On March 8, it was announced that the number of unburied bodies found scattered about an abandoned dacha complex less than a kilometer away from Russia’s chief military base in Chechnya, Khankala, had risen to sixty (Agence France Presse, March 8). An official with the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told AP that the actual figure was about eighty (AP, March 5). The remains of those deceased not ransomed by relatives were being temporarily housed in a large hangar located on the outskirts of Djohar (Grozny). Because the hangar contained no refrigeration facilities, the bodies were said to be decomposing rapidly. Medical staff working on the remains had only rubber gloves and scalpels; no body bags were available. It would be prohibitively expensive, the staff said, to move the bodies to Rostov-on-Don, which has a proper military morgue. The bodies would therefore need to be buried, and soon.
Individuals working for the well-known Russian human rights organization “Memorial” were on the spot conducting an investigation. They filmed a video of the corpses, and still photos were then made from the video. “The pictures were so graphic that several hardened Russian reporters ran sobbing out of the Moscow press conference where the photographs were displayed” (Reuters, March 7). “Easily visible on the photos are not only gunshot but also knife wounds. The hands of the killed are bound behind their backs with ropes, and several corpses have had their ears cut off” (Kommersant, March 6). The photos made from the video have been posted on the Memorial web site (www.memo.ru).
The pro-Moscow procurator of Chechnya, Vsevolod Chernov, has affirmed categorically, “All of those identified are either rebels or civilians who collaborated with them” (Kommersant, March 6). One wonders how Chernov could bring himself to make such an extraordinary statement. Did the identified “rebels”–including a sixteen-year-old boy–confess to serious crimes under torture? And were any of them given anything remotely resembling a trial? It appears not. The nine victims whose identities have been established had all been detained at their homes or in public places by Russian federal forces, and their bodies subsequently turned up in the large dumping ground adjacent to the Khankala military base on the outskirts of Djohar.
Zura Lulueva, a mother of four, and two of her female cousins, had been taken away from their homes by “people in camouflage uniforms [Russian soldiers]” on July 5, 2000. Adam Chimaev had been taken into custody at a Russian military checkpoint located between Shali and Geremenchuk on December 3, 2000. Saikhan Askhabov of Orekhovo and Isa Larsanov of Ermolovskaya had been detained at their homes by federal troops. And, last, Said-Rakhmin Musaev, Odesa Mitaev and Magomed Magomedov had been arrested by Russian federal forces on December 15, 2000 at a dairy farm in Grozny District (Glasnost-Caucasus Daily News Service, March 8; Segodnya, March 3; Grani.ru, February 26). Concerning the death of Musaev, a boy of sixteen, his father sadly noted: “He was executed. There are bullet holes in his heart and lungs.” An “extra” third bullet was also fired into his head (Reuters, March 7).
A representative of Memorial from its Nazran’ office commented: “[Colonel] Budanov is today in a courtroom, but [the Russian military] criminals who executed scores of people are being shielded” (Segodnya, 3 March). “The main question for which up until now there has been no answer,” journalist Zoya Svetova noted, “is this: Do the Russian authorities want to find those guilty of this crime?” (Russkaya mysl, March 8).