Place of interview: Ingushetia
Interview date: February 9, 2000
“Can you remember the date of the attack?”, the female interviewee repeated the question of the interviewer. “It was the fourth, I think”.
“This is the village of Shaami-Yurt”, the interviewee continued.
According to her, on February 4, not a single Chechen fighter was to be seen, however, the Russian Air Forces still launched a missile strike on Shaami-Yurt. Without letting the inhabitants exit the village, the Russian troops also bombed and shot at the residential areas of the village with artillery and tanks. According to the interviewee, all exits from the village were blocked but the first group managed to escape the next morning (allegedly, on February 5). This included the women and children from the village, who were let out by the military, while the men were detained. In tears, the interviewee explained that her brother, who has an injured spine, was among the detainees.
“All young people between 18 and 19-years-old were taken away,” said the interviewee about the events in Shaami-Yurt.
“Loaded into the Urals and taken away. For five days we couldn’t find anyone.”
The military shouted that if people did not leave, they would bomb the village and raze it to the ground. In response to this, the local women went to the soldiers, who were located on the Rostov-Baku highway that passes by Shaami-Yurt, and requested that they be left free, given that there were no Chechen fighters present in the village. The soldiers asked them to return to the village and bring out the remaining people left in their houses. The women proceeded as told and brought out their husbands, brothers and fathers, whom the military subsequently detained.
“It was probably February 5”, the interviewee said.
According to her, as a result of the bombing, her uncle and cousin were wounded by shrapnel.
“We had a hard time reaching the highway” the interviewee went on to say, “and then they took all the men. They say there were 247. For the fifth day, we know nothing about them…”.
Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: the interview concerns events which occurred in early February 2000. The soldiers of the Chechen armed detachments who were leaving Grozny, entered several settlements and, without stopping for a long period of time, went to the mountains of the Shatoi region. Villages which were found along the route of the Russian troops were subjected to destructive blows from both the air and the ground, and had “sweeping operations” carried out in them, which included the murder and detention of the locals. The “sweeping operation” in Shaami-Yurt was one of the gravest.