Place of interview: Kavkaz-1 (Caucasus-1) checkpoint on the Chechen-Ingush administrative border
Interview date: February 4, 2000
The interviewee had visited Alkhan-Kala upon hearing that a sweeping operation had been carried out there. She had travelled from the village of Kulary, crossed a ford across the Sunzha River and entered the western area of the village in the vicinity of the DOK (woodworking plant). During the interview, she described in detail what she had witnessed and what she had asked the villagers as she headed towards her house.
Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: The above account relates to the period when Chechen armed groups left the besieged capital of the Chechen Republic, which they had previously been defending. Towards the end of January 2000, having travelled through a mined narrow pass along the edge of the Sunzhensky ridge above the river Sunzha, the Chechen armed groups entered the village of Alkhan-Kala. According to various sources, dozens of people were killed – including several high-ranking commanders – as a result of mine explosions and ceaseless firing from above. The Chechen armed groups then took some of the dead bodies with them, as well as the wounded. The dead were subsequently left at the Alkhankala cemetery, and the wounded – along with personnel evacuated from Grozny Field Hospital – were placed in the local district hospital, in the basement of a nearby brick store and in the homes of local residents.
Following a period of rest, on the night of February 2, the Chechen squads were divided into two groups and travelled towards the village of Zakan-Yurt, located in the outskirts of the Samashki forest, and the village of Shaami-Yurt respectively. During this time, the village of Alkhan-Kala was being subjected to continuous strikes from Russian troops from both the air and the ground. Residents were forced to hide in basements, which was not always safe. As a result, many were killed and wounded in the village.
On February 3, 2000, the Russian military entered Alkhan-Kala and began a “sweeping operation”. The bodies of the dead Chechen fighters were taken to the village of Tangi-Chu and thrown into pits (which were only uncovered a few months later), while the wounded and hospital staff were loaded onto buses and taken to a filter station. During this process, several of those who had been seriously wounded were shot dead in the basement of the store, and several others disappeared – they, too, were apparently shot dead. The remaining wounded had their bandages outer clothing removed.