Place of interview: Ingushetia
Interview date: February 9, 2000
“I will tell you what I saw,” said a man who had left Grozny to provide an interview with human rights activists. “I was at home. I was a refugee until a week ago when I returned home to Grozny”.
According to the interviewee, he first went to his house and afterwards to a nearby courtyard, where he saw three civilian corpses. He walked over and examined them. They were about 40-years-old and unknown to the interviewee. He was subsequently joined by the relatives of the victims, including the wife of one and the mother of the other. The local women said that the military released them from the basement, as they needed strong men in order to pick up the killed Russian soldiers. According to the interviewee, this was a month ago.
One of the murdered persons was Russian and the other two were Chechen. They were taken out of the basement they had been held in, brought to a neighbouring place and shot.
“One woman recognized her son among the corpses”, the interviewee stated, “and another woman recognized her husband. The mother was crying, stroking the corpse of her son. The wife, a Chechen, was also crying. They took the two corpses with them.”
When asked why the Russian military decided to take these men and kill them, the witness referred to the mother of the dead Russian. The interviewer then asked the witness whether the men who had taken her son were Chechen fighters or “federals”, to which she responded that they were from the Russian military. Another woman who had also been detained in the basement was asked the same question.
“One corpse was left behind,” the interviewee continued. “One was taken by the victim’s wife and the other, who was Russian, by his mother”.
A day earlier, according to the interviewee, a neighbour came to him when he was still in Grozny. He told him that there was a dead woman in his basement who had killed by a grenade which had been thrown inside while she had been hiding there. The neighbor asked him to help get her corpse from the basement, but the interviewee declined.
Comment from the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center: The interview describes the crimes committed in Grozny after it was taken under the control of Russian troops. “Sweeping operations” were carried out in various parts of the city, which included extrajudicial executions of women and men of various nationalities. The information about the crimes committed there was known before, however, in early February 2000, it increased exponentially as people were let back into the city trying to find out the fate of relatives who had remained there or decided to return to their homes.