Pages

Monday, 25 June 2012

Witness Account Of Russian War Crimes In Chechnya

The following is a list of accounts of war crimes commited against Chechen civilians and Chechen fighters, These source from an eyewitness to many of the events and the boasts of a Russian Soldier.


"I remember a Chechen female sniper. We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it to let off some steam."

"The main thing is to have them (Chechens) die slowly. You don't want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death."

"The summary executions don't just take place against suspected fighters. One 33-year-old army officer recounted how he drowned a family of five - four women and a middle-aged man - in their own well."

"You should not believe people who say Chechens are not being exterminated. In this Chechen war, it's done by everyone who can do it," he said. "There are situations when it's not possible. But when an opportunity presents itself, few people miss it."

"I would exterminate and kill all the men I met during mopping-up operations. I didn't feel sorry for them one bit."


"We shouldn't have given them time to prepare for the war," he continues. "We should have slaughtered all Chechens over 5 years old and sent all the children that could still be re-educated to reservations with barbed wire and guards at the corners."

"But where would you find teachers willing to sacrifice their lives to re-educate these wolf cubs? There are no such people. Therefore, it's much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow."
 


"So there will be one Chechen less on the planet, so what? Who will cry for him?"

War has no rules for the Brutal Russian forces battling Chechen Separatists. Many Russian 
Troops openly admit committing atrocities against both Chechen guerrillas and civilians, "It's part of the military culture of impunity" they say. But many now have troubled consciences.


They call it bespredel - Literally, "no limits." It means acting outside the rules, violently and with impunity. It translates as "excesses" or "atrocities."


It's the term Russian soldiers use to describe their actions in Chechnya.


"Without bespredel, we'll get nowhere in Chechnya," a 21-year-old conscript explained. "We have to be cruel to them. Otherwise, we'll achieve nothing."


Since Russia launched a new war against separatist rebels in its republic of Chechnya a year ago, Russian and Western human rights organizations have collected thousands of pages of testimony from victims about human rights abuses committed by Russian servicemen against Chechen civilians and suspected rebel fighters.


To hear the other side of the story, a man traveled to more than half a dozen regions around Russia and interviewed more than two dozen Russian servicemen returning from the war front.


What they recounted largely matches the picture painted in the human rights reports: The men freely acknowledge that acts considered war crimes under international law not only take place but are also commonplace.


In fact, most admitted committing such acts themselves--everything from looting to summary executions to torture.


"There was bespredel all the time," one 35-year-old soldier said. "You can't let it get to you."


The servicemen say atrocities aren't directly ordered from above; instead, they result from a Russian military culture that glorifies ardor in battle, portrays the enemy as inhuman and has no effective system of accountability.


"Your army is based on professionalism," said a 27-year-old paratrooper who served alongside U.S. troops as a peacekeeper in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Our army is based on fervor."


Russian officials, including the Kremlin's war spokesman, Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, have criticized the human rights reports, saying they are riddled with rumor and rebel propaganda.
Officials have sometimes blamed reported atrocities on what they describe as rebel fighters dressed as Russian soldiers.


But they acknowledge that some human rights violations do occur and say they are taking steps to curb them.


"[Chechens] are Russian citizens, for whose sake the operation was undertaken in the first place," Yastrzhembsky said in an interview. "They should be treated according to the same laws as in the rest of Russia. Any violation, regardless of who commits it, must be reviewed by the procurator [investigating magistrate] and the guilty parties should be punished."


That may be the Kremlin's official position, but servicemen say things are different on the ground. In part because of media coverage of Chechen slave-trading, torture and beheadings, the soldiers believe that the enemy is guilty of far worse atrocities.


Although they know that executions and other human rights violations are wrong, they also consider them an unavoidable--even necessary--part of waging war, especially against such a foe.


In their view, human rights workers and other critics are simply squeamish about the real nature of war.


"What rules? What Geneva Conventions? What difference does it make if Russia has signed them?" said a 25-year-old army officer. "I didn't sign them, none of my friends signed them. . . . In Russia, these rules don't work."


Perhaps most important, the servicemen described a pervasive and powerful culture of impunity in the Russian armed forces. They believe that authorities say one thing in public but deliberately turn a blind eye to many war crimes. A few even said investigators helped cover up such atrocities. Right or wrong, the soldiers are confident that authorities will make no serious effort to investigate war zone misconduct.


"You don't make it obvious, and they don't look too hard," another 21-year-old conscript said. "Everyone understands that's the way it works."


Many of the servicemen admitted having troubled consciences. But like a mantra, most repeated what they had been taught--that whether one likes it or not, going to war means acting bespredel.


"What kind of human rights can there be in wartime?" said a 31-year-old police commando. "It's fine to violate human rights within certain limits."

"The main thing is to have them die slowly. You don't want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death." - Andrei


Andrei's pale eyes glow against his tanned skin. He's been home only 10 days. He opens and closes kitchen cabinets, searching confusedly for sugar for his tea. "I still haven't gotten used to domestic life," he apologizes. He has just turned 21.
During basic training, he recalls, Red Cross workers came to his base to teach about human rights and the rules of war.


"They tried to teach us all kinds of nonsense, like that you should treat civilians 'politely,' " he says. "If you behave 'politely' during wartime, I promise you, nothing good will come of it. I don't know about other wars, but in Chechnya, if they don't understand what you say, you have to beat it into them. You need the civilians to fear you. There's no other way."


Andrei says the lesson that stuck was the one his commander taught him: how to kill.
"We caught one guy--he had a fold-up [radio] antenna. He gave us a name, but when we beat him he gave us a different name. We found maps in his pockets, and hashish. He tried to tell us he was looking for food for his mother. My commander said,


'Stick around and I'll teach you how to deal with these guys.' He took the antenna and began to hit him with it. You could tell by the look in [the Chechen's] eyes that he knew we were going to kill him.


"We shot him. There were five of us who shot him. We dumped his body in the river. The river was full of bodies. Ours, too. Three of our guys washed up without heads."


Andrei says he knows that officially, Russian troops are supposed to turn all suspected rebels over to military procurators. But in practice, his unit literally took no prisoners.


"Once they have a bruise, they're already as good as dead," Andrei says. "They know they won't make it to the procurator's office. You can see it in their eyes. They never tell us anything, but then again, we never ask. 


"The easiest way is to heat your bayonet over charcoal, and when it's red-hot, to put it on their bodies, or stab them slowly. You need to make sure they feel as much pain as possible. The main thing is to have them die slowly. You don't want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death. They should get the full treatment. They should get what they deserve. On one hand it looks like an atrocity, but on the other hand, it's easy to get used to.


"I killed about nine people this way. I remember all of them", says Andrei.

Russian Soldiers do not believe in the humane act of taking prisoners:


Servicemen say the type and frequency of bespredel vary significantly from one unit to another. A few said such things never happened in their units. But even they knew of incidents involving other units.


Other than looting, the most common crime recounted to The Times was the execution of suspected rebels.


"We called it 'taking them to the police station,' " said one police commando. "The nearest police station was 300 kilometers [about 200 miles] away. In reality, they wouldn't make it farther than the next corner."


Nearly all of the servicemen interviewed said they didn't bother taking prisoners.


"We had a clear-cut policy with prisoners: We didn't take any," said another police commando. "To be more precise, we did take one prisoner once and tried to hand him over to the procurator's office. But one of our men was wounded on the way, and then we decided--no more prisoners.


What's the point? We already risk our lives greatly when we fight against them.
Why risk them again to save the lives of fighters and give them the chance to go to jail when what they deserve is death? . . . You can carry out the sentence right on the spot."
The summary executions don't just take place against suspected fighters.



One 33-year-old army officer recounted how he drowned a family of five--four women and a middle-aged man--in their own well.

"You should not believe people who say Chechens are not being exterminated. In this Chechen war, it's done by everyone who can do it," he said. "There are situations when it's not possible. But when an opportunity presents itself, few people miss it.


"I don't know what it is, bespredel or not," he continued. "But it is a war. A war is a very cruel thing, and matters of life and death should not be judged by civilian standards."


Mutilation of corpses and torture were reported less frequently but clearly were common in a number of units. Several servicemen interviewed for this report confirmed that some members of Russian special forces cut off the ears of their victims in a revenge ritual.


"Cutting ears may seem savage to some, but it has its explanations," said one commander. "It's an old tradition among the special forces--you cut off the ears of the enemy in order to later lay them on the tombstone of your friend who was killed in the war. . . . It's not a manifestation of barbarism. It's just our way of telling our deceased mate: Rest in peace. You have been avenged."



"I would kill all the men I met during mopping-up operations. I didn't feel sorry for them one bit." - Boris

Boris' body was both built and broken by years of boxing. His face, hands and torso have the strength and subtlety of cinder blocks. Since he returned from the war zone, he has had trouble sleeping at night.


"Sometimes I fear I will not be able to control myself, especially after a couple of drinks," the thirty something police commando says. "I wake up in a cold sweat, all enraged, and all I can see is dead bodies, blood and screams. At that moment, I'm ready to go as far as it takes. I think if I were given weapons and grenades, I would head out and start 'mopping up' my own hometown." He says he can no longer remember all the people he killed.


"I killed a lot. I wouldn't touch women or children, as long as they didn't fire at me. But I would kill all the men I met during mopping-up operations. I didn't feel sorry for them one bit. They deserved it," he says. "I wouldn't even listen to the pleas or see the tears of their women when they asked me to spare their men. I simply took them aside and killed them."


When he came home from Chechnya, he resigned from his unit. He says he's happy to be in a regular job. And he's trying to forget the war. But there are some things he can't forget.


"I remember a Chechen female sniper. She didn't have any chance of making it to the authorities. We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it. After this, a lot of the boys calmed down. Justice was done, and that was the most important thing for them.


"We would also throw fighters off the helicopters before landing. The trick was to pick the right altitude. We didn't want them to die right away. We wanted them to suffer before they died. Maybe it's cruel, but in a war, that's almost the only way to dull the fear and sorrow of losing your friends."

Russian Soldiers Kill For Revenge:


Notions of provocation and revenge are central to the servicemen's mind-set. In Russian culture, a man not only has the right but is also honor-bound to respond to a "provocation." When a Russian serviceman is killed or mistreated by the enemy, his comrades must take revenge.


Nearly all of the servicemen who recounted incidents of bespredel--a slang term that originated in Russia's prisons--described them as revenge attacks for the deaths of their comrades.
"When you see your mates drop down on the ground, when you take your dead and wounded to the hospital, this is when hatred rises within you," said a 23-year-old army officer. "And the hatred is against all Chechens, not just the individual enemies who killed your friends. This is when bespredel starts."


These tendencies in Russian military culture have been intensified by a virulent Russian hatred of the Chechens - a hatred running higher in this conflict than in the 1994-96 war in the republic.


Sergei Kovalyov, a Soviet-era dissident who served as human rights commissioner in Chechnya during the first war until he was fired for his outspokenness, says the Kremlin fosters a culture of impunity that makes it all but certain that some excesses might take place.
"As usual, it is the authorities who are to blame because they deliberately refuse to do what they should do--monitor the situation, suppress unlawful actions and severely punish the guilty. But they deliberately do not do it," he said.


"If one were to make a list of those guilty of the cruel treatment of peaceful civilians, one should start with President [Vladimir V.] Putin," Kovalyov said. "He knows perfectly well what is happening."


And that, Kovalyov said, is "not too far from genocide."

"It's much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow." - Valery

Valery is a personnel officer, what in Soviet times would have been called a commissar. He's a lieutenant colonel responsible for morale and discipline. He shouldn't talk to reporters.


But the night is dark, the beer from the roadside kiosk outside his army base is cold, and he has a lot on his mind. He checks documents, then launches into a diatribe.


"In this war, the attitude toward the Chechens is much harsher. All of us are sick and tired of waging a war without results," he says. "How long can you keep making a fuss over their national pride and traditions? The military has realized that Chechens cannot be re-educated. Fighting against Russians is in their blood. They simply don't know how to do anything else."



"We shouldn't have given them time to prepare for the war," he continues. "We should have slaughtered all Chechens over 5 years old and sent all the children that could still be re-educated to reservations with barbed wire and guards at the corners."

"But where would you find teachers willing to sacrifice their lives to re-educate these wolf cubs? There are no such people. Therefore, it's much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow."


Valery was in Chechnya in the early phase of the war, when he says there was little oversight from the high command and there were no pesky journalists.


"The solution to Russia's war, in fact, would have been very easy--the old methods used by Russian troops in the Caucasus in the 19th century. For the death of every soldier, an entire village was burned to ashes. For the death of every officer, two villages would be wiped out. This is the only way this war can be brought to a victorious end and this rogue nation conquered."


Valery acknowledges that atrocities occur but says that, in effect, soldiers are carrying out a policy the government needs but is afraid to declare.


"For political reasons, it's impossible to murder the entire adult population and send the children to reservations," he says. "But sometimes, one can try to approximate the goal."

"So there will be one Chechen less on the planet, so what? Who will cry for him?" - Gennady

Gennady is a paratrooper and proud of it. He's wearing a telnyashka, the paratroopers' trademark striped undershirt, and a robin's-egg-blue beret studded with badges. It's Paratroopers' Day, and the 24-year-old has come to a city park to meet his pals and trade war stories. He spent a few months in Chechnya last winter and expects to return this fall.


Gennady says his officers taught him to trust no one in Chechnya, not even the children.
"There were cases when small kids would run to the middle of the road, right in front of a moving convoy of trucks and APCs. And they were shot dead right on the spot by soldiers who thought the kid could be carrying a mine or a grenade. Hell knows, maybe they weren't. But it is better to be safe than sorry."


Gennady says that although he's been home for a few months, his hatred hasn't abated.


"I hated them when I fought in Chechnya, and I hate them now. I can't even watch TV when it shows Chechens, I feel all my muscles start to ache and I want to smash something."


Gennady says the most important lesson his commanders taught him was: Shoot first. Think later.


"Our officers would always teach us: Be careful, do not feel ashamed to be afraid of everything. Fear is your friend, not your enemy, in Chechnya. It will help you stay alive and come back home to your families.


If you see someone who looks suspicious, even a child, do not hesitate - shoot first and only then think. Your personal safety is priority No. 1. All the rest does not matter.


So there will be one Chechen less on the planet, so what? Who will cry for him? Your task is to complete the mission and return home unscathed."

After the destruction of Chechnya's capital Grozny, The UN named it "The most destroyed City on earth" You can read my account of visiting Grozny here.



The average estimate of the number of Chechens murdered under the Russian Federation is around 250,000 Civilians and 16,299 Militants.

A message to the barbaric Russian Forces and The FSB: "War crimes have no expiration date, When you die, you will have to answer to God."



The Wolf Of The Caucasus 


1 comment:

  1. I found your blog so late, now is 2014, but i'm pleasantly surprised how objectively and without emotional agressiveness your accounts are written. Its true that higher authorities can influence and change behaviour of soldiers - "to mold" the "culture of war". Consequently what for one cultures are nonhuman cruelty, to others are war atrocities. When in Europe there are historically many rules and taboos at war, then Russian state, especially after 1917 shifted more and more to bezpredelnost - they used to think that such a thing as "war culture" - trying to keep some humanity at last between battles - is nonsense, something to european weakling pederasts - they as "real warriors" and "real men" MUST to rape, torture, loot and kill without any consideration. To them there isn't segregation to fighter and civilian, men and women, adult and child, innocent or not. "Real russian soldier" wants to kill all of them as sowly and cruelly as he can - to get revenge for fallen comrade - with who they together went to kill another nation on their own land. ???

    ReplyDelete