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February 12th 2002 · Prague Watchdog / Ruslan Isayev · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

Protesting civilians move from Grozny to Starye Atagi

Ruslan Isayev, North Caucasus - A large-scale protest rally is held in the village of Starye Atagi, south of Grozny. The protest rally started in the centre of the Chechen capital but after four days Russian soldiers blocked roads leading to the centre, forcing the protesters to move southwards to Starye Atagi in the Grozny rural district. The protest meeting is a reaction to recent “mopping-up” operations in Starye Atagi and Novye Atagi.

Chechens arrive in neighbouring Ingushetia, filing suits and complaints against the conduct of Russian soldiers during the operations. They said three people were detained and subsequently killed during the operation in Starye Atagi. One of the victims was a nephew of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, the former vice-president under Dzhokhar Dudayev, the former President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The three bodies were reportedly beheaded and severely mutilated.

During eight days of the “mopping-up” operation as many as 200 local people went through a „filtration“ procedure with soldiers detaining even schoolboys. For example, a 14-year-old Alvi Barsanukayev, an 8th class pupil, was detained and heavily beaten.

Russian soldiers demanded that local people pay 1,000 – 5,000 roubles (30 – 60 US dollars) for their sons and fathers to avoid the “filtration” procedure. Raisa Arsamerzayeva said she ransomed her 20-year-old son for 100 dollars. In addition, she was forced to produce a written confirmation that her family have no complaints about the soldiers’ conduct. Those who could not pay the ransom had to give away their cattle. Emeddi Demilkhanov claims he was also demanded money. Having answered he had none, the soldiers shot through his right-hand wrist, telling him “now healing makes you find money”.

On the fourth day of the “mopping-up” operation in Starye Atagi, when the soldiers started to sexually harass young local females, the desperate villagers gathered in the centre of the village. Then Russian soldiers began to blow up the empty houses. All in all, explosions destroyed the houses of the Kadyrovs, Amagovs, Esambayevs and Zakayevs in Starye and Novye Atagi.

Local policemen, residents of the villages, attempted to prevent the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. However, all eight of Starye Atagi policemen were detained themselves. Others remained at the “filtration” procedure points. In a TV interview, the commander of the federal forces in Chechnya, General Vladimir Moltenskoi, labeled the protests in Starye Atagi as provocations organized and paid for by (Chechen President) Aslan Maskhadov.

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