conditions in the refugee camps are dire, with inadequate shelter, food, clean water, heating, and other essentials. Only a minority of refugees are housed in crowded tent camps or railway cars: the majority live in makeshift shelter in abandoned farms, empty trucking containers, or similar substandard shelter; many are forced to pay large sums for private housing. Because refugees are forced to rely on their own limited resources for survival, they are often forced to return to what is still a very active war zone when they run out of money, putting their lives at renewed risk. Russia is not allowing humanitarian organizations to operate freely in Ingushetia, and is virtually blocking any direct assistance to needy persons inside Chechnya. Refugee children in Ingushetia are not attending school, and medical needs often go unmet. The contrast with the international response to last year’s Kosovo crisis is striking, although the security concerns and Russian obstruction are certainly relevant factors.

Russian authorities have repeatedly attempted to force refugees to return to Chechnya by denying them food in the camps or by rolling their train compartments back to Chechnya. Russia is attempting to relocate refugee populations to areas of northern Chechnya under Russian control, which would place them beyond the reach of international humanitarian agencies and under more direct Russian control. The border between Chechnya and Ingushetia is regularly closed, preventing refugees from fleeing to safety and often splitting up families stranded on different sides of the border. Following the destruction of the capital, Grozny, and many other towns and villages in Chechnya, and the widespread looting and burning of homes, many refugees simply no longer have a home to return to: everything they owned in this world has been destroyed.

Abuses by Chechen Fighters

Chechen fighters, particularly those among them who consider themselves Islamic fighters, have shown little regard for the safety of the civilian population, often placing their military positions in densely populated areas and refusing to leave civilian areas even when asked to do so by the local population. Village elders who tried to stop Chechen fighters from entering their villages have been shot, or severely beaten, on several occasions. In short, the Chechen fighters have added to the civilian casualty count in Chechnya by not taking the necessary precautions to protect civilian lives. There’s also evidence that some Chechen fighters have executed captured Russian soldiers.

Without minimizing the seriousness of abuses carried out by Chechen fighters, it is important to state that the primary reason for civilian suffering in Chechnya today is abuses committed against the civilian population by Russian forces.

Russia’s Failure (or refuse) to Stop Abuses

One of the most troubling aspects of the war is that the Russian authorities have failed to act to stop abuses perpetrated by their troops in Chechnya. As a result, a climate of impunity is rapidly growing in Chechnya: Russian soldiers know that they can treat Chechen civilians however they like, and will not face any consequences.

Soldiers are systematically looting civilian homes, carting away the stolen goods on their military trucks, and storing them at their barracks in plain daylight. Instead of acting to prevent abuses, the Russian military has continued to issue blanket denials about abuses. In the face of the overwhelming mountain of evidence about abuses in Chechnya, these blanket denials are unacceptable.

The Response from the West (or lack of)

Equally worrying is the lack of a strong Western response to the abuses in Chechnya. Instead of using its relationship with Russia to bring an end to the abuses in Chechnya, the Clinton administration has focused on cementing its relationship with Acting President Putin, the prime architect of the abusive campaign in Chechnya. Secretary of State Madeline Albright traveled to Moscow while bombs were raining down on Grozny, and chose to focus her remarks on Acting President Putin’s qualities as the new leader of Russia, rather than on the brutal war in Chechnya. U.S. officials continue to understate the level of atrocities in Chechnya, talking about “abuses” in the war rather than calling those abuses by their proper name, war crimes. The administration is understating the amount of influence and power it has over Moscow, because the administration wants to continue with business as usual, and mend its ties with Moscow in the wake of the NATO bombing campaign in the former Yugoslavia. To date, the international community has given the Russian government no reason to fear any repercussions for its actions in Chechnya.

War crimes tribunal

The United States and its Western allies must call the abuses in Chechnya by their proper name, war crimes, and must insist that there will be no “business as usual” with Russia while these violations continue. An immediate international monitoring presence should be established to document war crimes and other abuses in Chechnya.

The IMF and the World Bank should suspend pending loan payments until the Russian Federation takes steps to reign in its troops, begins a meaningful process of accountability for abuses, and fully cooperates with the deployment of an international monitoring presence in the north Caucasus.

Europe should bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights, charging Russia with the blatant violations of its international treaty obligations in the conduct of the Chechen war. The conduct of the Chechen war and the creation of a Commission of Inquiry should be a prominent item for discussion at the upcoming U.N. Commission on Human Rights meeting, and the U.S. must insist on a discussion of the Chechen conflict at the U.N. Security Council.

***

 THE FOLLOWING ARE MEDIA AND BOOK EXTRACTS

Los Angeles Times, 17 september 2000 (full article here)

War Has No Rules for Russian Forces Fighting in Chechnya

“The main thing is to have them die slowly. You don’t want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death.”

“I remember a Chechen female sniper. We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it.”

“I would kill all the men I met during mopping-up operations. I didn’t feel sorry for them one bit.”

“It’s much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow.”

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Troops admit committing atrocities against guerrillas and civilians. It’s part of the military culture of impunity, they say. But many now have troubled consciences. Russian officials, including the Kremlin’s war spokesman, Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, have criticized the human rights reports, saying they are riddled with rumor and rebel propaganda. Officials have sometimes blamed reported atrocities on what they describe as rebel fighters dressed as Russian soldiers. To hear the other side of the story, a Times reporter traveled to more than half a dozen regions around Russia and interviewed more than two dozen Russian servicemen returning from the war front.

What they recounted largely matches the picture painted in the human rights reports: The men freely acknowledge that acts considered war crimes under international law not only take place but are also commonplace. In part because of Russian media coverage of Chechen slave-trading, torture and beheadings, the soldiers believe that the enemy is guilty of far worse atrocities. Although they know that executions and other human rights violations are wrong, they also consider them an unavoidable–even necessary–part of waging war, especially against such a foe.

*Before the beginning of second Chechen war, FSB (Russian Secret Services) uncovered a tape which recorded the killing of 4 captured Russian servicemen in 1996 near Komsomolskoye. Three were shot in the head, the fourth had his throat cut and was beheaded on tape. The tape was shown to human rights organizations across Europe and it was replayed over and over again on Russian television. The Chechen perpetrators were caught and/or killed. The leader of the group said he acted “in revenge” for the rape and murder of his cousin by Russian forces. He was sentenced to life in prison.*

Moreover, after a series of bomb attacks in Russia that killed more than 300 people, the Russian public and Russian servicemen have accepted the official line that this is not a war against unsavory separatists but a fight against inhuman “bandits and terrorists.” The Russian apartment bombings of 1999 were instantly blamed on Chechen perpetrators though no proof was officially presented. The result of the official report was sealed. An unsettling possibility emerged from unanswered questions, and an FSB agent publicly accused the Russian authorities – for more info read here.*

The view has been enhanced by a barrage of news reports depicting the fighters as mercenaries and religious fanatics, many of them from other countries. While it’s unclear what proportion of the fighters come from outside Russia, many of the servicemen were convinced that it was a majority–making it easier to consider them alien.

“What rules? What Geneva Conventions? What difference does it make if Russia has signed them?” said a 25-year-old army officer. “I didn’t sign them, none of my friends signed them. . . . In Russia, these rules don’t work.”

——————-

“The main thing is to have them die slowly. You don’t want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death.”

Andrei Andrei’s pale eyes glow against his tanned skin. He’s been home only 10 days. He opens and closes kitchen cabinets, searching confusedly for sugar for his tea. “I still haven’t gotten used to domestic life,” he apologizes. He has just turned 21. During basic training, he recalls, Red Cross workers came to his base to teach about human rights and the rules of war. “They tried to teach us all kinds of nonsense, like that you should treat civilians ‘politely,’ ” he says. “If you behave ‘politely’ during wartime, I promise you, nothing good will come of it. I don’t know about other wars, but in Chechnya, if they don’t understand what you say, you have to beat it into them. You need the civilians to fear you. There’s no other way.” Andrei says the lesson that stuck was the one his commander taught him: how to kill. “We caught one guy–he had a fold-up [radio] antenna. He gave us a name, but when we beat him he gave us a different name. We found maps in his pockets, and hashish. He tried to tell us he was looking for food for his mother. My commander said, ‘Stick around and I’ll teach you how to deal with these guys.’ He took the antenna and began to hit him with it. You could tell by the look in [the Chechen’s] eyes that he knew we were going to kill him. “We shot him. There were five of us who shot him. We dumped his body in the river. The river was full of bodies. Ours, too. Three of our guys washed up without heads.” Andrei says he knows that officially, Russian troops are supposed to turn all suspected rebels over to military procurators. But in practice, his unit literally took no prisoners. “Once they have a bruise, they’re already as good as dead,” Andrei says. “They know they won’t make it to the procurator’s office. You can see it in their eyes. They never tell us anything, but then again, we never ask. We do it out of spite, because if they can torture our soldiers, why shouldn’t we torture them?” “The easiest way is to heat your bayonet over charcoal, and when it’s red-hot, to put it on their bodies, or stab them slowly. You need to make sure they feel as much pain as possible. The main thing is to have them die slowly. You don’t want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death. They should get the full treatment. They should get what they deserve. On one hand it looks like an atrocity, but on the other hand, it’s easy to get used to. “I killed about nine people this way. I remember all of them”, says Andrei.

(warning! some scenes contain extreme physical abuse)

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“It’s much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow.” –Valery

Valery is a personnel officer, what in Soviet times would have been called a commissar. He’s a lieutenant colonel responsible for morale and discipline. He shouldn’t talk to reporters. But the night is dark, the beer from the roadside kiosk outside his army base is cold, and he has a lot on his mind. He checks documents, then launches into a diatribe. “In this war, the attitude toward the Chechens is much harsher. All of us are sick and tired of waging a war without results,” he says. “How long can you keep making a fuss over their national pride and traditions? The military has realized that Chechens cannot be re-educated. Fighting against Russians is in their blood. They have robbed, killed and stolen our cattle for all their lives. They simply don’t know how to do anything else. . . . “We shouldn’t have given them time to prepare for the war,” he continues. “We should have slaughtered all Chechens over 5 years old and sent all the children that could still be re-educated to reservations with barbed wire and guards at the corners. . . But where would you find teachers willing to sacrifice their lives to re-educate these wolf cubs? There are no such people. Therefore, it’s much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow.” Valery was in Chechnya in the early phase of the war, when he says there was little oversight from the high command and there were no pesky journalists.

“Now the press sets up a howl after the death of every Chechen. It has become impossible to work. We know very well that thousands of eyes are watching us closely. How are we expected to fight the bandits in such circumstances? “The solution, in fact, would have been very easy–the old methods used by Russian troops in the Caucasus in the 19th century. For the death of every soldier, an entire village was burned to ashes. For the death of every officer, two villages would be wiped out. This is the only way this war can be brought to a victorious end and this rogue nation conquered.”

French writer Alexandre Dumas recounted after a trip to Caucasus how Russian army soldiers invited him to go “hunting locals”.

Valery acknowledges that atrocities occur but says that, in effect, soldiers are carrying out a policy the government needs but is afraid to declare.

“For political reasons, it’s impossible to murder the entire adult population and send the children to reservations,” he says. “But sometimes, one can try to approximate the goal.”

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Mop-up operation captures abuse on teenage boy. During and after the war, all boys over 15 (of “fighting age”) were systematically taken to filtration camps.

Also, the parents of murdered girl picked up by Russian troops speak up

DOING THE JOB RIGHT

Russia has deployed a motley force of 100,000 in Chechnya. Among them are elite police commandos, known as OMON and SOBR, as well as enlisted Interior Ministry troops consisting of both conscripts and contract soldiers. Russia’s first war in Chechnya was largely–and badly–fought by conscripts. By law, all Russian men are supposed to serve for two years starting at age 18, and in the previous war many found themselves in the war zone before they knew how to fire their rifles. This war was supposed to be different, to be fought mostly by second-year conscripts and professional soldiers. But contract soldiers, while older, are not really professional. They are largely men who sign up for the money.

“I signed up because I have nothing else to do,” said one, who admitted that he had just split up with his wife and has been unable to find a regular job. “If things were normal here, I wouldn’t go, but the way things are, what other choice do I have?”

The elite police forces, while highly trained, also are not exactly combat soldiers. The OMON is largely schooled in riot and crowd control, SOBR in fighting organized crime. The police special forces tend to be older, and most have families. If they refuse an assignment in Chechnya, they face discipline or dishonor. So, many take the assignments and do whatever it takes to return home safely. To induce the contract soldiers to sign up, the Russian government offers hefty combat pay–800 rubles a day, about $28. At home, career soldiers and police earn only about 1,500 rubles, about $50, in an entire month. While the career soldiers and elite police forces face professional pressure to serve in Chechnya, contract soldiers are volunteers, viewed with suspicion by many of the other branches as little more than mercenaries.

“The worst thing is when a person goes to Chechnya to make money,” said a 34-year-old OMON officer. “A person who does that should really have his head examined by a psychiatrist, for this person clearly has a propensity for sadism.”

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FEARING ONLY FEAR

Most of the interviewed servicemen describe a corrosive atmosphere of fear and isolation in the war zone that was often relieved by acts of violence against Chechens, both fighters and civilians. Such fear was compounded by the difficulty of coordinating between Defense and Interior Ministry forces; soldiers reported frequent misunderstandings, including an unnerving number of casualties from “friendly fire.”

“You can’t imagine anything more horrible than the sight of your buddy, who was at your side a few minutes ago, blown to pieces, bits of his flesh steaming in the snow,” said one 19-year-old conscript. “Especially when it’s your own side that did it.”

As a result, many Russian units feel vulnerable and isolated on the battlefield. They aren’t sure that they can count on other units to keep them supplied and safe. One theme repeated by many is that in the war zone, each unit’s commander was left to set his own standards. “I was lucky I wound up in a good regiment that wasn’t a madhouse, with a normal commander,” said the 35-year-old soldier. “Everything depends on the commander.” Moreover, most of the servicemen had been told that the Chechens had a special animosity for their particular unit–that they would suffer excruciating torture at Chechen hands if they had the misfortune to be captured. True or not, those stories induced many Russian servicemen to assume the worst about any Chechen they met–man, woman, young, old. “Our commander told us all the time, ‘There’s no such thing as a Chechen civilian,’ ” a conscript said. Finally, the servicemen said they resort to atrocities because the authorities–both the political leadership and the judicial system–leave them unprotected.

“Bespredel emerges when soldiers know that the state is too far away or too little interested in supporting or controlling servicemen,” said one 25-year-old police commando. “And then everyone starts acting on his own, making his own decisions on the spot. Everyone is responsible for his own life. How decently he does that depends on his individual experiences, both good and bad, and on his level of cynicism.”

Russian soldier in Chechnya

Harsh life: Drunkenness, desertion and brutality were everyday fare for Russian troops in Chechnya

In his book, a Russian veteran describes the abuse suffered by young soldiers in the Russian army, and also showcases the chaos and lack of organization withing the system One Soldier’s War in Chechnya.

Daily Mail related article here “My descent into Hell”

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FIGHTING “TOTAL WAR”

The Soviet Union signed the Geneva Conventions after the end of World War II. Officially, that means that Russia’s armed forces are obligated to abide by the principles of the accord: that civilians and combatants who have surrendered should be treated humanely and that violence of any sort or execution of war prisoners is forbidden. The Russian armed forces have a few cultural features that make wartime atrocities more likely than in Western armies. “Russians come from a tradition that all war is ‘total war,’ said Jacob Kipp, professor at the University of Kansas and an expert on the Russian army. “After you’ve made the decision that it’s right to start a war, there isn’t any notion that there can and should be limits on how you conduct the war.” Second, the Soviet army tolerated a higher level of casualties than Western armies, a mind-set that continues. Some servicemen said they were convinced that their commanders considered them expendable.

“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 conscript is nothing in the army. It’s like a chain–the generals don’t value our lives, so we don’t value the lives of the Chechens.”

***

Third, the Russian public has been in favor of the war. *Before the beginning of second Chechen war, the public was resentful of another conflict. The Russian apartment bombings and the FSB dig out of murdered Russian soldiers tapes have changed the general opinion in favor of war* In such a climate, the subject of atrocities committed by the Russian side is all but taboo in Russian society. Finally, the Russian armed forces–unlike Western armies–have no effective system of accountability for wartime conduct. Not only do the authorities not make a serious effort to investigate war zone misconduct, but they also go further. The 23-year-old army officer recounted how investigators from the military procurator’s office and the Federal Security Service, or FSB, helped his unit cover up war crimes such as the summary execution of detainees.

“The FSB officers would always write in their reports: ‘Killed in cross-fire,’ ” he said. “They would never give away our soldiers. There’s always been mutual understanding. It’s the same as if your son kills a bandit–would you go and report him to the police? Of course not. The same with the FSB. They were on our side. They understood us and supported us.”

The military procurator’s office, which operates today much as it did in Soviet times, tends to focus on misconduct within the ranks–offenses such as hazing and selling service weapons–not the treatment of civilians and enemy fighters. The chief spokesman for the general procurator’s office, Leonid Troshin, said he couldn’t say how many of the servicemen have been charged with serious crimes or crimes against civilians, or whether any of them had been convicted.

“The number of crimes committed by [rebel] fighters by far surpasses the number of crimes committed by Russian servicemen,” Troshin said. “This is exactly what we have been trying to prove.”

” There are many people even among the military who say this must end,” Aslakhanov said. “But it is like dirty laundry that they don’t want to air in public.” Russian servicemen warn that the large amount of bespredel on the Russian side is not only harming Chechens, it’s also creating a new generation of troubled Russian men with deep psychological problems, many of whom are violent. Many of the returning servicemen said they were experiencing symptoms such as nightmares and an inability to control their anger. Many said they or their comrades were drinking heavily.

Excerpts from Emily Gillian’s book “Terror in Chechnya: Russia and the tragedy of civilians in war”

 Chernokozovo detention center – the infamous “filtration camps”

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Russian journalist Andrei Babitski (detained for 2 weeks at Chernokozovo for filming the war in Grozny “without authorization”): “In my view, it differed very little from a Nazi or Stalinist concentration camp”

The filtration point marked the creation of Russia’s own “spaces of exception” in its war. Originally established on the basis of the Ministry of the Interior Directive No. 247 of 1994, the unofficial detention points had no legal basis in Russian law. As the Russian government continued to argue that what was taking place in Chechnya was not an internal armed conflict but an “antiterrorist operation”, it was nevertheless bound by the legal provisions of the Russian Criminal Code and the Russian Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – all of which banned arbitrary detention and torture.

“Filtration” had two formal objectives. The first was to filter out the suspected fighters from civilians. It was therefore inevitable and even expected that civilians would be part of this process. The second objective was to filter the fighters out in order to transfer them to pre-trial detention centers. Far ever-increasing number of civilians were also swept up in this arbitrary process – men and women. The filtration points were never subject to normal due process between 1999 and 2005, and the Russian armed forces defied any attempt to regulate their existence. As one member of the Russian Special Forces confessed: “The only way to struggle against lawlessness is with lawless ways”.

The fundamental issue, however tested not only with the existence of the filtration points, but with the treatment of those detained within them. Allegations of torture and of cruel and inhumane treatment at the pre-trial detention center Chernolcozovo first reached the international news circuit via an article in french newspaper Le Monde on February 4, 2000. While on the border of lngushetia at checkpoint – Sophie Shihab, a French journalist, was passed a letter by a Chechen. Allegedly written by a Russian guard serving at Chernokozovo, where an estimated 750 detainees were being kept, the letter explained:

“I cannot describe the exotic methods being used to break the human spirit, turning a human into an animal. I finish writing this trifle, but if on this earth there is some force, help these people. l am disappointed in my government, its lies, cunning and duplicity.”

Minute 35:36 – bodies of torture victims, wounds described in detail

The facts outlined in the appeal are impossible to dispute – as they were fully supported by other testimonies, including that of the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Babitki, who was detained in Chernokozovo from January 16 to February 2, and of tortured detainees who crossed the border into lngushetia in the middle of February. It later grew clear that Chernokozovo had once been a correctional facility, and although in a state of disrepair – it was being used, according to government sources, as a “reception and identification center” by Russian troops at the time of the second war. It is impossible to determine which divisions served in the facility and perpetrated the abuse. Fearing identification and possible future retribution, Russian soldiers in Chechnya frequently wore camouflage uniforms with no division patches or pins that could identify them. However, six interviewees testified that the Rostov UMUN supplied the guards and commanded the facility during this period before it was handed back to the Ministry of justice in February.

One detainee recalled: “They took us to the camp Chernokozovo. About 50 soldiers in camouflage uniform, in masks and with truncheons in their hands met us. They quickly dispersed to form a corridor which they forced us to go through. As soon as we stepped into line, blows from the truncheons started falling on our backs, heads and other parts of the body. . . It turns out that on this first day I had several broken ribs. Then they took us into a separate space and ordered us to undress. The corporal punishment continued. They beat all of us; some be- cause they screamed out, others for silently tolerating the blows.” The human corridor cynically framed what awaited the detainees inside Chernokozovo. Prepared to inflict severe pain and suffering to obtain in- formation or forced confessions. the Russian troops’ desire for signed confessions appeared important. But not necessarily paramount.

“They tried to make me sign confessions that we were wahhabis, fighters, or that we were supporting the fighters. I did not sign,” recalls one detainee. “They used electric shock to make me sign. but I did not do it. I was forced to put my back to the wall. . . There were two cables. and they held the cables to my body. . . They splashed water in my face. Two or three times during the interrogation, they electrocuted me.”

The rituals included forcing detainees to crawl on the ground:

“They ordered me to crawl along the corridor, which was twenty meters long. I tried to crawl and one of the soldiers was kicking me in the kidney and another in the shoulder.’They would make us say ‘Comrade Colonel. let me crawl to you.’ . . After that, they beat us. They made us say thank you.”

Genital beatings or electroshock was inflicted to force confessions. But testimonies also suggest an intent to inflict irrevocable damage to reproductive organs: “You will leave here half a man. . . Do you want to have children? “

“It was February, late at night. I was lying on the floor, two guards held my legs while another kicked me in the testicles. . . They would beat me unconscious and wait until I came round, woken up and they would come in and beat me again.”

Two witnesses spoke of being physically branded at Chernokozovo. The threat of marking foreheads with green iodine was first heard of in Novye Aldi. Victims detained during the sweep in the village of Shami Iurt in February we’re taken to Tolstoi-Iurt. During transportation, a Russian soldier warned Dashaev and another man named Viskhanm that if their noses were marked in red, they were being branded for summary execution. He cautioned that it would be better if they were covered in green iodine. But both Dashaev and Viskhan were later covered in green iodine and released. The full extent of this practice remains unclear. The Russian government rejected the reports of torture at Chernokozovo. The deputy minister of justice, Colonel General Yuri Kalinin, concluded: “The accusation that the detained are being tortured and beaten is just sheer lies and slander.” Valerii Kraev, first deputy head of the Ministry of ]ustice’s Corrections Department, said: “All the isolators existing in Chechnya operate in complete observance of all the international conventions.”

Sophie Shihab talks about the Chernokozovo letter (at 31:00)

“The screams of men who have been broken in every conceivable way”

In the video below, Russian journalist Babitski describes his experience at Chernokozovo filtration camp. Also contains testimony of a detainee of the Temporary Police Prison in Grozny (later deemed illegal)

Scrawlings found on the walls of the cellars “Where am I? What is happening to me? Am I alive or not? March 27 2006”

“Everything passes. This too will pass”

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Excerpts from Emily Gillian’s book “Terror in Chechnya”

Novye Aldi massacre

Local civilians had begun to flee Novye Aldi on the southern outskirts of Grozny once the bombing of the capital began on September 22, 1999. News of long lines of IUPs waiting to enter neighboring Ingushetia, the closure of checkpoint”Kazkaz 1,”and the tragic firing on a Red Cross convoy on October 29 however, convinced many to stay. In the same way that the civilians of Gekhi and Staraia Sunzha sought to protect their communities from both sides of the conflict, about one hundred locals approached the Russian position on February 3. Under the protection of a white flag, they sought to assure the Russian troops that the separatist forces had left the village.” As they approached the Russian position, the locals were fired upon. A Russian civilian from neighboring Chernorech’e was shot. The crowd was ordered to lie face down on the ground. The young man died before the crowd was permitted to stand up. The locals nevertheless met with Colonel Lulcashev, commander of the 15th Motor Rifle Regiment. They asked him to stop the strikes and the dropping of cluster bombs, insisting that there were no Chechen fighters in the village. “We explained that there were no fighters in the town, that it was safe to go in. ‘If you don’t take our word for it,’ we said, ‘you can detain us as hostages; or we tan walk in front of you as human shields.” Colonel Lukashev promised to stop the bombing. “He said he would stop the artillery,” recalled Aset Chadaeva, a pediatric nurse, “but not the bombs-orders to drop bombs were always given the clay before”.

The bombing ceased the next day. On February 4. Families began to emerge from their cellars, anxious to return home, hopeful that the bombing had ceased. On the evening of February 4, 2000, poorly dressed and exhausted Russian conscript soldiers entered Novye Aldi, walking around the streets in groups of five and ten, checking passports, they warned the civilian population of a sweep operation planned for the following clay. “We talked to them, offered them food. whatever there was . . . they warned us that the ‘bloodhounds’ would be sent in later,” recalled Marina Ismailova. “ Some soldiers were rude, others polite. But there were no killings or violence.“

Aset Chadaeva recalled the soldiers telling her: “Don’t stay inside.” “Don’t stay in the basement’ one of them said to me, ‘they will unleash the dogs on you.’’ “Don’t stay in your cellars, contract soldiers will come and throw grenades in,” Raisa Soltalthanoya, a 39-year-old cook, remembered the soldiers saying.” Novye Aldi was surrounded by armored personnel carriers (APCs) on the morning of February 5. Pollution from the burning factories of the surrounding Grozny chemical plant and burning oil wells blackened the sky.

That morning, a resident recalled, “two soldiers were running down the road shouting warnings that contract soldiers were coming. They shouted: If you have fighters, hide them. If you have young women, hide them or they will be raped.” I then saw contract soldiers coming with bandanas on their heads.” Snipers surrounded the village. and an estimated 100 soldiers entered Novye Aldi around 9 am. Some were privately contracted soldiers, while others were members of the MVD Special Forces and St. Petersburg and Ryzan OMUN forces. According to one witness testimony, the soldiers told him that they were from the 2-15th Motorized Rifle Regiment, 6st Company.

It appears that the younger conscript soldiers were responsible For cordoning off the area, and the Special Forces and contract soldiers conducted the sweep. They walked around in groups of seven to ten. Chadaeva recalled that two of the men in the groups were always well dressed and clean shaven; some of the men were in uniform and others were in civilian clothes. “They looked like official men. FSB. . . The others wore camouflage pants, some with white T-shirts, others with tattoos and no shirts, even in that cold weather. One had a fur hat with a fox tail. They had no military identification or insignias.”

Chadaeva further recalled, “My father and I went out into the street and saw the soldiers setting houses on fire. Our neighbor was repairing the roof of his house and a Russian soldier took a gun and wanted to fire at him. I shouted, ‘Don’t shoot. He is deaf!’ . . . The first words we heard from them when they saw us were “Mark their foreheads with green iodine so that we’ll have a better target to aim at.”

One of the soldiers pointed a gun at Chadaeva’s chest and shoved her against a metal gate. The officer in charge told the soldier “to leave me alone,” she recalled. “He [the officer] told me to stay close to him and shut my mouth. And then he asked me how many people there were in Aldi. ‘Thousands,’ I say. ‘What?’ he says.What are you doing, bitch? Why don’t you get out of here?’ He was trying to avoid eye contact. He was shaking. He told Chadaeva: “We have orders not to let a mouse escape from here.”

The officer allowed Chadaeva to gather her neighbors on the corner of Chetvertoi Almaznyi lane and Kamskaia Street for a passport check. She urged the residents of her street and the intersecting lanes to gather together on the corner. “I thought that if they [the Russian troops] saw that there were children, all of us together.” she recalled, “then perhaps they wouldn’t do anything to us. ” The soldiers were pushing people into their homes, throwing grenades into basements full of civilians, and setting houses alight with people inside.

Read the outcome of the Novye Aldi mopping-up (zachistka) operation here

Documentary shot by Natalya Estemirova, Russian human rights activists who was murdered in 2009 in Grozny

Chechnya atrocities Russia war crimes chechen women North Caucasus people Chechnya atrocities Russia war crimes chechen women North Caucasus conflict Chechnya atrocities Russia war crimes chechen men victim North Caucasus people

Atrocities in Chechnya Breed Despair, Anger

(the following are excerpts; read full article here http://articles.latimes.com/1995-02-19/news/mn-33895_1_russian-soldiers)

February 19, 1995 AVTORI, Russia — For no particular crime, Russian soldiers beat Uvayes Batalov every day for nearly a month. They starved him, jolted him with electricity and locked him for days with other prisoners in a specially overheated railroad car with little water. “The guards came to the door and said, ‘Do you want some fresh air?’ ” recalled Batalov, a 26-year-old Chechen construction worker who was unarmed at the time of his arrest. “We said, ‘We do, yes!’ So they came in and beat us with clubs. Later they came back. They said, ‘How about some fresh air?’ We said, ‘No, no!’ But they came in and beat us anyway.”

“The guards came to the door and said, ‘Do you want some fresh air?’ ” recalled Batalov, a 26-year-old Chechen construction worker who was unarmed at the time of his arrest. “We said, ‘We do, yes!’ So they came in and beat us with clubs. Later they came back. They said, ‘How about some fresh air?’ We said, ‘No, no!’ But they came in and beat us anyway.”

Teenage army conscripts pile onto tanks in groups of 10 or more and race through Grozny’s streets, shouting drunken obscenities at passersby and shooting wildly.

“The city is swimming in alcohol,” said Boris Polovinkin, a Moscow police captain brought to Grozny to help restore order.

“There’s nothing to feed the troops with,” he said in an interview. “So the government riles them and turns them loose, (saying,) ‘Go, take what you want.’ ”

Human rights monitors say many prisoners are routinely tortured in an effort to extract confessions, while others are not questioned at all but apparently beaten out of vengeance.

“The Russian army has not captured a single Chechen fighter. They’ve only captured civilians,” said Anatoly Y. Shabad, a member of the Russian Parliament who spent a week in Chechnya documenting cases like Batalov’s.

Batalov and his father were freed Jan. 26 in a prisoner exchange–48 Chechen civilians for 47 Russian paratroopers.

“When those paratroopers walked past us and saw the shape we were in, there were tears in their eyes,” Batalov said. “Before, I was a peaceful citizen, but now I’m going to become a moujahedeen. As long as that’s what they called me, let it come true.”

Read full article here http://articles.latimes.com/1995-02-19/news/mn-33895_1_russian-soldiers

Chechen Refugees Describe Atrocities by Russian Troops

Washington Post – June 29, 2002

NAZRAN, Russia — Kuslum Savnykaevna has no intention of hearing the Russian government’s wish that she abandon the converted car repair shop where she and her five children live in Ingushetia and return to their former home in neighboring Chechnya. And if she ever had any doubt that they must remain refugees in this impoverished region in southern Russia, she said, what she witnessed in the last month erased it. In mid-May, Savnykaevna went to visit her parents in Mesker Yurt, a village of roughly 2,000 about seven miles east of Grozny. She had not been there long when Russian troops suddenly surrounded and closed off the village to conduct a zachistka, or cleansing operation, that lasted three weeks. She said she saw some of the victims of the operation after their relatives carried them back from a field the soldiers had occupied at the edge of the village: a man whose eye was gouged out; another whose fingers were cut off; a third whose back had been sliced in rows with the sharp edge of broken glass, then doused with alcohol and set afire, according to his relatives. Her brothers and nephews were spared, she said, only because her family paid the soldiers a $400 bribe not to hurt them. Russia’s military commander in Chechnya, Col. Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi, told the Defense Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda earlier this month that the mop-up operation was conducted properly and found a large cache of weapons and evidence of a school for rebel snipers. “Mesker Yurt is a pro-bandit village. A group of at least 50 fighters was active here,” he said. A Russian colonel in Grozny told Russian Tass, the semi-official news agency, that soldiers killed 14 rebels who put up armed resistance during the zachistka.

In interviews last week, residents and visitors who were trapped in Mesker Yurt described what took place in the 21 days that the village was shut off from the outside world.

The trouble in Mesker Yurt started on May 18 when a group of men abducted a 36-year-old Chechen named Sinbarigov, who some villagers said worked for Russia’s Federal Security Service. The next day, his head was found on a stick next to the village administration building, according to Memorial. The Chechen rebels’ Web site said the man was executed because he had helped the Russian authorities. The following day, Russian troops circled the village and blocked the roads with armored vehicles. Savnykaevna, the Ingushetia refugee, said residents decided their only defense was to send every male resident from the ages of 13 to 35 to the red brick mosque in the center of the village. She said 200 to 300 men fled there. She and the women of the village surrounded it, trading places when they grew tired of standing in front of the soldiers’ pointed guns. After three days, she said, the men went back to their houses, because the soldiers threatened to blow up the mosque. “Then on the fourth day, after lunch, they started arresting, killing, torturing,” she said. More than a dozen soldiers rushed into her parents’ house, she said, and slipped black masks over the heads of her three brother and her nephew. They demanded 12,000 rubles — about $400 — to let them go, she said. Other men were dragged off to the field where the soldiers had camped and were tortured, villagers said. When the streets were clear of soldiers, Savnykaevna said, she visited the homes of her parents’ neighbors. Three brothers from one family were arrested, she said. “They brought back only a bag with their bones inside,” she said.

Chechnya Russia war crimes atrocities chechen people victims remains North Caucasus

A worker from the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, who visited the village, identified the brothers as Apti, Adam and Abu Didishev. In another house, Savnykaevna said, two brothers lay in bed, one with an eye plucked out, the other with four fingers of one hand missing. She said his parents told her both had been tortured with electricity, leaving dark marks on their faces and arms. She said she saw soldiers beating the bare feet of one man with an iron pipe while the man’s legs dangled outside the opening of a tank. Later, when she visited his home, she said his relatives told her the soldiers had sliced his back with broken glass, rubbed salt in his wounds, then doused his back with alcohol and burned him. The family of Said Abubakarov, 19, found his shirt with his fingers in the pocket, according to the account provided to the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.

Word leaked to Moscow, where angry Chechens filled the office of Aslakhanov, the Duma deputy. He flew to Ingushetia and drove to Mesker Yurt on June 9, the day before the Russian troops left. With him was a civilian prosecutor and military prosecutor assigned to Chechnya. At the village, he said, he found representatives of numerous Russian military and law enforcement agencies. They refused to let them enter the village, he said, telling him it was too dangerous. Asmalika Ejieva, 41, said the soldiers told the villagers to show up at the field at 8 the next morning and their relatives would be released.

The next morning, the field was deserted, she said. In freshly dug pits, she said, they found parts of bodies that appeared to have been blown up with explosives. Ejieva said people are terrified that if they describe the horror, they will be killed. Some are leaving for the relative safety of Ingushetia, she said, because the Russians left with a promise: In 10 days, they would come back.

chechnya russia war chechen men russian soldiers north caucasus people chechen rebels

Bodies left partially unburied so that families would recognize them

Bodies left partially unburied so that families can recognize them

Bodies left partially unburied so that families would recognize them

North Caucasus Russia Chechnya war crimes atrocities russian soldiers chechen men Caucasus people rebelsNorth Caucasus Russia Chechnya war crimes atrocities russian soldiers chechen rebels Caucasus people insurgency chechnya russia war chechen men north caucasus chechen rebels

North Caucasus Russia Chechnya war crimes atrocities russian soldiers chechen men rebels Caucasus people

Doctor Khassan Baiev, “The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire” extract from his book about the Chechen wars

Khassan Baiev chechen doctor north caucasus chechnya rebels war

“Dozens of charred corpses of women and children lay in the courtyard of the mosque, which had been destroyed. The first thing my eye fell on was the burned body of a baby, lying in fetal position… A wild-eyed woman emerged from a burned-out house holding a dead baby. Trucks with bodies piled in the back rolled through the streets on the way to the cemetery. While treating the wounded, I heard stories of young men – gagged and trussed up – dragged with chains behind personnel carriers. I heard of Russian aviators who threw Chechen prisoners, screaming, out their helicopters.

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Chechen men dragged behind personnel carriers.

chechnya-russia-war-chechen-victims-caucasus-people-chechen-rebels North Caucasus insurgency

There were rapes, but it was hard to know how many because women were too ashamed to report them. One girl was raped in front of her father. I heard of one case in which the mercenaries grabbed a newborn baby, threw it among each other like a ball, then shot it dead in the air. Leaving the village for the hospital in Grozny, I passed a Russian armored personnel carrier with the word SAMASHKI written on its side in bold, black letters. I looked in my rearview mirror and to my horror saw a human skull mounted on the front of the vehicle. The bones were white; someone must have boiled the skull to remove the flesh.”

*Rapes on both men and women were common, however they are under-reported as “rape” is a big taboo in Chechen society and neither men nor women would admit it*

Ruslan Gelayev, Chechen commander:It is hard to understand where the people are coming from who are capable of digging in a live human body for hours when conducting tortures. We are discovering bodies with insides torn out, with eyes plucked out, with heads scalped, with tongues cut off – and often all of these are traces of tortures are left on one dead body. I will never forget a tin bucket found where Russians were staying. There was a boiled human head in it. A lot of things I just can’t say.

Grozny, Chechnya. January 10, 1995. Children taking shelter in a basement fall victims to bombardments

chechnya russia war chechen children north caucasus chechen rebels

chechnya russia war chechen children victims caucasus wars chechen rebels

chechnya russia war chechen children victims north caucasus people chechen rebels

chechnya russia war chechen girl victims north caucasus chechen rebels

chechnya russia war chechen victims north caucasus people chechen rebels

January 2001 – Civilians of Novye Atagi after a Russian sweep operation (with visible signs of severe torture). Other Novye Atagi men “disappeared” and were never found

Children victims after a military assault

WARNING! EXTREMELY GRAPHIC! Watch at your own risk

“Chechnya: The Final Solution”

An exhibition of 300 pictures with name of ”Chechnya: The Final Solution” took place in Poland, Czech republic and Denmark in 2007. The photos displayed wounded, tortured and killed civilians in pictures taken by various war photographers. The organizers tried to hold the exhibit at the European Parliament in Brussels last year but officials prevented it from appearing after declaring that some of the pictures were “repulsive.” That is the exactly the point – it is repulsive. But then again they did not bother with this repulsive reality for 20 years, why would they bother now?

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War crimes in Chechnya