23 April 2003, 16:21
War in Chechnya: a Chechen militiaman tells his story
Here is what Rustam Azizov, a member of the Chechen armed resistance movement, says about fighting for the village of Komsomolskoye in the spring of 2000 and his time in Russian captivity.
During the first war in Chechnya in 1994?1995 our father fought against Russian occupants. He died heroically in June 1995 while commanding Chechen army troops. In early November 1999 the advance of federal occupant forces made me retreat deep into the mountains, leaving at home my 16-year-old brother in hope they would not touch the boy. But his youth did not save him. In the spring of 2000 he was forcedly taken away by federal troops and ?disappeared?. Since then he has not been heard of. In the mountains I joined armed resistance groups led by Khamzat Gelayev ?
In early March 2000, tripping on landmines, Gelayev?s unit entered the village of Saadi-Kotar or Komsomolskoye. Almost immediately the village came under a heavy continuous missile fire. As it turned out later, Russians expected us. The shelling that soon followed was no lesser in strength. Having been trapped by Russians, the group suffered huge losses. Because of all-day-round bombardment there was no chance for us to provide medical aid to the wounded. And we were desperately running out of medicines. Many of Chechen resistance fighters died because of lack of prompt medical aid, while many injured were finished off by federals.
I saw my injured Chechen fellows crushed by tank caterpillars, smashed to death by rifle butts and even digging tools. Basements whereto we took our wounded with cut-off limbs were targeted by grenades or set ablaze. The shelling continued till the mid-March. By that time those who were still alive got injured, exhausted by hunger and cold temperatures. By noon of March 20, a group to which I was assigned was encircled by Russian tanks. Any resistance was futile. Before that moment we fought as equals, and as in every other war there were casualties from both sides. But after that a slaughter began.
They offered us to surrender, promising to save our lives and give our injured medical help. Commander of OMON special police forces, they called him by first name Alexander, told us Putin had issued an amnesty decree for Chechen rebel fighters, and we believed him. Later we had many reasons to regret that. Having conferred with each other, we began to remove our injured fellows from basements and to lay down remaining weapons. Had we only foreknown what would have happened to us ?
Then we were all taken to a large clearing outside the village, our arms were twisted behind our backs and tied with barbed wired. Then they began to shoot us in the arms and legs, or even kneecaps, saying: ?Want more freedom? Want to feel the smell of freedom? And where, let me ask you, is yours Gelayev>?
At that moment we deeply regretted that we had surrendered alive. Those with serious wounds or cut-off limbs were finished off right before our eyes? And they did not let us avert or close our eyes. They killed them with rifle butts and digging tools, aiming straight at their wounds.
When they shoot through my arm and began hitting me hard on the injured arm, I lost consciousness. I came to myself only in the evening, finding myself in the heap of corpses. I saw federals still torturing those who were yet alive. My right arm was completely crushed and tied to the left one with some iron wire. When an OMON police officer saw me regaining consciousness, he asked me whether I could walk. After my affirmative reply he ordered me to go to some military trucks parked within 50 meters from us. Next to me there was lying on the ground a young boy, aged between 17 and 18. One of his legs was completely broken. Pointing to him, the serviceman said they would spare the boy?s life if I could carry him to the truck. Having my arms tied, I asked the boy whether he could grasp me by the neck. He nodded. So I bent down, letting him embrace my neck, and we slowly moved towards the vehicles. Then there came a gunfire. The boy eased his embrace and fell to the ground. I straightened up and looked back. As the soldier was going to pull the trigger, another one rushed to him, shouting out there was an order ?not to shoot down everyone?. And there I stood looking at the dead youth, grieving that I had not time to ask his name.
I turned away and continued my walk. I had to walk down a human corridor of soldiers with batons and rifle butts ready at any moment to crush them on my back and head as I passed. At some distance ahead I noticed my fellow Chechens digging holes. I thought they were digging graves for our dead Chechen fellows who surrendered together with me and whose decapitated dead bodies were scattered now all over the place.
One of the diggers seemed familiar to me. His name was Beslan. Though just 18 years of age, he was tall and strong. When I asked soldiers whether he could go together with us, they replied there was no order to take all of us at one go. Later I learned that all Chechens whom I personally knew, including Beslan, have been reported missing. So I realized that those left at the site had been digging graves for themselves.
As I slowly entered the human ?corridor? I was immediately hit by a rifle butt on the head. When I recovered from jolting journey, I found myself in a truck, lying with all my weight on the broken leg of a Chechen named Bakar. The military truck was packed with injured Chechens. Judging by the jolting, we were riding along byroads. During this journey all of us periodically lost and regained consciousness. Finally, we were brought to the ?Internat? (Boarding School) filtration point in the town of Urus-Martan. However, we learned that much later.
The truck entered a courtyard and stopped. When the truck?s doors opened we saw a tall building with a lot of military around it. All of them of quite advanced age, probably they were from special security services. Two of the military climbed into the truck body and began ?unloading?, throwing us out of the truck and ordering us, the crippled, to run quickly to the entrance of the building. For failure to be quick enough we received more beatings. With huge difficulty I managed to stand up and walk to where I was ordered to run. While many of my fellows had to be brought inside the building unconscious. In the camp we were systematically beaten and tortured to force us disclose Khamzat Gelayev?s whereabouts. The military threatened to hold us in confinement until we all died of gangrene. No medical aid was given to us, not a single pill to kill the pain.
How long that lasted is difficult to tell because most of the time I was unconscious. Until the day I found myself in hospital. Native speech, people in white doctor?s smocks, that was like some nice dream. And what?s more, those doctors did even save my arm.
Gradually I began to recall what had happened before I got to the hospital.
I remember a man in white doctor?s smock coming to my cell. He was said to be a doctor?s assistant. Having examined our wounds, he offered no treatment, saying the injuries were serious and we would have our limbs amputated. With my forearm broken and subjected to multiple beatings, I had no hopes at all that my arm could be saved.
A few days later I together with some other Chechens was hastily taken away from the hospital. It turned out that our relatives had paid a huge ransom for us. The horrors that we witnessed and experienced every day in the camp came to an end for us. But the memory of them is still there, in my head, in my dreams. It looks as if these monstrous and terrible recollections will haunt my fellows and myself for quite a long time.
Source: Prima News Agency