What the Russians are doing in Chechnya

2004-10-01

Richard Moore

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From: "MER - Mid-East Realities - MiddleEast.Org" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Chechnya Realities
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 14:51:17 -0400

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Terrible collective torture and killings in
Chechnya for years led to lastest Massacre


"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."
-- Russian soldier

"The Russian war in Chechnya has left 180,000 civilians dead,
17 percent of the population and twice as many homeless.
Thousands of innocent people kidnapped by Russian soldiers
disappeared without a trace. Some were ransomed to their
families, alive and dead. Some were found in mass graves,
disfigured by horrible torture... How can anyone then be
surprised that our youth - a brother whose sister was raped, a
son whose father was tortured to death - do not heed our
sermons of moderation, and join the ranks of desperate suicide
avengers?"
--Akhmed Zakayev
Exiled deputy prime minister of the Chechen Republic


"The war in Chechyna - it was like nothing I had ever seen
before.  In terms of the scale of violence, fear and horror,
it left anything in my experience so far behind as to make it
almost insignificant.  You can grade conflicts according to
intensity if you desire: low, medium and high. Chechnya blew
the bell off the end of the gauge, and revealed an extreme of
war to me that I had no conception of.  Afterwards my
understanding of conflict was never quite the same again.  It
was indeed a glimpse from the edge of hell."
 -- Anthony Loyd

"The Russians have managed to defuse Western criticism by
designating the conflict an 'anti-terrorist operation.'  They
have depicted the Chechen people as bloodthirsty terrorists
who would impose Islamic law on other Caucasian republics.
Today even educated Muscovites commonly say there is nothing
wrong with killing Chechen non-combatants, even babies."
                                  -- Washington Post


MER - Mid-East Realities - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 8
Sept: What happened in Beslan in the Russian state bordering
Chechnya a few days ago, like what happened on 9/11 in the
United States, wasn't a single event happening out of the blue
on a single date.   It all started a long time ago, grew in
intensity, and exploded in an orgy of bloodshed, death,
destruction, misery, and recriminations.  

Murdering and terrorizing is learned behavior growing from
imbedded hatreds and souls warped by horrors singed with
seething emotional and psychological pain.   Similiar
realities have taken hold in Palestine and in Kashmir -- all
places where unjust from-the-start historical decisions were
taken years ago leading to generations of escalating conflict
and to brutal blood-curdling supression of popular yearnings
for freedom and independence. Those who hold power
all-too-often are more desperate to cover-up what they and
theirs have done in the past that has lead to the latest
outrages than to take the difficult decisions required to
resolve the embittered conflicts that have resulted.  

Not that long ago the senior political and military leaders in
Washington and Russia manuevered the 'balance of nuclear
terror' prepared to bring horrible death and destruction to
tens of millions if their political and strategic calculations
went astray.   These same groups and parties at various times
and in various ways visited terrible suffering in the century
now past on the peoples of Europe, Asia, parts of Africa and
Latin America and the Middle East. 

And now we have all been pushed into this new era of maddening
insurgent uprisings and repressions, and the 'terrorism'
inherent to such mismatched conflicts.  It is a new era that
has itself emerged from that earlier era on the terrible
nuclear precipice, one which in fact may be returning again in
another even more frightening form.

This look at the wreching almost indescribably brutal Russian
war in Chechnya to block Chechnyan independence must be
understood to be the crucible in which the horrifying events
of recent days were brewed.  

It is a genocidal war Vladimir Putin is personally responsible
for more than any other.  But then neither the U.S. nor the
European powers nor the U.N. for that matter have had the
vision, the determination, and the courage to step in.   And
thus the fingers of responsibility and blame should be
pointing in many simultaneous directions at this time.        
 MER

Torture and rape stalk the
streets of Chechnya


Polish writer Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich visited the
region where she witnessed the brutal work done
by Russia's soldiers in their fight against separatists


The Observer - UK - Sunday October 27, 2002:    At 5am on 14
April 2002, an armoured vehicle moved slowly down Soviet
Street. A young brown-haired man, covered in blood, his hands
and feet bound, stood onboard. The vehicle stopped and the man
was pushed off and brought over to a nearby chain-link fence.
The car took off and there was a loud bang. The force of the
explosion, caused either by a grenade or dynamite, sent the
man's head flying into the neighbouring street, called Lenin's
Commandments. 'It was difficult to photograph the moment,
though I have grown somewhat accustomed to this,' says a
petite greying Chechen woman, who has spent years documenting
what Russia calls its 'anti-terrorism campaign'.

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

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

Meanwhile, the more traditional methods endure. On 9 September
the bodies of six men from Krasnostepnovskoye were found,
naked, with plastic bags wrapped around their heads. In June,
a ditch containing 50 mutilated bodies was discovered near the
Russian army post in Chankala. The corpses were missing eyes,
ears, limbs and genitals. Since February, mass graves have
been found near Grozny, Chechen Yurt, Alkhan-Kala and Argun.

For nearly 10 years, since the beginning of the first war in
December 1994, the grey-haired woman has been patrolling with
her camera. She shows the gruesome images strewn on her table
as if they were relics, or photographs from a family album.
She runs her hand over the contours of an actual cracked
skull, one of about a dozen found in February between Meskyer
Yurt and Chechen Yurt.

'The remains were unearthed not long after they died,' she
says. 'The tissue was still in good shape. The torn pieces of
flesh suggest that the victims were attacked by dogs. It's
difficult to know. People don't want to talk. They are scared
that they will be next.'

The Society for Russian-Chechen Relations, in collaboration
with Human Rights Watch, reports that in the span of a month
between 15 July and 15 August this year, 59 civilians were
shot dead, 64 were abducted, 168 were seriously wounded and
298 were tortured. Many men simply disappeared after being
detained by Russian soldiers or security police; others were
shot outright. During an operation in Chechen Aul between 21
May and 11 June, 22 men were killed. The majority were aged 20
to 26; two were 15.

Since Chechen Aul is considered hostile territory, it has
undergone 20 such 'mopping-up operations' this year. Usually
the raids are conducted by federal armed forces (particularly
OMON, the police special forces, and Spetsnaz, its army
equivalent) and occur at any time of day or night. Typically a
village will be encircled by tanks, armoured vehicles and army
trucks, one of which, known as the purification car, is
designated for torture. According to Human Rights Watch in New
York, torture is a preferred method of gathering intelligence.
Cut off and isolated, Russian troops' best hope of discovering
guerrilla activity is by grabbing citizens, almost at random,
and coercing from them whatever information they might have.

In its most benign form, such raids are limited to theft of
personal property - from cars, refrigerators and television
sets to jewellery, clothes, pots and pans, and, of course,
money. But they frequently turn ugly. 'They arrived on 23
August at 5am,' says Zuhra from Enikaloi. 'There were about
100 army vehicles, all packed with soldiers. We ran out to
meet them with our documents. God forbid you encounter an
impatient 'federal'. If you do, then in the best-case scenario
you may be tortured or shot dead on the spot. In the worst
case, they take you away. About 20 of them, armed to the teeth
and wearing masks, climbed into the yard and the house. As
always, they were dirty, unshaven and reeking of vodka. They
cursed horribly. They shot at our feet. They took my
identification papers and started to shred them. I had bought
them for 500 roubles. They cost me everything I had. They went
to our neighbours' house, the Magomedova family. We heard
shots and the screams of 15-year-old Aminat, the sister of
Ahmed and Aslanbek. "Let her be!" screamed one of the
brothers, "Kill us instead!". Then we heard more shots.
Through the window we saw a half-dressed OMON commander lying
on top of Aminat. She was covered in blood from the bullet
wounds. Another soldier shouted, "Hurry up, Kolya, while she's
still warm".'

Sometimes those who survive wish they were dead, as in
Zernovodsk this summer, when townspeople say they were chased
on to a field and made to watch women being raped. When their
men tried to defend them, 68 of them were handcuffed to an
armoured truck and raped too. After this episode, 45 of them
joined the guerrillas in the mountains. One older man, Nurdi
Dayeyev, who was nearly blind, had nails driven through his
hands and feet because it was suspected that he was in contact
with the fighters. When relatives later retrieved his remains,
he was missing a hand. The relatives of another villager,
Aldan Manayev, picked up a torso but no head. The families
were forced to sign declarations that Dayeyev and Manayev had
blown themselves up.

Usually groups of people simply disappear. Shortly thereafter
their families begin feverish searches in all the army
headquarters and watch posts. If they can track down a missing
family member, they might be able to buy him or her back. The
going rate for a live person is in the thousands of dollars.
For a dead body, the price is not much lower. If they cannot
find the person, family members mail letters to Putin
(Russia's president) and file petitions with social
organisations and rights groups. They post photographs with
the caption missing.

And they wait. Most of the abductees never return and the
trail grows cold.

Those who do return are often crippled, with bruised kidneys
and lungs, damaged hearing or eyesight and broken bones. It is
almost certain they will never have children.

The Russians do not deny that these things happen. Indeed, an
official order has been issued banning such abuses.

But what most journalistic accounts from the region overlook
is the savagery committed by the other side. Anyone considered
a 'collaborator' by the guerrillas is subject to abduction for
ransom or summary execution. This summer a remote-controlled
mine, presumably intended for a Russian military convoy,
exploded at a bus stop in the Chechen capital of Grozny,
killing 11 civilians, including two children.

Analysts say that guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov, once
regarded as comparatively secular, has succeeded in
consolidating his often fractious forces by welcoming back
into his command several rebel commanders regarded as radical
Islamists. New rebel videotapes play down nationalist imagery
in favour of Islamist symbols.

It all suggests that the brutality of the Russians has also
resulted in a growing radicalisation of their opponents.

· Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich, a Polish reporter, filed this
dispatch for <http://www.newsweek.com/>Newsweek's
Polish-language edition.

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