Dispatches from Chechnya n. 14 - The Situation in Grozny Worsens
GROZNY, July 9, 2001, by LAM - During the past two months, the conditions in
Grozny, as in the rest of the Chechen Republic, have become much worse. On
one side, the guerrilla fighters have become more active. The use of
landmines has intensified, attacks on Russian soldiers are becoming more
frequent, and religious extremists are intensifying their campaign of
terror against the people of Chechnya. On the other side, the Russian
troops have expanded their repressive and punitive activities in the
Nearly every day, one can hear landmines exploding in Grozny, and dozens
of soldiers and civilians die. In the past two weeks, 20 civilians have
been killed or wounded by landmines, mostly women and college students.During the month of June, Russian soldiers conducted mop-up operations in
nearly every neighborhood of the city - Leninsky, Staropromyslovsky,
Central Market, Chernoreche, and in the suburb of Aldi. In Chernoreche
and Aldi alone 128 people were arrested without being charged with a
crime. The majority were released within a few days, but they had been
verbally abused and severely beaten. Some, however, have not been
freed. The Russian troops are holding some for ransom, and others have
simply disappeared without a trace, although relatives have been searching
In addition to arresting innocent people, Russian soldiers also steal
money and valuables from people's homes during these mop-up operations,
threatening to arrest members of the family if they resist.In the daytime, the city lives in fear of landmines and mop-up operations,
and at night the shooting begins. It is never clear who is shooting at
whom and why. Possibly it is the guerillas, possibly scared and drunken
Russian soldiers are simply shooting into the air. Grozny's residential
areas frequently face artillery fire from the Russian base at Khankala.
At the many checkpoints scattered in and around the city, the Russian
soldiers engage in open extortion. Anyone passing through can be detained
without cause at the whim of the soldiers. The checkpoints themselves are
not well-defended, and if they are attacked the Russian soldiers cannot
defend even themselves.
The city itself lies in ruins. Nearly 80 percent of the residential
buildings have been destroyed in the second war, but there have been no
attempts at restoration. Most of the residents of Grozny have fled
Chechnya, and even if the war ends, they have no home to return to.
According to official statistics, the current population of Grozny is
around 200,000. Most people live in partially destroyed buildings with
broken windows, leaking roofs and no electricity, water, or heat.
these buildings are barely standing and could collapse at any moment,
burying residents in their ruins.
According to the mayor of Grozny, many of these buildings, particularly
brick buildings, could be repaired fairly quickly, and by the end of the
summer, at least 30 percent of Grozny could have a roof over their
heads. But so far no one has provided any money for restoration
work. Making this situation worse is the fact that residential
neighborhoods are frequently subjected to artillery fire, making repair
work pointless. Residents of Grozny say that because of nighttime
shelling, they are unable to put new glass into their windows and must
sleep on the floor.
According to N. Takhayev, a resident of Grozny: "We can't get any
humanitarian aid, and we have to buy water. Water costs 75 kopeks a
bucket. There are four people in our family, and we need 10 or 15 buckets
a day. None of us work or get a pension. You can only get humanitarian
aid if you are younger than 16 or older than 55. No one else can eat. Our
apartment was ruined, and it rains right into the rooms. No one is doing
any repairs, or helping us to do repairs. Grandmother was killed, and they
took away her pension. We still don't know who killed her. I don't get a
pension myself. It's very dangerous here. When they start shooting, there
is nowhere to go. Every night they shoot, who knows from where. It's
dangerous to sleep on a bed, so we lie on the floor
."Sanitation in Grozny is very poor. There are 14 public health centers in
Grozny, of which nine are bacteriology labs and four are sanitation and
hygiene labs. There are all kinds of plans for preventing intestinal
diseases and for preventing cholera in summer. Workers of the sanitary and
epidemiological service are provided with transportation, food,
antiseptics, equipment and furniture. This year, they have not received a
single ruble, however, for improving the city's sanitation system.
There is very little food in Grozny. Food is not stored according to
health standards in the city's makeshift markets. Issues of water service
and regular cleaning of the city have not been resolved. Garbage is never
removed. There are a number of plans on how to improve the city's
sanitation system, but there is no money to carry them out. There has been
a catastrophic increase in the number of people with tuberculosis, but
nothing can be done about it - there are no hospitals, no medicines and no
laboratories or equipment. The same problem exists in relation to other
serious chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease.
There is essentially no health care available in the city, at least
according to residents. There are a handful of functioning hospitals and
clinics in the city, but they are located in run-down buildings and lack
the most necessary items. Doctors have not received their salaries in
months, and hospitals have neither medicines nor equipment, even the most
basic latex gloves and hypodermic needles.
According to one doctor from Grozny, "The best of our doctors were either
killed or have left. That has been the most serious obstacle to providing
good medical care. Besides that, all the hospitals have been destroyed,
and the few that have been restored were restored only as first aid
stations. What can we do when the patient can't even lie on the operating
table because of all the shelling and bombing? Not long ago I was
performing an operation, and suddenly they began firing at us, and a
bullet just barely missed the nurse who was assisting me. Things like this
happen all the time.
Most of our patients leave the hospital before they have fully
recovered. As soon as the stitches are out, their families take them
home. The conditions of war are not good for people's health. Even if we
still had a qualified staff, we just don't have normal working
conditions. We don't get paid, and there is no money for anything. As
university professors we did receive salaries for this year, but medical
professionals get paid very infrequently. Beyond physical injury, there is
also psychological and emotional trauma, which no one is concerned with
right now. I would estimate that a minimum of 100 people are injured in
Grozny every day.
I give orthopedic care only to people who have no way of leaving, and I
explain from the start that I do not have the ability to take proper care
of them. I don't have an x-ray machine or any other equipment. All I have
are my hands, my eyes and my experience. I can guess at a diagnosis, I can
guess at an operation, I can guess at a treatment.
Medicine is a real problem. We have a list of medicines under
glass. People come, and we tell them, 'these are the free medicines that
we have. If you need something else, buy it yourself.' They must buy the
surgical gloves that I need, three pairs for each operation (for the
surgeon, the assistant and the nurse). They have to buy alcohol and
cotton, and we don't have a laundry to wash bedding, so patients' families
have to bring bedding and wash them themselves, and they have to buy
scalpels and thread for stitches."
Education in Grozny is in no better shape. Most school and college
buildings have been destroyed. Children study in ruined buildings without
a roof over their heads. There are not enough teachers, textbooks or
equipment. Teachers are paid only every two or three months.
The lives of children are constantly in danger. Children are
injured or die from landmine explosions nearly every week. During mop-up
operations, Russian troops have started arresting 14- and 15-year-old
boys. Many parents are sending their sons away from Chechnya.
According to Grozny resident Z. Ganayev, "My wife and I have two
children, 8 and 10 years old. There is no work. We live by doing odd jobs,
and every two or three months we get a stipend for the children. The
school is in terrible shape - there is no glass, no furniture, no
doors. Every month we get aid from the Danish Refugee Council for the
children - 13 kilograms of flour, half a kilogram of sugar and 100 grams
of salt for each. We have no electricity or water. For two years, we have
been buying our water. The situation in this neighborhood is relatively
quiet - people aren't getting killed every day."
According to Grozny residents, the following humanitarian
organizations are active in the city: Polish Humanitarian Action, the
People in Need Foundation (Czech Republic), the International Committee of
the Red Cross, and the Danish Refugee Council. The aid they provide,
however, is only sufficient for about one quarter of the population.
Most residents of Grozny have no sources of income and do not receive any
humanitarian aid. According to one woman, "My life is destroyed. I live
in an apartment and work for the gas company. They promise us a salary,
but they aren't paying it. For the first five months of this year, we have
been paid one month of salary. I have no help from the Danish Council or
from anywhere else. I was one of the first to register for aid from the
Danish Council, and I received some once, but then they took me off the
list. I live off of whatever odd income I can get. I have to buy water,
and I have no electricity. Going to work is scary; you can always hear
something exploding somewhere. I don't go to the market at all - they are
always shooting people there."
All in all, the humanitarian situation in Grozny is very
disturbing. People have lost all confidence in the present and hope for
Information about LAM:
LAM (mountain in Chechen), is a Chechen NGO currently working to assist refugees and displaced persons, bring an end to the war, help reconstruct Chechnya, and document war crimes.
Before the current war, Lam focused on preserving Chechnya's intellectual and cultural heritage. It produced and distributed recordings of musical, theatrical, and dance programs, published books on cultural topics, and organized regular meetings of intellectuals on cultural, legal and human rights topics.
Since the outbreak of the war, Lam has focused on providing humanitarian assistance to refugees, providing information to international relief organizations on how best to deliver humitarian aid, trying to bring an end to the war, and disseminating information about the crisis and about war crimes.
In its information dissemination efforts, Lam works closely with the Andrei Sakarov Museum in Moscow, IDEE-Warsaw, and IDEE. In the spring of 2000 Lam became the Chechen Center for Pluralism, the 17th member of IDEE's transregional network of NGOs dedicated to promoting democratic ideas and principles.
In June 2000, with support from IDEE, Lam held a conference in Nazran, Ingushetia on The Crisis in Chechnya and Prospects for its Resolution. The conference attracted approximately 100 participants from Grozny, Argun, Shali, and other towns and villages in Chechnya, and included teachers, lawyers, doctors, and artists, as well as representatives of social and political movements. At the conclusion of the conference, the participants issued a statement on the situation in Chechnya.
Lam may be contacted through:
The Andrei Sakharov Museum,
Zemlianoy val, 57, bld.6
107120 Moscow, RUSSIA
Tel: (7095) 923 4401
Fax: (7095) 917 2653