Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 19

The Russian media have of late been focusing attention on the recent murders of ethnic Russians in the Chechen capital of Djohar [Grozny]. The assumption has been that the murderers are Chechens, consumed with a “genocidal” hatred for Russians. The Chechen separatist president, Aslan Maskhadov, however, has on several recent occasions suggested that the murderers could be ethnic Russians themselves. The May 10 issue of The Independent (London) carries an account by journalist Patrick Cockburn of a recent conversation he had with “a skinny and nervous young Russian,” named Viktor who did not want his last name to be revealed. In December of last year, as Viktor was walking to a corner shop in Djohar to buy bread, he was challenged by two Russian contract soldiers. ‘Don’t you know a Russian soldier was killed on this spot a few days ago?’ they asked angrily. ‘I do,’ Viktor replied, ‘I’m Russian myself.’ One of the contract soldiers then slashed him across the throat, but not deep enough to kill him, and also stabbed him deep in the thigh. They then ordered Viktor not to try to stand up for four or five hours. When Viktor nevertheless attempted to get to his feet after they had left, the soldiers came back and stabbed him again, this time in the head and neck, saying mockingly, “This guy really is a survivor.” The soldiers, according to Viktor, “did not seem drunk, but sounded strange and might have been on drugs.”

Viktor related what had happened to him on a local television station, and his parents and twenty neighbors demanded an inquiry. On March 1, “three masked men broke into [his parents’] house, shot [his mother] dead and wounded Viktor’s father, an oil worker.” Viktor believes his mother was killed for her persistent attempts to publicize what had happened to him. Both he and the surviving members of his family strongly suspect that contract soldiers from Stavropol–a unit of Cossacks well known for their brutality–were responsible for the murder; they had been manning a checkpoint near his home.