Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 22

The July 19 issue of the newspaper Novye Izvestia, under the headline “Chechen Boomerang,” carried the text of a lengthy interview with retired MVD general Aslambek Aslakhanov, the elected deputy from Chechnya to the Russian State Duma. Aslakhanov described to correspondent Said Bitsoev what he had seen and experienced during his recent visits to Chechen-Aul, Mesker-Yurt and other Chechen villages which had been subjected to special operations by the federal forces. It was, he underlined, almost impossible for him to gain admittance to the blockaded villages: “I flew to Grozny and immediately went to the [pro-Moscow] administration, where I spoke about the goal of my visit with Akhmad Kadyrov and made the acquaintance of the procurator for the republic, Nikolai Kostyuchenko, and the new military procurator, Sergei Kiselev. I proposed that we travel together. But they [the soldiers] would not let us into the village, saying a battle was supposedly taking place along the road. We tried to enter from the other side. There they said that the highway was mined. Then under the cover of an armored vehicle… I succeeded in getting to the closest checkpoint. There I met a crowd of sobbing women who said they had to get into Mesker-Yurt, where their husbands and children were located.” When Aslakhanov asked why they did not admit the women into the village, he was told, “There is information that the rebels will try to leave the encirclement dressed up as women.”

What did Duma deputy Aslakhanov see once he managed to get into the villages on the following day? “There was,” he said, “a collective moan! People were complaining that they had been beaten [by the soldiers]. Those who succeeded in gaining release from the filtration points returned maimed, almost all of them bore marks of torture. They brought to us several persons with blue splotches on their pale faces. They could not breathe because their ribs had been broken. They were barely able to walk. We offered to take them to a hospital. Here the soldiers offered to help saying they would take them in an ambulance. But as soon as they left, the parents of the villagers ran up and told us that the soldiers had not taken the lads to a medical point but to a filtration point, in order that they could not give testimony that they had been tortured. If we had not intervened in time, their trace would have been lost forever. That has happened with many.”

How is one to explain the extreme cruelty exhibited by the federal forces toward the Chechen civilians? “Not one of the leaders of the MVD, the FSB, or the Ministry of Justice,” Aslakhanov stipulated, “has been held responsible for the conducting of cleansing operations in Starye and Novye Atagi, Kurchaloi, Tsatsan-Yurt, Assinskaya, Argun and Chiri-Yurt, where young people disappeared and they later found their mutilated bodies…. They are lying! They are lying to the president, lying to the State Duma, to the Council of Federation, to the government, and to their ministers. They are lying to the citizens of the Russian Federation, claiming that stabilization is occurring. The result of so-called cleansing operations is that [Chechen] pupils in schools are now leaving for the forests in order to take revenge for their relatives who suffered during the special operations.”