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Chechen Village Sends Out Call for Help

Published: March 12, 2002 (Issue # 752)


MOSCOW - After seeing 82 residents killed or vanish, the Chechen village of Tsotsin-Yurt has signed an appeal urging the West to prevent the "mass extermination of Chechens" by Russian troops, a Chechen organization said Monday.

The Chechen National Salvation Committee, which backs rebel Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, said that 700 residents of Tsotsin-Yurt in the Kurchaloi district had signed the petition detailing the deaths of 82 villagers during the ongoing Chechnya conflict, and that it would forward the letter to human-rights activists at the United Nations, the Council of Europe and Human Rights Watch.

"We ask you to help us to stop the genocide against our nation and, as a first step, to send international observers to Chechnya," said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The St. Petersburg Times.

Of the people listed, 41 died or disappeared during so-called mopping-up operations in the village. More than 20 died of wounds inflicted by gunfire or bombings, five were killed at checkpoints and six were tortured to death, the letter said. In addition, 12 people were picked up for questioning in their homes, some as long as two years ago, and have yet to return.

Ruslan Badalov, head of the Chechen National Salvation Committee, said Tsotsin-Yurt villagers brought the letter to his office in Nazran, Ingushetia, on Saturday.

They told him they were holding a round-the-clock protest against the violence in their village "for the third week running."

The letter also outlines incidents of alleged military brutality, including one described by Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya after a visit to the village last month. According to the letter and Politkovskaya, federal troops killed five people, including a pregnant woman, near Tsotsin-Yurt on Feb. 4 and burned the corpses. Two of the people were Tsotsin-Yurt residents.

The Federal Security Service, which is overseeing what it calls "the counter-terrorist operation" in Chechnya, could not immediately comment.

Lecha Yakhyayev, spokesman for the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, said the letter "blows the situation out of proportion" and that it would be difficult to prove the individuals mentioned were all peaceful civilians.

"Some of them could have been fighters who were killed when they tried to escape," he said by telephone from Grozny.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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