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.Pages: