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8 Sept 2004 - MiddleEast.Org - MER is Free
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"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

"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 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. People are not born to murder and terrorize, it is a learned behavior growing from imbedded hatreds and souls warped by horrors singed with seething emotional and psychological pain. The same is true 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 supression.

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 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 blood-curdling insurgent uprisings, and the 'terrorism' inherent to such mismatched conflicts; an era that has itself emerged from that earlier era on the nuclear precipice, one which in fact may be returning again in another form.

This look back on the terribly brutal Russian war in Chechnya to prevent 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.

Torture and rape stalk the
streets of

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 Newsweek's Polish-language edition.

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