Confession of a Former Russian Soldier
During the first and second wars in the territory of Chechnya, I, myself witnessed many deaths. I have seen dead people as well as many wounded and maimed children and adults. I saw only grief, blood and tears.
And now, during this term also, I hear of many stories about the atrocities committed by Russian troops against civilians. And notably, most of these crimes were committed by so-called “contractors (kontraktniki)” who are soldiers serving with a contract. Not 18-20 year olds but fairly adult men. Chechen residents usually call them mercenaries. And in my opinion, this definition fits them best. The only reason these people joined the war, is to kill people for money. They want to build their happiness on the blood and misery of others in the mountains. As I understand, even the soldiers who are in obligatory military service hate these contractors.
In last summer, during one of the conferences in Moscow that I participated in, I met with a former Russian soldier who served in Chechnya from 1999-2000. We were in the same compartment of the train, we met, and we talked, and had dinner together. He was a little drunk and somehow during our conversation he told me a story which shocked me deeply. I did not ask him to talk about it, but somehow it came up.
According to this former Russian soldier, let’s call him as Vladimir, in the winter of 2000, at the end of January, the unit which he served in, thrown on a “cleansing (zachitstky)” in the area of “Berezka” which is located on the Staropromyslovsky highway in Grozny. There were a lot of mercenaries among the soldiers. They were always intoxicated. At this time, there were very few civilians because the fierce fighting for the city still continued. Homes and belongings were abandoned, people left everything behind.
In one of the houses which were not abandoned totally, the soldiers came across a seven person family. An adult man and woman, a young man and two young children were shot immediately by the soldiers. Only a girl who was 13 or 14 years old and the daughter of the home owner was left behind alive. The house was ransacked as well as all other houses and was abandoned and then set on fire. The soldiers took the girl, threw her into an APC (armored personnel carrier) and brought her to the place of their deployment in the Zagryazhskaya village of the Staropromyslovsky district.
Vladimir told me that, almost during a week, the girl was raped by officers from the unit. It happened every night and also sometimes during the day. The girl faced plenty of mocking, and later the commanders gave her at the mercy of contractors. She was beaten and raped for several hours daily. And not just by one person, but the groups of several people. The girl often lost her consciousness, thus they sprayed cold water to bring the girl to her senses. After several days of continuous bullying, she was almost half-dead. The girl could die at any moment, and then they decided to use her for a last time good business as stated by one of these contractors. As told by Vladimir, she was half-dead, stripped naked and hung in one of the basements from her small hands, so her feet barely touched the floor.
They were keeping a young male detainee there also. Within days, they tortured and beat this boy and demanded him to tell them where the hidden weapons were and the whereabouts of fighters. But the young man remained silent stubbornly, despite the savage torture. The contractors burned his body with a hot iron, stabbed and slashed his body with knives, beat him with batons and heavy army boots but the boy insisted that he had nothing and knew nothing.
Vladimir knew that neither this tiny little girl, nor the detained boy had a chance to come out alive from the basement.
The contractor ordered Vladimir to bring the detainee into the room where the girl was kept. When he was bringing the young man, he whispered to him that they will not release him anyway. The young man, who was barely standing on his feet, was brought into the room and put in front of the crucified girl. The contractors once again demanded him to know where he hid the weapons; otherwise they will take the little girl. The young man remained silent. Then one of the contractors went to near the hanging girl and cut her chest with a knife. The little girl cried wildly from the pain and the young man who was literally half-dead, tried to turn away from this horrible spectacle, but they began to beat up him and demanded him to look at the girl because it happened due to his silence. Then the same contractor cut the second breast of the girl and she lost consciousness. The young man started asking the contractors to stop this barbarity and said that he accidentally saw one of the local inhabitants hide something in a drainpipe and named the place. It was hilarious for the contractors. They said, “Well, now, we don’t need either you or her” and they began to finish their murder on the girl who was already half-dead. At first, they separated her legs with an axe, cut off her hands, and when the bloody body was stump fell on the floor, they cut off her head. They put the pieces of the body into a huge package; later they brought it on the street together with the detainee young man. They took him to a vacant lot, tied him to a mailbox with TNT, put the remains of the girl in and then blew up them together. When they were preparing this act, the young man was still alive.
Vladimir himself cried when telling me this. He said that “the contractors constantly humiliated and killed people without mercy, regardless of gender, age and nationality. Even the soldiers were often targeted by the mockery of the contractors”. Vladimir got off the train somewhere in Voronezh. Later I did not see him again. He had left me his phone number and took mine, but we never called. Why? Because the story probably the worst one that I have heard in all these years. Once again I repeat, although I have heard and seen a lot of things.
Unfortunately I don’t know the names of these girl and young man. I guess, their relatives still continue to search for them with hope that maybe someday they will return home. I am sure they did not imagine their deaths being so painful and terrible. But they do not have graves. They were simply scattered into pieces after the blast. And this thing was done by Russian soldiers who came to Chechnya to “liberate” us from the “international terrorists”.
I had read somewhere that expression: “Who killed-will be killed; those who gave the orders to kill-will be killed…” I really very much hope that the monsters in the military uniform that brutally cracked down on unarmed people, women, children and older people, sooner or later will suffer punishment due to their acts. And if not in this world, then at least they will give their answer in front of God for their actions.
Chairman of the NGO “Committee for the Protection of Internally Displaced People”
Expert of Moscow-Helsinki Group
*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco