Mass demonstration going on in Grozny
Ruslan Isayev, North Caucasus – A mass protest action against the conduct of Russian troops has been going on in the Chechen capital Grozny for three days already. Some 1000 people, predominantly women, are taking part in the demonstration in the center of the city in front of the building of the Chechen administration. The protesters demand release of their co-villagers detained by Russian military during the recent “mopping up” operations.
Many protesters are carrying antiwar posters and slogans such as “Russia, stop destroying the Chechen nation!”, “Putin, give us back our sons!”, “Military out!”, “We support peace talks!” and other. The protesters also demand international journalists and human rights organizations to be granted access to the Chechen territory to be able to inform the world community about the real state of affairs in Chechnya.
The protest rally in Grozny started shortly after the Russian military blocked the villages of Starye and Novye Atagi eight days ago to conduct their infamous “mopping up” operation (“zachistka”). In charge of the operation was the chief military commander of the united forces in Chechnya, Lt.-Gen. V. Moltenskoy. According to the local inhabitants the “mopping up” operation was accompanied by massive human rights abuses: houses were plundered, locals were beaten and demanded money and valuables, around 200 inhabitants of the villages underwent the so-called filtration procedure in a former poultry farm. All detained were severely beaten, some were later set free but the place of the detention of the remaining persons cannot be determined.
The protesting villagers from Starye and Novye Atagi were joined by inhabitants of other Chechen villages who had also been for several months trying to find their missing relatives. The demonstrators affirm that all who disappeared without a trace were taken from their houses and detained gratuitously by Russian soldiers during similar “mopping up” operations.
The head of the pro-Russian Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, addressed the protesters, promised to personally oversee the search for the missing people and asked the crowd to disperse and return to their villages. The Chechens, however, used to similar promises decided to continue their protest action.
President Putin’s human rights envoy Vladimir Kalamanov said in an interview with a local TV that the complaints of the inhabitants of Starye and Novye Atagi against the recent “mopping up” operation will be taken seriously and shortly investigated.