WARNING: This post, a translation from the website of the Russian human rights organization Memorial, deals with gruesome acts of violence in the war-torn breakaway republic of Chechnya. Following the text is a series of explicit photographs of civilian casualties resulting from a Russian “anti-terrorist” campaign. The photos are very disturbing and all readers are advised to exercise caution in deciding the click the jump and view the entire post. You can read the text without seeing the photographs by scrolling carefully and stopping where the text ends and the photos are marked to begin.
This translation has been prepared by LR staff. As always, corrections are welcome and encouraged.
Hat tip: Reader “Robert.”
Lethal Garlic: More “accidental” fatalities in Ingushetia
February 15, 2010
On February 11-12, 2010, in a forest on the border of Ingushetia and Chechnya, near the Ingush villages of Arshty and Datta, a special military operation was conducted by Russian forces. The government reported on the destruction of a large detachment of rebel fighters and denied that any civilian casualties had occurred. However, on February 12th we began receiving reports that there had in fact been civilians killed, and the next day we visited Arshty. The following day we visited the Achkoi-Martan district in Chechnya. Working with representatives of Human Rights Watch, we interviewed dozens of witnesses. As a result, we can confidently assert that in the region where the operation was carried out were a large number of civilian residents and at least four of them were killed.
The assault carried out by federal forces began with a missile barrage in the early morning hours on February 11th. It continued throughout the day, ceased with the onset of darkness and then resumed the next day at dawn. Federal forces initially reported that the cadre of rebel fighters numbered 15-25, and it was reported that from half to nearly all of them had been killed. The President of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, visited the area on February 12th and claimed that 18 rebels had been killed. A list of various wanted figures was given by Ingushetia’s Prosecutor Yury Turygin as having been killed in the attack.
But we learned on February 12th that among those killed were also civilians who had been in the nearby woods gathering wild garlic, and the reports we received were confirmed by the president’s press secretary in an interview with Echo of Moscow radio, where he stated: “During the course of the special operation about 70 local residents were evacuated from the woods where they had been collecting wild garlic, but unfortunately four of them came under fire and were killed.” The president did not include these victims with the 18 persons killed in the raid. [Story reported in English by RIA Novosti on February 13th here.]
To see for ourselves, Memorial staff left for Arshty on the afternoon of February 13th. The villagers confirmed that there had been civilian casualties, including children. On the south-eastern outskirts of Arshty Memorial was shown the bodies of seven adults, six wrapped in sleeping bags, perhaps to identify the remains of militant fighters.
Representatives of Memorial and Human Rights Watch interviewed several dozen witnesses, including relatives of the victims and those who had miraculously survived the onslaught. In doing so, we managed to clarify the circumstances of the civilian casualties and learn why the civilians were in the area of the attack when it occurred.
On February 10th and 11th a large group of local residents (numbering about 200) left the village aboard buses and trucks to collect wild garlic in the surrounding forest. They had obtained in advance written permission from the local government to make this trip for this purpose. Our representatives viewed this document on the official letterhead of the district administration.
On February 11th, according to witness Adlan Mutayev, four individuals (Shamil Katev, age 19; Movsar Tataevym, age 22; Arbi Mutayev, age 20; and his brother Adlan, age 18) came under automatic weapons fire as they exited the forest with bags full of wild garlic. Shamil and Movsar were wounded, while the two brothers fled. Wounded in the leg, Adlan concealed himself in a ditch and when the Russian forces approached, he was not noticed. He spent two days hiding out in the forest until he was finally rescued by local residents, having contracted frostbite. Arbi also attempted to hide, but was apprehended by Russian forces, heavily armed men of Slavic appearance wearing camouflage uniforms. The brought him back to the place where his two comrades were lying wounded and ordered him to move the bodies, according to Arbi. Shamil begged the soliders not to kill him. Unable to lift his friends, Arbi pulled his cap down over his eyes and then heard shots being fired. The soldiers then left the two corpses lying in the snow and carried Arbi away with them, torturing him in the woods for two days before releasing him.
A group of 13 local residents then formed as search party and combed the woods for missing family members. They discovered the corpses of Shamil and Movsar as well as Ramzan Susaev (aged 41) and Movsar Dakhaev (aged 18).
Shamil’s body had multiple gunshot wounds to the forehead. His passport, mobile phone, and written permission to collect wild garlic had been taken from his pockets. The young man had been collecting produce to sell in the hopes of having enough money to pay his electric bill. He lived in abject poverty with his father and four siblings, the youngest being just 10 months old.
Movsar’s body had three gunshot wounds and multiple stab wounds, including in the back and groin consistent with a ritualistic killing. Relatives paid for his funeral, because the family could not afford it.
Ramzan Susayev, according to his family, was shot in the chest. He also had a broken back and a broken left hand, and gunshot wound on the right side. His brother was a member of the 13-man search party, and found him lying next to a bag full of wild garlic and his hoe, used to gather them. The bag was also photographed. His relatives stated that a representative of the Prosecutor’s office appeared at the funeral and photographed the body.
Movsar Dakhayev had three bullet wounds in the back. It was his first trip into the woods to collect wild garlic, and he had begged his mother to let him go. He had a photograph of himself taken with his cell phone, which survived the attack.
A fifth villager, Mair-Ali Bakhayev (aged 45), is still missing. His fate is unknown.
The soldiers have claimed that warnings were given in advance that the special operation would take place, but none of the villagers admitted to hearing them. The head of the local government, by contrast, claimed that the warnings were only given en route to the forest at checkpoints. The villagers denied hearing any warnings at any checkpoints, and said that no sounds of battle were heard in the forest until fire was directly opened upon them, from ambush at close range.
The press secretary of the president of Ingushetia, Kaloi Akhilgov, claimed that no reports of missing persons resulted from the special operation, but in fact the villagers submitted at least six such reports about persons who never returned from the forest. The list of victims compiled by Memorial may well be incomplete, our research was not exhaustive.
We conclude that the persons killed did not perish as a result of accidental incidents or firing from helicopter gunships, and there is no evidence of militants using such persons as human shields as was reported by RIA Novosti. It is clear from an examination of the bodies that they were shot at close range, stabbed, and may have received the coup de grace. We conclude a formal investigation should occur, and not only as to the reasons for these murders but also as to why hundreds of innocent people were placed in mortal danger. Our activists will continue our own investigation.
This actually occured in the republic of Ingushetia.
Isn’t that what the title clearly says?
Now that we’ve translated it basically at your instigation, perhaps the ball is in your court to publicize it rather than nitpick? You seem rather difficult to please!
“gruesome acts of violence in the war-torn breakaway republic of Chechnya. ”
“Tagged: chechnya, russia”
Chechnya is the tag we use for the Caucasus generally. Most people have never heard of Ingushetia and would have no idea what it meant. It’s something you learn when you blog to mass audience.
So maybe it’s time to educate them?
Kadyrov’s human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhadjiyev, today called for an official investigation to establish how and why the civilians were killed.
Nukhadjiyev also expressed doubt that Russian military prosecutors will conduct an objective investigation. He recalled that “dozens and hundreds” of war crimes remain unexplained, including the massacre of civilians in Aldy in January 2000 and the missile attack on Grozny’s main market in October 1999.
@including the massacre of civilians in Aldy in January 2000
@and the missile attack on Grozny’s main market in October 1999.
By Usam Baysayev, special to Prague Watchdog
I have reflected for a long time on what to say about the events at Arshty, and how to say it. It is not really necessary to describe the incident, listing the names of the dead and how they were killed. My colleagues at Memorial have already collected and published all the information we have. It’s on some of the details that I want to concentrate now. I think they may give an idea not so much about this particular event as about the nature of the governments that have been established in Chechnya and Ingushetia.
These governments often try to show a concern for those whom they govern, and for their safety. They like to say that the people have been saved from total destruction, or prevented from being drawn into war. In other words, the governments of both republics would like the people to sees them as an independent force with its own approach to the solving of problems which supposedly Moscow now cannot ignore. Many, though not all, are ready to believe it. Not only in the West, but also among Russian political analysts and other expert observers. The events at Arshty showed that talk of even a relative degree of independence on the part of the Chechen and Ingush governments may be somewhat exaggerated.
Long before the beginning of the operation, the local administration in the Chechen village of Achkoi-Martan in the Sunzhensky district of Ingushetia issued official passes to all those villagers who wanted to go into the forest to pick ramson (wild leeks or garlic). These passes contained the holder’s name, the serial number of his passport, his place of residence, and so on. With them the holders could freely travel through the Chechen, Ingush and federal checkpoints in the area between Arshty, Bamut and Achkhoi-Martan.
At dawn on February 11 a large number of people were moving in this direction. There were trucks and buses. These were not stopped. No warnings, oral or written, were given. No attempt was made to stop them at Arshty, either. People rode through the entire length of the village, a distance of several kilometres, and leaving the trucks and buses outside the local cemetery walked into the forest – as they had done many times before. Thus, the Ingush authorities, in the form of the local administration, were well aware that in addition to the insurgents who live in the forest there were also civilians.
From this I do not want to draw too harsh a conclusion, and so I propose the following interpretation: the people who planned the operation did not inform the leaders of Chechnya and Ingushetia beforehand. It is, of course, hard to believe this, because most of those leaders sit on the anti-terrorism commission. But perhaps they were afraid of an information leak. Or, perhaps they feared that if they noticed that there were no ramson pickers in the forest, the insurgents would go on the alert, or even worse – withdraw to their permanent bases in the mountains from where, if the inhabitants of Arshty are to be believed, the insurgents had recently emerged for special purposes of their own.
Whatever the truth of the matter, after the start of the operation the Chechen and Ingush authorities could have requested permission to evacuate the civilians. The civilians were there with the authorities’ knowledge and consent, after all. Instead of this, however, the authorities focused on making announcements to reassure the local population that the insurgents would not be permitted to cross into the neighbouring territory, that the border posts had been reinforced, and so on. There was not a word about the ramson pickers.
The pickers were mentioned the following day, when Arshty residents telephoned Memorial with accounts of what had happened. The residents claimed there had not only been adult civilians in the forest but also schoolchildren, and that some of the children had been killed. The Chechen and Ingush authorities responded by saying that the people were warned about the undesirability of their presence in the operation zone, that there were secret paths by which the irresponsible ransom pickers were able to bypass the military cordon to get to the battle zone, and that the insurgents had used them as “human shields” (though there has so far been no confirmation of this). In my opinion, whatever the truth of what happened at Arshty may be, these statements and others give a clear idea of the aim of the governments of all the republics of the North Caucasus today. Their function is mainly to provide a cover for the interests of the Russian security agencies.
Robert I want to commend you for giving us a real insight into Russian brutality in the caucuses, I read all your posts and view the horrific videos, you have opened my eyes and I dare say the eyes of many others.
Your hard work and effort is not in vain
Well done Robert, the brutality that is occurring de facto in Chechnya and Ingushetia by the murderous Putin regime does not surprise me one iota, as one cannot expect any better from the current RuSSian leadership which is steeped in the modus operandi of soviet communism, which is LIE, STEAL and MURDER by any means AND then blame it on some innocent third party.
Like R John I too read all your blogs and view the horrific videos and wonder when will the people of Russia rise and expel this treacherous regime, as in my opinion it is time that they as a nation joined the 21st century and the rest of the civilized world.
Keep up the excellent work, it is appreciated. Not like the reams of communist oriented trash, trash and more pure trash that that brainless moron Arthur spews/regurgitates ad nauseam. And whose blogs I stopped wasting my time on long ago, as replying to him has the same effect as sprinkling water on a duck’s back!
First Caucasian on the Arshty murders:
Bohdan // February 22, 2010 at 12:15 am
[Well done Robert]
The efforts put in by Robert and Andrew into this blog are truly sisyphean. They defy the notion that there are only 24 hours in a day.
I hope their bosses will appreciate their efforts and 100-hour work weeks and give them a nice raise.
Does your boss in Lubianka appreciate your far more classically lazy Russian endeavors, Artie?
Fate of Chechen resident who disappeared in Ingushetia still unknown
Let us remind you that on February 11, when federal troops conducted a special operation against a group of militants, detected in a forest near Arshty village, Sunzha District of Ingushetia, residents of the Chechen Republic, who were gathering ramson – traditional occupation for this time of year, were shot dead. According to the official data, four residents of the Achkhoy-Martan District were killed: Movsar Tataev, Ramzan Susaev, Shamil Kataev and Movsar Dakhaev. Bodies of two of them had traces of tortures received when they were alive.
Another resident of Achkhoy-Martan managed to quit the CTO (counterterrorist operation) zone, despite his wound and frostbitten legs; however, his fellow villager Mair-Ali Vakhaev is still considered missing.
“I doubt that Mair-Ali Vakhaev is alive. Most likely, he was killed by militaries, and his body was hidden in order to prevent unwanted resonance. Even without that, the execution of the Chechen residents who gathered ramson received broad public reaction,” a source in the Chechen militia told in his conversation with the “Caucasian Knot” correspondent.
According to his story, no formal claims can be presented to the servicemen who conducted the special operation against militants in the Sunzha District of Ingushetia. “A CTO zone is under special rules than in usual life. Here, every person is perceived first of all as an enemy, and power agents acted on the basis of the principle to shoot at everything that moves,” said the officer.
He noted that torture applied to the murdered residents of the Achkhoy-Martan District, certainly, cannot be excused, but “this is severe reality of war.” “This is the main method to knock information out of prisoners used by both parties in conflict, as monstrous as it may sound. However, in this situation peaceful residents became victims of occasional circumstances. The guilt for their death is not only on militaries but also on local authorities who failed to warn the people that the area where they go will be under the CTO regime,” said the source.
It should be noted that on February 12, when it became known that at least four casualties of the fight near Arshty were peaceful residents, the federal servicemen announced that the guilt was on militants who used civilians as “live shield” in an attempt to escape from entrapment. Then, information was also disseminated that over 70 persons were removed away from the operation zone, and Musa Dadaev, head of the Achkhoy-Martan District of Chechnya, stated that the residents of the district had been warned about the special operation. However local residents deny this information.
Even today they assert that the death roll of peaceful residents in the Sunzha District of Ingushetia was much higher. They say that at least 12-16 persons more fell victim of the militaries, residents of Kulary and Shalazhi villages, who also went to the vicinities of Arshty village to gather ramson.
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