The story of women who left Katyr-Yurt

The recording is in Russian

Place of interview: a checkpoint near the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya on the border of Ingushetia and Chechnya

Interview date: February 10, 2000

A woman described her travel from Katyr-Yurt stating that “there were only corpses around”. In that moment, another interviewee intervened as she asked the human rights activist that was interviewing them whether Chechens have any rights at all.

A woman who arrived from Katyr-Yurt continued her story by describing that almost the whole village was razed to the ground. Practically no house was left untouched and the corpses were just lying on the roads. Cattle was also killed. According to the interviewee, an excavator was just brought to Katyr-Yurt.

“To the cemetery,” she clarified, “to the cemetery with an edge (that is, at the outskirts of the village). I saw it with my own eyes. Today, February 10, at the first hour of the day…”.

The interviewee, who herself was from the neighbouring village of Valerik, moreover said that during the shelling of the village her aunt-in-law was killed.

During the interview, another woman from the village of Valerik came to the checkpoint and confirmed the words of the first, while adding that “the children could not get up and that three days passed before they were driven into the basement…”. As she was explaining this, she was interrupted by the interviewer with some clarifying questions. She stumbled for a while and then continued talking about children dying from starvation in a basement on the outskirts of Katyr-Yurt.

Despite reassurance from the interviewer, the woman cried and refused to provide her name.

“On Monday”, she began, “the military drove them into the basement of a house in a strange courtyard ”.

She was there too, as she was visiting Katyr-Yurt. When the bombing began, she could not return to her home. Like the others, she tried to escape the shelling by running towards Valerik, but the soldiers on the outskirts of the village did not let them out. Instead, they sent people to the courtyard of a private house with a basement, and kept them there for several days.

“The children screamed, cried. Babies died, including two-year-olds”, she described .

The military gave one of the women two hours to bring food from Valerik. This happened after two days of imprisonment, although the interviewee was not able to recall the exact time. She recalled, however, that the woman who left for food could not return, either due to the shelling or because of the limited time that she had at her disposal.

While the interview was ongoing, some people gathered at the checkpoint to try to get an explanation from the human rights defenders as to why they could not go to Katyr-Yurt by themselves. With this, the interview went off track. Someone started talking about three brothers that were shot. Yet another person, an elderly woman, spoke in poor Russian of the deaths of two mothers and four children, and subsequently about the arrival of the Russian General V. Shamanov to the outskirts of Katyr-Yurt where he made statements about the people who fled from Katyr-Yurt.

At the same time, a man came from Katyr-Yurt but the women interrupted him and the interview was side-lined again.

Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: audio refers to events around Katyr-Yurt. Starting on February 4, 2000, Russian troops fired at the village for several days and subsequently carried out a sweeping operation. This operation was one of the bloodiest in the entire second Russian-Chechen war.