Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 29

On July 25, Yelena Bonner, widow of the Nobel prize-winning human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, during a luncheon in her honor hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC, compared the silence regarding Moscow’s war in the rebel republic of Chechnya to that “on the Holocaust.” “In one [recent] cleansing operation,” she noted, “in 30-35 degree Celsius heat, villagers were taken to a field, their papers were checked, then people were ordered to strip and stand on corrugated iron sheets-like a frying pan. Many people died right there in the field.”

“Years ago,” Bonner recalled, “when people were being taken by the Nazis to [death camps] and word came back of what was happening there, the reaction was complete disbelief. And I understand when I talk about Chechnya it is the same.” “The political genocide of the Chechen people,” she observed, “is ignored or covered over, forgiven for Russians” “I think,” she concluded her remarks, “that to stop the genocide should be a moral imperative for the [U.S.] Congress” (Agence France Presse, July 26).

During an interview given to the Paris-based weekly, Russkaya Mysl, Russian war correspondent Anna Politkovskaya discussed the same incident–which had taken place in the Chechen settlement of Roshni-Chu–that Yelena Bonner had singled out for comment. “This is no longer a struggle with the rebels,” Politkovskaya underscored, “this is now the most actual torture. Each ‘mopping up operation’ now ends with the practice of torture.” In their introduction to the interview with Politkovskaya, the editors of Russkaya Mysl noted that she had the previous week been awarded the prestigious “International Amnesty” Prize for her coverage of the war (Russkaya Mysl, July 19).