The February 15 issue of the Russian emigre weekly Russkaya mysl’, which is published in Paris, carried an article entitled “The Children of Chechnya,” reporting on a press conference held at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow on February 7. The theme of the press conference was “Chechnya, the War, a Shot-up Childhood.” Speaking at the event were the head of the movement “Kindness without Borders,” Svetlana Bocharova, and the chairwoman of the Union of Women of the North Caucasus, Zainap Gashaeva. The two women reported abuses to which they had been eyewitness. How Russian special forces located in Chechnya “shove all Chechen boys who have reached the age of thirteen into filtration camps, where they are then beaten and raped. How they witnessed a baby girl continuing to nurse at the breast of a mother who had been raped and then murdered by [Russian] soldiers; the mother’s body was lying in a kitchen garden in front of her house.” The little girl, whose name is Kheda, survived and is being cared for by the Union of Women of the North Caucasus.
The women’s action group “White Kerchief” (Belyi platok), which operates in Chechnya, Russkaya mysl went on to report, contends that, “The soldiers of the [Russian] federal forces engage in the kidnapping of children in order to gain a ransom. The relatives give the marauders their last money in order to spare the boys, who are aged 13-15, from acts of mockery and, frequently, from acts of rape.” A number of Chechen adolescents aged 15-18 lack even an elementary education; they are unable to read, count or write. Children are also the leading victims of a number of diseases which are currently spreading widely in Chechnya: typhus, hepatitis, tuberculosis and poliomyletis. It is the children who die first.
The “White Kerchief” women’s group has discovered “more than 3,000 children, both of whose parents have been killed during the [present] second Chechen war.” Thousands of other children have lost one of their parents. “The participants of the action group visited more than 600 families where someone has been killed or badly wounded. Many children today are dying from mine explosions.” The women’s group underlines: “Not one family offering refuge to an orphan receives any support from the [Russian] state. Wounded and sick children are not given medical help. The Russian authorities in all ways hinder the activity of foreign [aid] organizations on the territory of Chechnya.”
The children of Chechnya are threatened by a number of dangerous conditions in the republic: “In the majority of population points of Chechnya, there is neither water, light, nor heat. The children are exhausted and on the verge of extreme emaciation. Particularly complex is the situation today in Groznyi and in the mountain villages of Vedeno, Nizhneyurtovsky and Shatoi districts, as well as a number of other districts. It is extremely difficult for the civilian populace in the villages of Khattuny, Makhkety and Sel’mentauzy, which are blockaded by federal troops…. All the paths out of the villages are mined.”
The conference organizers underscored that ethnic Russian children have also been put at risk by the present conflict: “An enormous number of 18- and 19-year-old soldiers, in essence also children, have been educated exclusively on violence and impunity–mass killings and marauding–and they then return home to Russian cities. Some of them return in zinc coffins. Others return to join the ranks of organized crime.”