Chechnya: how the Russians deal with the jihad

 Tales of Chechnya’s tortured land

Mark Franchetti/The Australian

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*  We are officers engaged in a war against brutal terrorists who will stop at nothing, not even at killing children. They are animals and the only way to deal with them is to destroy them. There is no room for legal niceties in a war like this. Only those who were there can truly understand. I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.”

THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares.

When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms – unmarked to conceal their identity – had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were then driven to a military base.

The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her 40s, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.

“At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head.

“We disposed of her body in a field. We placed an artillery shell between her legs and one over her chest, added several 200g TNT blocks and blew her to smithereens. The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem.” The technique was known as pulverisation.

The young recruits were taken away by another unit for further interrogation before they, too, were executed.

The account is one of a series given to The Sunday Times by two special forces officers who fought the militants in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. Their testimony, the first of its kind to a foreign journalist, provides startling insights into the operation of secret Russian death squads during one of the most brutal conflicts since World War II.

The men, decorated veterans of more than 40 tours of duty in Chechnya, said not only suspected rebels but also people close to them were systematically tracked, abducted, tortured and killed. Intelligence was often extracted by breaking their limbs with a hammer, administering electric shocks and forcing men to perform sexual acts on each other. The bodies were either buried in unmarked pits or pulverised.

Far from being the work of a few ruthless mavericks, such methods were widely used among special forces, the men said. They were backed by their superiors on the understanding that operations were to be carried out covertly and that any officers who were caught risked prosecution: the Russian Government publicly condemns torture and extra-judicial killings, and denies that its army committed war crimes in Chechnya.

In practice, said Andrei and Vladimir, the second officer, the Kremlin turned a blind eye. “Anyone in power who took the slightest interest in the war knows this was going on,” Andrei said. “Our only aim was to wipe out the terrorists.”

The two officers expressed pride in their contribution to the special forces’ “success” in containing the terrorist threat. But they spoke on condition they would not be named.

Andrei said he took part in the killing of at least 10 female alleged would-be suicide bombers. In a separate incident he had a wounded female sniper tied up and ordered a tank to drive over her.

He also participated in one of the most brutal revenge sprees by Russian forces. Following the 2002 killings of two agents from the FSB security service and two soldiers from Russia’s equivalent of the SAS, the troops hunted down 200 Chechens said to be linked to the attacks.

In another operation, Andrei’s unit stumbled across dozens of wounded fighters in a cellar being used as a field hospital. Some were being tended by female relatives.

“The fighters who were well enough to be interrogated were taken away. We executed the others, together with some of the women,” he recalled. “That’s the only way to deal with terrorists.”

Following an inconclusive war in Chechnya from 1994-96, Vladimir Putin launched a second war in 1999 and set the tone by vowing “to wipe out militants wherever they are, even in the outhouse”. More than 100,000 Chechens are thought to have died by the time the Kremlin declared earlier this month that it was over. Grozny, the capital, was all but flattened. Putin’s toughness earned him great popularity at home.

Acts of bloodcurdling brutality were committed by both sides as the rebels tried to turn Chechnya into an Islamic state, often decapitating Russian prisoners. One Russian victim was filmed being mutilated with a chainsaw.

As the war raged, Chechen terrorists launched suicide attacks against civilians in the Moscow metro and at a rock festival. In 2002 a gang including 18 female suicide bombers seized more than 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre, 129 of whom died when the Russians pumped poisonous gas into the building on day three of the siege.

In their most savage act, the rebels took hundreds of schoolchildren and their relatives hostage in Beslan. The three-day siege in 2004 ended with the deaths of 334 hostages, more than half of them children.

It was in this highly charged climate that the death squads were operating. Andrei recalled that his men had detained a suspect who had several videos of militants torturing Russian hostages. One showed him laughing as his comrades raped a 12-year-old girl and then shot off three of her fingers.

“We all went berserk after watching this,” said Andrei, who had begun to beat the suspect. “He fell to the ground. I ordered him to get up but he couldn’t because of his handcuffs. I ordered the cuffs off but something was wrong with the lock. I became angrier and ordered one of my sergeants to get them off no matter what.

“So he took an axe and chopped his arms off. The prisoner screamed in agony. Clearly it would have been impossible to interrogate him further so I shot him in the head.”

Andrei said he thought of his opponents not as human beings but as cockroaches to be squashed. Yet he did not condone excessive boasting among his men.

“I had a problem with one of my guys, who liked to collect ears which had been chopped off prisoners. He’d made a necklace and was very serious about taking this home. I did not like that kind of behaviour.”

The brutality continued after Moscow began to cede more control to Chechen special forces made up of former rebels who switched sides. Militias commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin President, are also accused of abducting, torturing and executing suspects.

Vladimir said he had established a death squad that hunted down, tortured and executed more than 16 alleged militants in 2005. The squad’s commander would log a bogus mission in a faraway location in his unit’s official register to provide an alibi. “We’d break in, take the suspect and vanish. We’d duct-tape and handcuff them. If there was resistance we’d gun down the suspect. If, in the firefight, someone else got killed then we’d plant a gun on the dead person.”

Vladimir and his men referred to their prey as zaichik, a term of endearment used by lovers that means “little hare”.

“Only a very small circle of my men took part in this work. Some of those we abducted were tougher than others but eventually everyone talks when you give them the right treatment.

“We used several methods. We’d beat them to a pulp with our bare hands and with sticks. One very effective method is ‘the grand piano’, when one by one by we’d smash the captive’s fingers with a hammer. It’s dirty and difficult work. You would not be human if you enjoyed it but it was the only way to get this filth to talk.”

A hammer would also be used to smash a captive’s kneecaps and militants would be forced to perform sexual acts. The scenes of torture would occasionally be filmed and circulated among enemy combatants.

“You have to be a certain kind of person to do this job, very strong,” Vladimir said. “Those who carried it out always volunteered. It would not be right to order one of your men to torture someone. It can be morally and psychologically very tough.”

Andrei added: “What mattered most was to carry out this work professionally, not to leave evidence … Our bosses knew about such methods but there was a clear understanding that we should cover our tracks. We knew we’d be hung out to dry if we got caught.

“We are not murderers. We are officers engaged in a war against brutal terrorists who will stop at nothing, not even at killing children. They are animals and the only way to deal with them is to destroy them. There is no room for legal niceties in a war like this. Only those who were there can truly understand. I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.”

The Sunday Times

24 thoughts on “Chechnya: how the Russians deal with the jihad”

  1. So do you approve of these barbaric acts of our (I’m Russian) “special forces”? Anybody who engaged in such sadistic acts should himself be pulverized. These are not normal persons, they’re sadists, and of course sadists will always dream up excuses for their acts (alleged videotapes etc.). No one should be above the law. How many innocents did these beasts murder along with real terrorists?

  2. Sergey, you idiot! You left out one little detail:

    How do you effectively deal with the terrorists? Being nice for too long will get you in service as a eunuch in the harem that includes your wife and daughters– and that’s a best-case scenario.

  3. While in high school, some forty years ago, I recall talking to the step-father of a school chum. He was a British soldier in Burma during WWII. Units of his brigade were being ambushed by the Japanese until the intelligence service determined that information about their movements was coming from a nearby Buddhist monastery. He, with a company of British soldiers raided the monastery and massacered all the monks. The ambushes by the Japanese stopped.
    The moral of this story: War is Hell.

  4. Michael Shaw–“War is Hell.”

    The terrorist dogs have given us 2 choices:
    1) Destroy us
    2) We destroy you

  5. As war continues both sides become ever more brutal. One needs to put this in context and ask “Did the soldiers specifically target civilians indiscriminately”. I suspect any man’s civility would break after Beslan. The Chechan’s specifically targeted civilians (as good Islamic a’holes do) the Russians killed civilians incidentally. I agree with Michael, War is hell.

  6. I do not believe there is an alternative. The enemy are committed and they believe. Talking is not an option.

  7. This is horrible, no matter what the perspective. Yet, what is more horrible is to live in a country that is supposedly at peace, but persecutes its minorities and others in this fashion as a matter of course.

    …when the recognized penalty for leaving Islam is death…is it not also a matter of course that mutilation and all types of torture are acceptable beforehand?

    How sad that western countries are allowing the creeping in of sharia in their midst.

    When sharia is the state law for Saudi Arabia and many muslim states, then it is bound to become state law in Europe as well…

    Things will truly get more horrible…

  8. And just think…

    the very reason the west is being attacked by muslim terrorists has a lot to do with it not being muslim…

    you will then begin to realize that what happens in places like Mumbai is driven by the ideology of islam….for to not accept it makes you guilty and consequently that makes you fodder for any type of mistreatment.

    And how is one to defend oneself against this?

  9. Malaysia has recently announced more sharia and more flawless whipping techniques…what kind of people can even talk about such things?…it is barbarity…The japs were really barbaric in South East Asia..They had to be stopped. They are still hated today even tho they now do humanitarian things in these countries.
    I am always surprised at how little some people know about these invasions but then the commies in western countries comemorate Hiroshima day as if it just happened in isolation..rather than saying it ended the nightmare for millions of humble people.

  10. Just connect the dots…

    if the sharia penalty for leaving Islam is death,

    then it is a muslims religious duty to kill those who leave islam.

    Hence, here we have a religion whose members have a religious duty to kill those that leave Islam.

    Now imagine…how much further is this from being a religious duty to killing those that do not accept Islam?

    So, here we have a religion whose members are compelled by religious law to kill nonmuslims…

    And how are we supposed to deal with this?

  11. “The nightmares need to be ended …How they are ended is irrelevant.”
    Well said Theresaj.

  12. How they are ended is irrelevant!

    No, it is relevant!

    Human life is sacred!

    It is precisely those ideologies that hold it irrelevant that must be challenged. And this is the greatest failure of the west.

  13. Rubbish Steiner!! Yes, human life is sacred! In this little game we are forced to play you have to make a decision. YOU CANNOT ABDICATE THIS DECISION BECAUSE YOU CANNOT FIND A SOLUTION WHICH FALLS WITHIN YOUR NARROW MORAL INTERPRETATION. IF YOU ABDICATE THIS DECISION PEOPLE DIE. AND WHEN YOU MAKE A DECISION PEOPLE DIE. The sad fact is that the utopian solution people like you seek doesn’t exist – well if every person thinks like you it will, but that will not happen. Your argument is typical of the academic – you abrogate the need to make a decision because you are unwilling to choose incorrectly. There is no choice in this issue that one can make which satisifes your utopian requirements – the question is – which choice gives the best solution. Understand that! In a very real sense academics like you, who pontificate in the search of an unrealistic but ideal solution, have cost human race several million dead. eg in WW1 and WW2 and Korea and Vietman and … Neville Chamberlains famous words – “Peace in out time! – simply by signing a piece of paper!!!

    I find your statement that this is the greatest failure of the west rather idiotic and stupid. This asserts that you believe the people from the North and the South and the East to be not as intelligent as we are. They are and even though their education levels might be different they are as capable of rationally ansering YOUR

  14. NEGLECT PREVIOUS EMAIL – IT WAS SENT BEFORE COMPLETION (I was going to say prematurely but I decided to let the humorists rest!!)

    Steiner
    Yes, human life is sacred! In this little game we are forced to play you have to make a decision. YOU CANNOT ABDICATE THIS DECISION BECAUSE YOU CANNOT FIND A SOLUTION WHICH FALLS WITHIN YOUR PERSONNEL MORAL INTERPRETATION. IF YOU ABDICATE THIS DECISION THEN PEOPLE DIE. AND WHEN YOU MAKE A DECISION PEOPLE DIE. The sad fact is the utopian solution doesn’t exist – if every person thinks the same way then it may, but that is not possible. Your argument is academic and within your argument you abrogate the need to make a decision because you are unwilling to choose incorrectly. There is no perfect choice! There is a best decision but there is NO right decision. The only reasonable, to my mind, way to formulate this question is which choice gives the best solution.Understand that! Let me try to make a rather inadequate anology of the nature of this question that you seek to answer. We start with a simple demonstration of the difficulty in giving the right answer in a practical situation.

    Consider yourself in the position of a policeman who knows that
    an attack will be made on a bus by a suicide bomber. You see someone suspicious – if you challenge him and he is a suicide bomber he will detonate the bomb and kill many. If you let him go and he is a suicide bomber he will kill many. If he is not the suicide bomber and you challenge/dont challenge him nothing happens. If you shoot him on sight and he is not the suicide bomber you have murdered an innocent man. If you shoot him and he is the suicide bomber you have saved the life of many. You have less that a second to make the choice (How will you choose!). Only two of the cases listed gives the desired GOOD solution – nobody dies – HOWEVER the critical point is that a necessary condition for the GOOD solution is that the person NOT be a terrorist – you have no control on this – and this means that if a solution is GOOD or BAD is somewhat random without additional information!! Now we expand the example – and make it more international – the degree of complexity is increased exponentially but STILL a necessary condition for a GOOD solution is that the bad guys don’t exist! Please do not claim that they don’t, and that they are just misunderstood. There is enough evidence that shows that they do EXIST. A universal GOOD solution (here you can use the word “policy”) then cannot exist and abrogation of a decision on the belief of the existence of such a GOOD “policy” borders on the criminal. Now I also find your statement that this is the greatest failure of the west rather silly. This asserts that the people from the North and the South and the East (i.e. not the West) to be not as intelligent or moral as the West is. They are, and even though their education/cultures are different they are as capable of rationally answering this question within THEIR reference frame as you are in yours. The problem is that their reference frame is not necessarily the same as yours!! Therein lies a problem that is insoluble until you both decide to use the same reference frame – but that is not something that can be done by one side alone. Ergo the West is not responsible for the reference frames others choose. The West has perhaps a duty to try and seek commonality within the different reference frames, and this is what it does try to do. To claim that this is a failure of the West alone is incorrect and misleading – the problem is a tad more complicated that that.

    Sorry about double posting – its late and is easy to hit the wrong key when you are tired.

  15. As I sit here safe behind my PC screen in my warm cozy study, I can afford to feel a strong sense of revulsion at what I just read in that article, yet in my guts I know this is right:

    “They are animals and the only way to deal with them is to destroy them. There is no room for legal niceties in a war like this. Only those who were there can truly understand. I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.”

  16. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. These disgusting people have set out to impose their antedeluvian theocracy upon us, so they have no moral right to complain when we use their own tactics to defend ourselves from them.

  17. They were good and right in only using volunteers to carry out these acts (if it’s true) – for one reason or another those people wanted to do it. So what. They got their results: The eradication of some vile, freedom- hating scum.

    Why is it that during WWII everyone was proud of having killed at least one little German or Japanese but we agonise about even laughing at these moronic throwbacks from the middle ages? Here we are, writing and writing, while all around more and more bloodbaths are happening because we westerners want to be so very nice and democratic and tolerant about everything.

    Does the beardo brigade have to stand outside our front door with guns shouting “This is total war on everything you have, like, love and do” before we’ll start knocking them back? They are doing it now, if only in a symbolic way.

    I’m glad I live in China where islamist behaviour won’t be tolerated. EVER!

  18. I have to agree 100% with the Russians on this. To call these “people” animals is to insult decent animals. These are reptilian slime, a cancer on the face of humanity that needs to be removed as soon as possible – in any way necessary. I’m an American and I am ashamed of some of the whores we have elected ever since Reagan. It tickled me good to see the Russians totally dis obama by not shaking his hand. I would do shots of vodka with those guys any day.

  19. No, human life is not intrinsically sacred, but made sacred by the deeds in that particular human’s life.

    Being a Muslim, terrorist or in any other way transgressing against the laws of non-aggression and civility makes you lower than a cockroach. At least cockroaches are good for keeping lice in check.

  20. The Qur’an does indeed clearly command that all “Infidels” (‘Unbelievers) should be politely invited to join Islam, but if they refuse, they must then be coerced into admitting their own religion is “corrupt, perverse, and inferior” to islam, and then they must Submit themselves, on bended knee, while having the muslim tax-collectors spit in their faces, and they must “know themselves to be humiliated” as they pay the Dhimmi (“Protection”) tax to their muslim overlords. Should they refuse this so-generous slavery, the ‘Holy’ Qur’an directly orders that they “MUST” be …. KILED.

    Now, let’s all see: just WTF is the muslim’s Definiton of an Infidel?

    In islame, an “infidel” is only someone – anyone, really, who:

    “Refuses in public to admit they believe Muhammad’s stories.”

    DEFINITE grounds for immediate execution, no?

    THIS is what we are fighting!

    Islam. Is. Jealousy.

    😉

  21. I have always had a belief, that you play by your opponents rules..

    Radical Islam only has one true goal…. to kill as many ‘non believers’ as humanly possible, by any means possible..regardless of their age or any other distinction…

    don’t bring a knife to a gunfight…

    these radical muslims deserve no mercy, as they give no mercy…

    the only response to them is to play by their rules…

  22. “I’m an American and I am ashamed of some of the whores we have elected ever since Reagan. It tickled me good to see the Russians totally dis obama by not shaking his hand. I would do shots of vodka with those guys any day.”

    Well said, Patriot. So would I, if I hadn’t quit drinking several years ago.

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