Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 46

The Federal Security Service’s military counter-intelligence unit has freed Anatoly Fabritsyn, a 51-year-old native of Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast who had been held as a slave in the Chechen village of Makhety for ten years, Russian agencies reported. Fabrytsin was taken captive in 1990, when, after losing his job, he and several of his friends were offered work building homes in the North Caucasus. They were taken to Chechnya, after which their documents were seized and they were dispersed around various villages. Fabritsyn, who never saw his friends again after this, was forced to dig trenches, herd cattle and transport munitions from one Chechen rebel base to another. Fabritsyn said he was never fed properly during his ten years of enslavement and was sometimes not fed at all for several days at a time. He also said that he was treated “like a dog” by all of the Chechens he encountered–young and old, men and women. Fabritsyn said he tried to escape several times, but that he was caught and nearly beaten to death. The former hostage said that during his captivity he had no idea what was going on in the outside world, and that only after being freed did he find out that the Soviet Union no longer exists and that his native Ukraine had become an independent state (Russian agencies, March 3).

Meanwhile, a court in Rostov-on-Don on March 5 postponed the trial of Colonel Yury Budanov–who is accused of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman, El’za Kungaeva–because the victim’s mother fell ill. Since the trial got underway, former and current top military commanders of the Russian military’s operation in Chechnya have publicly defended Budanov. General Gennady Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, called Budanov “a Russian officer who honestly and conscientiously carried out his official duties.” “He is a real combat commander who has two medals for his actions in combat, a person who, neither turning back nor allowing someone to go in his place, frequently went [into battle] with the soldiers,” Troshev said. “What happened, happened–it’s a fact. He doesn’t deny that he killed that girl. Of course he now speaks of it with pain and regret, but at that moment he did not foresee that she would die, he unintentionally did it.” The essence of Troshev’s argument is that if Budanov had simply tortured the girl rather than killing her, it would not have been a crime. Another of Budanov’s defenders is Vladimir Shamanov, the governor of Ulyanovsk Oblast who was formerly one of the Chechen operation’s top military commanders. Shamanov recently again went public to defend Budanov, calling the colonel “a strong regiment commander who carried out his combat tasks and who they are trying to turn into a criminal, accusing him of kidnapping people, which he didn’t do.” Budanov was being accused of “a whole series of crimes which he didn’t commit,” Shamanov said. Shamanov, by emphasizing only Budanov’s kidnapping of Kungaeva and suggesting that it was not in fact a kidnapping, was essentially saying that the murder of a Chechen girl was not a crime (Russian agencies, March 3-5; see also Chechnya Weekly, March 6).