The story of a victim of robbery and rape

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: not specified, possibly the city of Grozny

Interview date: after March 1995

Episode from the first Russian-Chechen war

The victim is a resident of the city of Grozny. She lived in her own house. She was an artist and an architect. When the assault on the city began on December 31, 1995, she stayed at home with her son and did not leave, although she had the opportunity to do so.

According to the victim, the Russian military, led by the lieutenant from the closest military post, broke through the front door of her house in the late evening. They began to beat her son with a rifle butt, and searched through their personal belongings. The military men then took the victim in to a separate room and raped her. At some point, the woman heard the sound of a machine gun and she feared that the military had killed her son. She called out for him and realised that he was still alive but badly beaten.  Upon leaving, the military set the victim’s house on fire. While both mother and son were attempting to extinguish the fire, a grenade flew into the window. The ensuing explosion resulted in the mother wounding her ear due to the grenade fragments. Grabbing everything they could, the mother and son ran outside. Their house, along with all their remaining property, including the victim’s artwork, was completely burned down.

Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: the road from Grozny to the south remained open until mid-February 1995. The time described by the victim in the interview was when Russian troops controlled the entire city with all its suburbs. Chechen formations retreated from their last stronghold in the village of Chernorechye on March 6, 1995.

The story of a journalist who became a victim of an unlawful detention

The recording is in Russian

Interview date: July 21, 2000

A Moscow journalist, having been accredited in the city of Mozdok at the press center of the Russian group of forces, traveled to Ingushetia. There, he hired two security guards from among the current officers of the Russian police, who, like himself, were ethnic Chechens. On May 16, 2000, the three of them drove into Chechnya through Russian posts from the direction of Ingushetia.

After being captured at a Russian post on May 17, 2000 and having experienced insults and humiliation, the interviewed journalist and his guards were subjected to torture during their detention.

Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: the time of the incident described above occured during a relative hiatus in the fighting. Following the combat for the village of Goy-Chu (Komsomolskoe) in March 2000, the Russian army established de facto control over populated region of the Republic. Chechen formations, driven into the mountains and forests, were still preparing for guerrilla warfare and underground activities in cities and villages. 

The story of an airstrike victim

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: Republic of Ingushetia, hospital

Interview date: November-December 1999

The interviewee was left homeless during the first Russian-Chechen war (1994-1996). He spoke incoherently, and it could be gathered from the interview that he had also been left without a family as a result of the conflict. However, the circumstances of the events described are not entirely clear. Whilst lying in a hospital bed, the interviewee explained the events that led to his injury.

According to him, on either October 15 or 16, 1999 he headed from the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya in Ingushetia towards the city of Grozny. While on the Rostov-Baku highway in the territory of Chechnya, his car was attacked by a Russian plane. The rocket had exploded nearby and a shock wave had knocked over the car. The wounded man was taken to the 9th city hospital in the city of Grozny, but due to a lack of space and medicine he was transferred to Urus-Martan. After some time, he was taken to Ingushetia and placed for treatment in one of the local hospitals.

The story of a victim of a rocket self-explosion

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: Ingushetia, hospital

Interview date: November-December 1999

A young man was the victim of a rocket bomb. Missiles had been lain outskirts of the village of New Sharoy, close to a mosque under construction. One morning, residents from the village, including many children, decided to examine the area. Following the gathering of a crowd in the area, there was a strong explosion. Several people died and 17 were injured, including the interviewee.

The victims were taken to Urus-Martan, and several of those who were wounded died on the way. Eight days later, the victim among others, was transported by ambulance to Ingushetia. The interviewee explained that for many kilometers during this journey there was a convoy of refugees along the administrative border. During this time, explosions were also heard in the vicinity and Russian planes were seen in the sky.

The interviewee says that he was brought to Ingushetia together with residents from neighboring Samashki, who were also injured as a result of the shelling.

Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: the term “rocket” in this interview most likely means the submunition  of the Uragan multiple launch rocket system, which was fired from the forest massif on the night of October 22-23 (according to other sources, on the night of October 23-24), and also the tract between the villages of Novyi Sharoy and Samashki.

The story of a 14-year-old resident injured during a missile attack from a helicopter from the village of Samashki

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: Republic of Ingushetia, a hospital in the city of Nazran

Interview date: November-December 1999

On October 27, 1999m in the village of Samashki, a 14-year-old resident suffered injuries to his legs as a result of shrapnel from a rocket attack launched from a helicopter. The victim talked about the circumstances of his injury. According to the teenager, he did not notice neither the helicopter nor the rockets which were fired from it as he was walking along the street. There was an explosion and he fell. That same day he was taken to the Urus-Martan District Hospital, where his legs were amputated. Three days later, he was first transferred to a hospital in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya in Ingushetia, and then to the republican hospital in the city of Nazran.

The story of a father whose sons were killed during the “sweeping operations” in the village of Gekhi-Chu

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: Sputnik Campground, Ingushetia

Interview date: March 28, 2000

The interview was a resident of the village of Gekhi-Chu. He spoke of events associated with the exit of Chechen formations from Grozny, as well as the shelling and “sweeping operations” in the settlements to which the formations had retreated.

On February 6, 2000, the Chechen formations exited Grozny and had climbed the mountains after passing thought Gekhi-Chu, they were thus no longer in the village when Russian troops began firing the next day. The interviewee’s house, in which he was hiding with his family, was destroyed. The family subsequently moved to the basement of a neighboring house, where a cluster of civilians were already seeking refuge, however, Russian tanks and artillery also opened fire on that house. Individuals began to run out of the basement, and many were injured.

The interviewee’s family members were also injured during this attack. They sought refuge in a third basement but an hour and a half later the approaching Russian military forced them to leave. The interviewee’s two sons were taken to a side and stripped down to the waist. They were then taken into a barn and shot dead.

On February 8, other Russian units entered the village. They took the corpses of the interviewee’s two sons with them and demanded a ransom for their return.

The story of a woman concerning the storming of the village of Goy-Chu (Komsomolskoe) and the possible death of her children

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: Goysky village cemetery

Interview date: late March – early April 2000

The woman was a resident of the city of Grozny. Her relatives lived in Goy-Chu, to which she decided to travel in the hopes of bypassing the war. Her eldest son lived in Moscow at the time, and her younger daughter and son remained in Goy-Chu with her. The two younger children lived in her brother’s house while she herself lived with her sister.

Once the bombardment of the village had begun, the woman fled from the village on the assumption that her brother and her children had also left. However, she later discovered that her brother and children had in fact remained in the village during the bombardment.

Following the end to hostilities, the corpses of hundreds of victims were carried out from Goy-Chu and were buried in the cemetery of the neighbouring village of Goiskoy. The woman stayed in the cemetery for seven days in a row, like many other mothers and sisters searching for their missing relatives. She examined the mutilated bodies – some missing heads, ears or limbs, and others which had been crushed by tank tracks and wheels of APCs – hoping to find her son and daughter among them. She was informed that her teenage son had been hacked to death with an axe near the school, along with another child.

Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: the incident relates to the storming of the village of Goy-Chu, which lasted between March 4 and March 22-23, 2000.

The story of a woman speaking about the victims of the bombing and shelling of the city of Shali from January 6-13, 2000

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: Republic of Ingushetia

Interview date: likely March 2000

The woman left the city of Shali on January 13, 2000. Prior to leaving, she had hoped to wait out the active phase of the hostilities at home. In addition, traveling on the roads during this time was unsafe. However, following three episodes of bombing and rocket attacks which had resulted in civilian casualties, she was forced to move to Ingushetia.

The first of the three episodes mentioned above was the bombardment of Shali, which, according to the woman, occurred during the night of January 6-7. On that day, a plane flew over Shali and dropped a bomb, which killed 15 people from one family, 11 from another family and 10 from a third one. All of these victims had been neighbours who lived in adjacent houses and had decided to seek refuge in the basement of one of the houses which had thick walls. The bomb had fallen directly on this house. The majority of those who were killed were women and the elderly. Among the victims were also people who had suffered from disabilities.

The second episode relates to a missile strike in the city center on January 9, 2000. According to the interviewee, the attack had occurred on a Sunday and had not resulted in any victims.

The third episode relates to bombing which occurred on January 12, 2000. The woman describes how on that day, following the bombing, her brother had participated in the funerals and that 62 graves were dug in the cemetery. In total, according to the interviewee, up to 84 people were killed that day in the city.

The story of a resident of Alkhan-Yurt speaking about how she had hidden in basements during the shelling and assault on the village

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: unknown

Interview date: spring-summer 2000

The interviewee – a mother of many children – described how her family and others were hiding from the bombing and shelling of the village. Approximately 60 people had gathered in the basement. They were not allowed to leave the basement for four days for water or food. One day, a shell exploded near the basement and knocked the door off. A blast wave from the explosion threw the woman a few meters across the room. She was shell-shocked and could not understand what was happening around her or where she was. No sweeping operations took place in the village and the local residents did not offer any resistance against any of the attacks. No help was given to the civilians during the shelling and bombing of the village.

Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: this episode relates to the artillery shelling and bombing of the village of Alkhan-Yurt and its subsequent assault in late November – early December 1999. Following the retreat of Chechen fighters from the village, a “sweeping operation” was carried out resulting in the looting and killings of residents who had not yet managed to leave the village.

The operation to capture the village of Alkhan-Yurt was accompanied by a scandal whereby a prominent Chechen businessman and politician from Moscow – who was a native of the village – spoke about the true scale of the crimes that had been committed in the village.

Representatives of the Russian government were thus forced to travel to Alkhan-Yurt to deal with this scandal. However, the scandal was eventually covered up when the battle for the city of Grozny began, which resulted in the complete encirclement of the village of Alkhan-Yurt.

The story of a woman speaking about the bombing of the village of Gikalovsky

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: Severny refugee camp (train carriage) in Ingushetia

Interview date: prior to the liquidation of camp “North” in December 1999

An interview was given by an elementary school teacher who worked at the village school. According to her, on November 20, 1999, she and her husband had travelled to a store and had left their children behind at home in a heated outbuilding. On their way back from the store they noticed two aircrafts flying at low altitude. One of these released four bombs which landed very close to the couple and struck some passers-by, while the other aircraft released a further six bombs in the direction of their home.

As a result of the bombing, three houses – including one belonging to the couple – were destroyed. However, the children miraculously survived. Seven people had been injured in the neighboring house, including a seven-year-old girl. According to the interviewee, the girl had lost an eye as a result of the attack, and was taken to Khasavyurt. The other injured were taken to a hospital in Starye Atagi, which had been transferred from the city of Grozny.

Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: this episode refers to the initial period of hostilities in the territory of the Chechen Republic. By this time, Russian troops had already blocked the city of Grozny from three sides and had approached it from the fourth southerly direction. The village of Gikalo occupied a strategic position as the road leading from it stretched to the south and further into the mountains along the Argun Gorge. At the described time, Russian troops had moved towards Gikalo from both an easterly direction from the Khankala side through the village of Chechen-Aul, and also from a westerly direction from Alkhan-Yurt and Goity.