Ruslan Isayev, North Caucasus – Four years ago events tragically unfolded for the Chechen resistance movement in the village of Komsomolskoye in the Urus-Martanovsky district. For about two weeks more than a thousand resistance fighters were besieged there by the Russian army, ending with 500 to 1,000 fighters being killed.
The village, once considered to be one of the most beautiful in that district, was totally destroyed. Even local residents, who had never taken up arms before, tried to defend it. Ruslan Gelayev, a native of Komsomolskoye, led the defense and on the last day of the siege, he and the few who survived managed to fight their way out.
But the Russians, who many times outnumbered the Chechens, also sustained heavy casualties; during several unsuccessful attacks more than 300 of their men were either killed or wounded.
The villagers suffered a harsh fate at the hands of the Russian soldiers, who were holding them for several days as “human shields” at the edge of the village. Several thousands who witnessed the carnage had to abandon their homes, leaving almost everything they owned behind. And many watched in horror and dismay as they saw their houses destroyed.
One of the residents, Alikhan, remembers it well. “On March 5, 2000, at daybreak, I heard strange noises outside my house, like the sounds of stomping feet. I went out to look and saw hordes of people in the street silently fleeing the village. So I quickly rounded up my family, grabbed whatever I could, and we also fled.”
“No one spoke a word, realizing that our village and the people who stayed behind were doomed. We passed many resistance fighters along the way, setting up fortifications and digging trenches, most of whom averted their eyes when seeing us; perhaps they felt guilty for disrupting our peace. Nevertheless, we wished them luck.”
“The Russian soldiers, however, did not let us get very far; their machine and sub-machine guns opened fire over our heads. One pregnant woman miscarried and several others suffered nervous breakdowns. The soldiers shot several people dead.”
“On March 9, unable to bear the humiliation any longer, three thousand of us decided to escape this Russian encirclement and headed for Urus-Martan. Nearly all of us still live there now, except for a few of the elderly who eventually went back to the village.”
Four years have now passed and Komsomolskoye still has not recovered from the battle. Most former residents live outside the village, especially in the Urus-Martanovsky district. Many people are waiting for compensations for their destroyed houses.
Editor's note: Chechen resistance fighters seized Komsomolskoye on March 5 and the battle started two days later. The last Chechen fighters tried to escape the siege most probably in the night between March 19 and 20.