Myths and Truth about Tsotsin-Yurt
December 30, 2001 – January 3, 2002
The Human Rights Center "Memorial" has reported more than once about the series of "cleansing operations" which followed one upon another in the village of Tsotsin-Yurt. As a rule, these were accompanied by gross violations of human rights and the norms of Russian law. Another large-scale "cleansing operation" took place in the village between December 30, 2001 and January 3, 2002.
Despite the fact that representatives of the prosecutor's office were present in the village during the special operation, it was accompanied by the killings of peaceful civilians, beatings of detained local residents, and robberies.
Foreign media sources, citing "Memorial," reported the murders of 37, or even 80, peaceful civilians during the course of the "cleansing operation." These reports are not accurate: the Human Rights Center "Memorial" does not have such information at its disposal. We are aware of five instances of the brutal murder of detained residents and six cases of detainees disappearing without a trace.
The large village of Tsotsin-Yurt in Kurchaloevsky region is known for the fact that oil deposits are located at its outskirts and that many of its residents extract and self-produce oil. In the autumn of 1999, before the start of military action, approximately 15,000 people lived in the village. By the end of 2001, many residents had left the village; by some estimates, about 7000 people remain.
The operation in Kurchaloevsky region that began on December 29 involved the participation of the internal troops of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, employees of the police, the regional military command, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and special forces soldiers from Main Intelligence Administration of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The following morning a column of armed vehicles approached Tsotsin-Yurt.
1. Official information
According to reports from official sources, a detachment of approximately 100 fighters had entered this village. On December 30, federal forces approaching the village blockaded Tsotsin-Yurt and initiated a "cleansing operation," having first given local residents the chance to leave the village. The military command of the Chechen Republic reported this on January 1 to a Strana.Ru correspondent, and on January 2 it was reported to ITAR-TASS correspondent V. Manenkov in the press center of the Administration of the FSB in the Chechen Republic. This information was confirmed in numerous other reports.
Reports that followed contained information about serious clashes in Tsotsin-Yurt. On January 3 the deputy chief of the Administration of the FSB in Chechnya, Aleksandr Potapov, told Interfax that fighters consolidated in Tsotsin-Yurt had offered bitter resistance to federal forces. "The strength of the firepower coming from homes that had been turned into fortresses reached such an intensity that it was difficult to identify some of those killed." According to his words, many of the fighters were wounded. Part of the population of the village was detained in order to determine their possible participation in illegal armed formations. On that same day, the ITAR-TASS correspondent reported that 37 fighters had been killed in Tsotsin-Yurt. According to official sources, the losses among federal forces included two killed and 11 wounded. Two officers of the special forces of the Ministry of Defense were killed (ITAR-TASS, 01.01.2001, 15:11/Vadim Manenkov). They entered one of the buildings thinking they had killed the fighters based in it, but when they began to search the basement, one of the fighters who had remained alive opened fire with a machine gun.
In the course of these reports Kommersant ("Fighters acted according to the plan of the Federal command," K. Smirnov, Kommersant, 10.01.2002) and "Gazeta.Ru" ("Federal forces used Basaev's woman," M. Tsvetkova, Gazeta.Ru, 12.01.2002) published articles which set forth the version of Presidental assistant S. V. Yastrzhembsky, in which the "cleansing operation" in Tsotsin-Yurt was presented as the conclusion of a long operation by special services – the Main Intelligence Administration and the FSB. Over the course of several months with the help of individual special operations, special services had squeezed the fighters out of the mountainous regions of Argun, and from there – into Tsotsin-Yurt, which had been specially "opened up" for the fighters. When they entered the village, the trap was sprung. The empty buildings on the outskirts of town where the fighters ensconced themselves were fired upon with guns, machine guns and flame-throwers. "They're still going through the wreckage," reported Kommersant on January 10: "So far they've managed to extract 43 bodies…"
All of the above is contradicted by the description of events in Tsotsin-Yurt given by the commander of the United Forces in the Chechen Republic, General V. Moltensky, on January 12 in the village of Znamenskoe at a meeting with representatives of human rights organizations. In response to the assertion by representatives of "Memorial" of gross human rights violations during the "cleansing operation" in Tsotsin-Yurt, General Lieutenant V. I. Moltensky literally said the following:
"We were located next to Staryi Atag when we learned where the bandits were gathering – right in Tsotsin-Yurt. Two detachments were sent there; they calmly entered the village and detained a few people. When they left, they were blocked by bandits who crept up in four cars – three Nivas and a fourth car. Then a battle erupted; the two sides were located 10 meters from one another. Two of ours perished immediately, 11 were wounded and 14 bandits were wiped out. Our personnel moved away and I gave the command to blockade the village. It was necessary to find out where the other ones were who had attacked. One detachment was formed and sent into the village. At that time I was in a helicopter circling the village and observing. No one fired a wayward shot in any direction. When they approached those buildings, they opened fire again and another seven bandits were eliminated. The prosecutor's office was there. We departed and there was no one in the village at night. The village was blocked, we sorted through the situation and carried out targeted activities. I don't think that any innocents suffered. Yes, it could be that when the shooting was taking place that someone could have suffered, but that what you're talking about happened – there's no way." (There was no previously-planned operation. First there was a routine check of the village and only after a group of fighters who had penetrated the village attacked the soldiers, Tsotsin-Yurt was blockaded. Around 25 fighters were able to enter the city in 4 cars. According to the general's words, 21 fighters were killed.)
The official information about the deaths of the fighters in the course of the special operation is extremely contradictory. On January 3 in the headquarters of the Unified Federal Forces, the ITAR-TASS correspondent was informed that around 100 fighters were killed in the course of special operations in Kurchaloevsky region. However on the following day, the deputy head of the Administration of the FSB in Chechnya, A. Potapov, told "Interfaks" that "more than 30 fighters" had been killed in the course of the special operation in Kurchaloevsky region. On January 9, S. V. Yastrzhembsky told correspondents that 92 fighters had been killed in the course of all the special operations taking place those days in a number of villages in the Kurchaloevsky, Shalinsky and Groznesky regions and in the city of Argun.
According to a declaration by the prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, V. G. Chernov, representatives of the prosecutor's office, including the deputy prosecutor of the Chechen Republic, were present during the "cleansing operation" in Tsotsin-Yurt.
Officials did not report on the number of peaceful civilians who perished during the course of the special operations.
2. Information collected by staff of "Memorial"
Representatives of "Memorial" visited the village on January 4 and 13, 2002. They questioned the head of the local administration and local residents, including victims and relatives of those killed and disappeared in the course of the "cleansing operation." Destroyed, damaged and robbed homes were inspected.
2.1. The beginning of the "cleansing operation." Detentions.
In the morning a few groups of military servicemen entered the village in armored vehicles and began the "cleansing operation." (The official name of such an activity is "Inspection of citizens' registration by address and permanent place of residence in the Chechen Republic.") Moving along the streets, they checked one home after another. Almost immediately the detentions of local residents began.
On the outskirts of the village on ul. Stepnaya, soldiers detained several men at around 7.45. Idris Zakriev (born 1965) was detained in his own home without any explanation. At that moment his mother, Marzhan Zakrieva, his wife Laila and four children were also at home. According to his mother and wife, they heard how the soldiers, bursting in on him in the courtyard, received an order by walkie-talkie to take away four people from the four outlying buildings. Idris Zakriev tried to show the soldiers his passport. "Put away the document!" said the soldier, after which they led Idris out of the courtyard. Neighbors saw how they tied his hands on the street, rolled his clothes up over his face and pushed him into a BTR on which the number A-611 was written. The soldiers pushed his mother, who was trying to prevent them from taking away her son, into the basement and threatened to toss a grenade in after her. They ordered his wife not to move, pointing their guns at the children.
A similar scene took place in the yard of the neighboring building where Musa Ismailov (born 1964) lived with his wife and five children (the oldest son is 14). That morning the head of the household was putting up a greenhouse with his oldest son on their plot of land. The soldiers burst in on them and ordered them to lie on the ground. Having searched the building, the representatives of the federal forces led M. Ismailov and his son out of the yard. Thanks to the entreaties of the mother, they allowed the teenager to remain at home. Apparently Ismailov was put into the same BTR as I. Zakriev.
The home where Kazbek Khazmagomadov, a refugee from Grozny, lives is located in the outer region of the village named Zarech'e (ul. Zarechnaya). Between 9 and 10 AM, armored cars appeared on the street and one of them stopped in front of the building. A group of military servicemen burst into the yard. At that moment, four other men were located in the yard in addition to Kazbek – relatives of his who were carrying out their usual work of repairing furniture. First the soldiers made all the men lie on the ground, and then began to search the house. They then led all five men onto the street, pulling their hats over their eyes and loading them into the armored car. Kazbek managed to notice that the number on the armored car had been painted over. The armored car drove somewhere and soon ended up in a place where there was intensive shooting going on. The shooting then stopped and the armored car moved once more. The detainees were beaten along the way. As it turned out, they brought them back to the same building from which they'd taken them. They threw Kazbek out of the armored car, led him into the yard and a soldier ordered him to quickly hand over the keys to the cars (two Nivas belonging to Kazbek and his relatives stood in the yard). They then put Kazbek and his relatives into a "Gazelle" minibus – also, apparently, confiscated from local residents. Someone's bloody corpse already lay inside the bus. The soldiers continued to beat the detainees as they lay on the floor. Soon they were taken to the outskirts of the village where a temporary "filtration point" had been organized in the half-demolished facility of a former repair shop. (The term "filtration point" was used by the commander of the United Forces in the Chechen Republic, Lieutenant General V. I. Moltensky, at a meeting with representatives of human rights organizations in the village of Znamenskoe on January 12, 2002.)
Hundreds of village residents, alarmed by what was taking place, gathered in the center of the village at the mosque. Military servicemen approached the crowd and began to inspect people's documents. Separating out about 20 young men, they loaded them into an armed personnel carrier and took them to the "filtration point" at the edge of the village.
2.2. Clashes with fighters
On December 30 during the course of the "cleansing operation" in the village of Tsotsin-Yurt, separate armed clashes occurred between representatives of federal forces and fighters. Based on the testimony of local residents as well as the results of the inspection of the village, it's possible to conclude that nothing similar to what the deputy head of the Administration of the FSB in Chechnya, A. Potapov said took place in Tsotsin-Yurt actually happened. We know of two instances of local skirmishes. It's possible that there were more. But there were no "homes turned into fortresses" or "ruins under which dozens of fighters' bodies were buried." In the center of the village one home belonging to the Idrisovs was ruined. In addition, the Medaevs' home in the Zarech'e section of the village was damaged. There were no detonated buildings on the outskirts of town, as the Kommersant correspondent in Tsotsin-Yurt depicted, from the words of S.V. Yastrzhembsky.
On the morning of December 30 (by various estimates between 9 and 10 o'clock), a blue Niva entered the village on the road from Mesker-Yurt, trying to break free of several armed personnel carriers with soldiers on board that were following it. Many witnesses saw how the vehicle swerved onto a dike that runs along the Khullo River, but at this point the Niva's engine died. The people within the car (witnesses say there were three) clamored out and ran deep into the village. At that very moment soldiers opened fire and wounded one of those fleeing. Nonetheless, the fighters managed to run into the yard of the home of 70 year-old Leche Idrisov, a respected village figure.
Soldiers quickly surrounded the Idrisovs' yard and opened fire upon it with firearms and large-calibre machine guns. The fighters hiding within the house returned fire. At that moment, besides the fighters, other people were located in the house: Leche Idrisov, his wife, her daughter-in-law Aminat and her small baby, and local resident Khamzat Israilov (father of two) who was doing iron work in the Idrisovs' yard. These people attempted to get out of the house that was being fired upon. Leche Idrisov opened the gate of the house leading onto the street and appealed to the soldiers with a request to allow his family to leave the fired upon territory. However the bombardment of the house didn't cease for even a minute and L. Idrisov suffered light wounds on his leg and ear. As a result of this ceaseless fire, the whole family was forced to hide in the besieged home for the entire duration of the clash.
In this way, not only did representatives of the federal forces not provide local residents with the opportunity to exit the village, but they actually did the opposite – they subjected many of them to fatal danger in the course of the operations.
Armored equipment began to pull up to the battle scene from other regions of the village.
Duk Zakriev, the father of detainee Idris Zakriev (see above), was at the edge of the village not far from the place where the detainees were brought. He saw an armed personnel carrier standing here, number A-611, in which his son and neighbor M. Ismailov were apparently located. Duk Zakriev tried to convince the soldiers to release his son. However when shooting began in the center of the village, he saw that the armed vehicles containing detainees turned around and headed in the direction of the battle. Apparently this is how Idris Zakriev and Musa Ismailov ended up at the Idrisovs' house.
Many questioned confirmed that there are witnesses among those residents of the central part of the village who saw that the Russian military servicemen dragged I. Zakriev and M. Ismailov out of the armed vehicle and used them as "human shields" during the course of the assault on the Idrisovs' home. In the words of these people, Zakriev and Ismailov were still alive at the end of the assault, but were killed in the yard of the house after the end of the assault. "Memorial" staff did not speak with eyewitnesses of the given event. We can only confirm that two local residents who were detained by Russian military servicemen in their own homes were later found dead (see below).
The fighters who ensconced themselves in the Idrisovs' home perished. The owners of the home, thankfully, remained alive. Leche Idrisov and Khamzat Israilov were wounded. The latter was detained by soldiers and taken away to the "filtration point."
Around 5 PM an intensive exchange of fire began in the Zarech'e section of the village. The Medaevs' house was damaged by shots from large-calibre machine guns from armed Russian equipment. The owners of the house were forced to hide within it from the fire. Residents of this region could not explain who was shooting at whom. After the skirmish Magomed Medaev, his 14-year old son and two more residents were detained by soldiers and spent a day in the "filtration point;" all of them besides the teenager were subjected to beatings but then set free.
2.3. The continuation of the "cleansing operation," robberies, extortion, insults
The "cleansing operation" in Tsotsin-Yurt continued throughout all of December 30 and into the following days. Robberies took place on all of these days in the village.
On the morning of December 31 soldiers carried away from a storage building in the Idrisovs' house all the things that the owners had succeeded in saving from fire and shooting. The soldiers destroyed everything that they couldn't take with them. They shot a cow and took its carcass.
Residents of ul. Pionerskaya (Yunus Mezhiev, Yakub Abubakarov and others) testified that their houses were subject to a robbery by Russian military servicemen on December 30 in the second half of the day. Representatives of "Memorial" saw traces of the robbery in the homes.
On December 31 a group of military servicemen once again entered the home on ul. Zarechnaya from which they had taken Kazbek Khazmagomadov and his four relatives to the "filtration point" the previous day. If on December 30 the soldiers had limited themselves to taking the two Nivas parked in the yard (the frames of these vehicles were discovered on the outskirts of the village after the end of the "cleansing operation"), this time they took away everything of any value from the yard. A refugee from Grozny, Khazmagomadov made money by repairing furniture. The soldiers took, in addition to 7000 rubles, all his instruments and materials – an electric saw, electric drill, a polishing machine, and other items.
Kharon Dzhunaidovich Vakhaev, of ul. Sovietskaya 100, reported that on January 1 soldiers from the subdivision that had inspected buildings that day on ul. Sovietskaya entered his home. As usual, they didn't present themselves, but did greet him and conducted themselves properly. These were not conscripted soldiers; they were significantly older. In the course of searching the house, they turned over everything but didn't appropriate anything for themselves. Not finding anything illegal in the house, the soldiers apologized, congratulated the owner of the house on the holiday, and left. Not half an hour later, another group of representatives of federal forces inspecting houses on ul. Mira entered the house (Kh. Vakhaev's house is located at the intersection). The behavior of these military servicemen (approximately the same age as those in the first group) was much worse. They insulted the owner, threatened to beat him and harassed the women. They demanded that Kh. Vakhaev present his son to them. When the owner of the house said that his son, who worked in the MVD of the Chechen Republic, died while fulfilling his official duties on April 18, 2001, this did not stop them. "Your son was a Wahhabi," they said and demanded a ransom of 5000 rubles in order to leave the house. Kh. Vakhaev's daughter-in-law, who lived nearby, brought 1000 rubles and this satisfied the extortionists who carried on down ul. Mira.
Aynet Vakhaeva, the daughter-in-law of Kharon Vakhaev (and the widow of his dead son), was independently questioned by a different "Memorial" staff person, and provided the same facts as Kh. Vakhaev.
Other witnesses with whom "Memorial" representatives spoke also reported that the inspections of homes on ul. Sovietskaya were conducted properly on January 1. At the same time, almost everyone living on ul. Mira was subjected to insults, theft and extortion. 71-year old Abdulkhalid Mutaev was forced to give soldiers 3000 rubles to protect his home and property from pogrom. The soldiers determined the size of the "tribute" in relation to the solvency of the homeowner. Those who didn't have the money to pay were instructed to borrow money from neighbors, relatives and acquaintances.
Elderly village resident Isa Zhankhaev told representatives of "Memorial" that a disabled woman with no legs (Bagaeva) and a small child live in his building (ul. Lenina 22). During the search of Zhankhaev's building, the military servicemen threw Bagaeva out of her wheelchair and took the 10,000 rubles that she had on her. Then the soldiers took 10 chickens from the building. Upon leaving, they threatened Isa Zhankhaev with physical punishment if he complained to any official bodies.
In the Soltalatovs' building, soldiers detained on the street a young woman with a one year-old baby in her arms until her mother was able to collect a big enough ransom. Only after that would they allow the woman and baby to enter their own home. While inspecting the Soltalatovs' home, soldiers killed a chicken belonging to the family, fried up potatoes and demanded that the table be set; for several hours the women were forced to serve them. Before the inspection, the mother in the Soltalatov family took off all her jewelry (from her daughter as well) and hid it in the pockets of her warm coat. Upon leaving the soldiers took the warm jacket and a few other things for personal wear.
On January 1 around 2 o'clock, three BTRs and a truck with a painted over number pulled up to the yard of the Baisultanovs' (ul. Kirova 18). Ezir-Pasha Baisultanov (born 1933), who has already been confined to his bed for several years, his wife and 3 sons – Akhmed (born 1962), Khampasha (born 1968) and Suleiman (born 1974) – were at home. They forced the three men to leave the house and get in the back of the "Ural." Seeing this, their mother fainted. Neighbors saw how the three Baisultanovs were detained. Soon, the fourth and oldest Baisultanov brother, Sultan, who lives separately, raced to the scene. Checking his passport, the soldiers looked at the page marked "children," where his son born in 1975 was listed, and with the words, "We're taking your son too," headed for his house. One of the soldiers pointed a gun at Sultan's chest and said, "I'm giving you 5 minutes. Either give up the fighters or we'll blow up the house!" This whole time other soldiers were turning over everything in the house and appeared with cartons of cigarettes purchased for re-sale. Seeing the ring on Sultan's hand, the soldier said, "Take off the ring or we're taking your son!" After this the soldiers split a bottle of vodka and left, having detained neither Sultan, nor his son. The detained Baisultanov brothers disappeared and their fate is unknown.
Robberies did not always take place during the course of the "cleansing operation." At darkness the detachments of the federal forces departed from Tsotsin-Yurt with the intention of returning to the village again in the morning. However on the night of January 2-3, around 10 o'clock, a group of military servicemen entered the village – apparently of their own initiative. They robbed and smashed kiosks and small shops in the center of the village. Resident Toita Alieva (ul. Shosseinaya 26) and Zargan Isaevna Saidulaeva (a refugee from Grozny) made a statement about these robberies. A representative of "Memorial" saw the robbed shops on January 4. "Memorial" possesses corresponding photographs. Moreover, soldiers took money and a gold necklace from Toita Alieva at gunpoint from the home where she lives, which is connected to the shop where she trades.
On the night of January 3-4, seven military servicemen in masks burst into the home of the Sulikhadzhievs and robbed the family, threatening them with murder and rape.
Arbitrariness in relation to peaceful residents was not limited to robberies and extortion. Magomed Magomadov told representatives of "Memorial" that on December 31 he and four of his neighbors – all elderly people – were going to the Idrisovs' house to express their condolences for the destruction of their home. At that moment soldiers were approaching the house. "Who are you and what are you doing here? So, you're sympathizing with bandits!" This was followed by a blow to the face with a fist, and then with the butt of a pistol (the relater of the story has broken teeth and a bruise on the face). All five were loaded into the back of a passing KAMAZ and laid face down, then they were unloaded and stood with their faces to a wall. After about half an hour, an officer approached, checked their documents and allowed them to return to their homes.
During the "cleansing operation" the mosque was defiled. Military servicemen entered the mosque and defecated on the carpets.
We can presume that during these days there were instances of sexual demands on the part of soldiers towards village women. We cannot name specific names as neither victims nor witness speak directly about this. But many of those interviewed recalled numerous such episodes. This is the first time that representatives of "Memorial" have encountered such a quantity of recollections about harassment and insults towards women during the course of a "cleansing operation."
2.4. "Filtration," beatings, torture, disappearance of detainees
During the "cleansing operation" in Tsotsin-Yurt approximately 100 residents were detained. The greatest number of detentions occurred on December 30.
The detainees were delivered to a "temporary filtration point" organized on the edge of the village in a ruined (roofless) building of a former repair shop. People detained during a cleansing operation in the nearby village of Geldagan were also delivered here.
People spent more than a day here in the freezing temperatures – some up to two days, which in and of itself was torture.
People in the "filtration point" were interrogated until they either admitted connections with fighters or gave testimony about who in the village supports the fighters. During interrogations detainees were tortured (plastic bags were stretched over their heads). A representative of the prosecutor's office visited the "filtration point" on December 31. The detainees asked him to help them leave. On that very day, around 5 PM, the detainees began to be freed and returned to their relatives who were standing at the edge of the village. Judging by the testimony of village residents, some of those released were so badly beaten that they had to be carried. The soldiers themselves brought a few of those released into the village in armored personnel carriers and threw them to the ground.
However before the visit of the prosecutor's office employee to the "filtration point," representatives of the federal forces separated out and took away a few people from among those detained. Among those taken away were Sheikh-Akhmed Magomadov (born 1976), Salamu Mazaev (born 1960), Khamzat Israilov (born 1969), and Alkhazur Movlaevich Saidselimov (born 1978). These people disappeared. The fate of not one of them is known. The body of A.M. Saidselimov, blown up by a grenade, was found later (see below, "Killings").
The three brothers who were detained in their home on January 1 – Akhmed Ezir-Pashaevich Baisultanov (born 1962), Khanpasha Ezir-Pashaevich Baisultanov (born 1968), and Suleiman Ezir-Pashaevich Baisultanov (born 1974) – disappeared (see 2.3 "Continuation of the "cleansing operation," robberies, extortion"). The fact of their detention can be confirmed by their father, mother, brother and neighbors. Their further fate is unknown. There is still no trustworthy evidence that they were among those detainees who were brought to the "filtration point." Their relatives turned to the military command of the Kurchaloevsky region and to the bureau of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Protection of Rights and Freedoms of People and Citizens in the Territory of the Chechen Republic. It is necessary to point out that the middle brother, Khanpasha, is schizophrenic (an official diagnosis exists).
Among the detainees taken to the "filtration point" was a young woman, Malika Ustarkhanova, who is the mother of three young children including an infant. Along with her husband, who on the day of the "cleansing operation" was in the neighboring village, she moved to Tsotsin-Yurt from Grozny. When looking at her documents, the soldiers began to beat Malika right in the yard, demanding that she say where the fighters were; they then threw her into a BTR and took her away, saying that they'd let her go once her husband came. They continued to interrogate her at the "filtration point" and beat her, especially hard on the back and fingers. M. Ustarkhanova was freed on December 31. She had multiple traces of beatings.
According to the testimony of Kazbek Khazmagomadov, when asked why they were beating the detainees, representatives of the federal forces answered, "Because you're Chechens!" At night he and a few others were put in a vehicle for transporting prisoners. By his words, he and the others were interrogated on December 31 by someone who presented himself as an employee of the FSB.
Magomed Shirvanovich Magomadov told representatives of "Memorial" that on the morning of December 30 soldiers entered the yard of the Magomadovs' home, checked documents and left. But after 15 minutes the battle began at the neighboring Idrisovs' house (see above "Clashes with fighters"). Soldiers again stormed into the Magomadovs' yard and forced all the men onto the ground with the words "You're fighters! Where are the weapons?" began to kick them with their feet. When the shooting quieted down, all the men in the courtyard were "stuffed" into BTRs. Six people were detained in this way: Said-Akhmed Magomadov and his two sons, Said-Khusein and Solt-Akhmed, as well as two sons of Magomed Magomadov, Khozh-Akhmed and Sheikh-Akhmed, and his 18-year old grandson Dzhamleil. They delivered all six to the "filtration point." There they were detained outside without warm clothes. The detainees were subjected to beatings.
On the morning of December 31, Sheikh-Akhmed Magomadov (born 1976) was separated from the group of detainees and taken away. The remaining Magomaovs were released that day. Nothing is known of the fate of Sheikh-Akhmed Magomadov. The parents turned to the Shalinsky, Kurchaloevsky, Argunsky and Gudermessksy military commands without any results. There they were told that nothing was known about the fate of Sheikh-Akhmed Magomadov.
On December 30, Khamzat Israilov (born 1969), a resident of Tsotsin-Yurt, was detained. He was doing iron work in the Idrisovs' yard and was wounded during the shooting at the house (see 2.2 "Clashes with fighters"). He was delivered to the "filtration point." On December 31, witnesses saw a wounded Khamzat being put in an UAZ and taken towards the village of Kurchala, after which point Khamzat disappeared. Relatives submitted declarations to the prosecutor's office and the military command, without any results. On January 5, Khamzat's brother Abbaz, sister and daughter-in-law went to the military command of the Kurchaloevsky region. Soldiers came out of the gates of the military command and in front of the other relatives detained Abbaz and took him away into the military command facility. According to available information, Abbaz is charged with falsifying identity documents.
On December 31, village resident Alkhazur Saidselimov (born 1978) was detained. According to his brother Abuzar, Alkhazur Saidselimov was at Abuzar's house on December 30 and 31. On the evening of December 31, before the military curfew Alkhazur decided to return to his parents' house. He was afraid to do so during the day, fearing the soldiers. Apparently he was hoping that the soldiers had left the village after dusk. His cousin went with him.
However in the village center an armed personnel carrier waited in ambush and detained both young men. At the intersection near the well they were detained for about an hour until another man was detained. All three men were delivered to the "filtration point" around 7 PM on December 31. Alkhazur remained with the others until the morning of January 1. Magomed Mediev, who was there December 30 and 31, confirmed to representatives of "Memorial" that Alkhazur had arrived at the "filtration point." At about 9.30 in the morning, they took Alkhazur away – apparently to be interrogated. After that point, none of his relatives or fellow villagers saw Alkhazur alive.
The Human Rights Center "Memorial" knows of five instances of murders of civilians detained in the course of "cleansing operations" in the village of Tsotsin-Yurt. The names of three of those killed have been determined: Idris Zakriev (born 1965), Musa Ismailov (born 1964), and Alkhazur Movlavich Saidselimov (born 1978).
Even in the earliest days of the "cleansing operation" soldiers began to allow local residents who were outside the boundaries of the village to enter into Totsin-Yurt from the side of Mesker-Yurt (usually these were people who had left for the bazaar in Argun). These women, passing by the cordon, saw the bodies of four murdered men lying on the road on the outskirts of the village. Among these bodies they recognized Idris Zakriev and Musa Ismailov (see above, 2.1 "Beginning of the "cleansing operation." Detentions" and 2.2 "Clashes with fighters").
The parents of the two murdered men, together with the chairman of the Council of Elders and other representatives of the village community, approached the cordon and asked for a meeting with officials in order to identify the bodies. On January 1, representatives of the regional military command, the prosecutor's office of Kurchaloevsky region, and the prosecutor of the Chechen Republic arrived. An act of identification was completed for two bodies: I. Zakriev and M. Ismailov. The other four bodies were not identified by those gathered. These could have been newly-arrived fighters or residents of the village of Geldagan. Officials confirmed that all of the bodies were those of fighters killed during the course of battle. The representatives of the village and the relatives of the two dead local residents refused to admit this. Nonetheless, they were offered a document to sign, in which it was said that the bodies of the dead fighters were being transferred to them. There is contradictory information about whether or not the representatives of federal forces compelled the relatives of the murdered Zakriev and Ismailov to sign some kind of paper besides the act of identification. It is difficult for relatives of the dead to reconstruct the events in their memories.
There were multiple stab wounds on the bodies of I. Zakriev and M. Ismailov; their ears were cut off. It is unclear whether these wounds were inflicted while they were still alive, or whether they were marks from the desecration of the bodies after death. The conditions surrounding the murders of the two men are not known. They could have died if the soldiers actually used them as "human shields" during the assault on the Idrisovs' house (see above, 2.2 "Clashes with fighters"); they could have been shot by embittered soldiers in the Idrisovs' house after the assault; they could have been cruelly executed somewhere later on.
One thing is obvious – I. Zakriev and M. Ismailov were victims of extra-judicial executions; they were killed by representatives of federal forces after they were detained in their own homes.
On January 7 residents discovered the remains of three people, heavily damaged by one or more explosions, on the outskirts of Tsotsin-Yurt. The bodies – or rather the body parts – were so seriously damaged that only one of them could be identified. The family of Alkhazur Saidselimov managed to identify his remains by the remnants of clothing. Before his burial, all the remains were photographed at the suggestion of staff of the local police detachment.
It is obvious that A. Saidselimov also was the victim of an extra-judicial killing. He was detained by military servicemen, he spent time in the "filtration point," and was taken from there by representatives of federal forces. It is clear that two other detainees were killed along with him. However so far it has been impossible to determine their names.
Through the testimony of village residents, the Human Rights Center "Memorial" is aware of other instances of murders of local residents by Russian military servicemen. However we are delaying the publication of such information until further checks have been conducted.
The special operation ("cleansing operation") that federal forces conducted from December 30, 2001 to January 3, 2002 in the village of Tsotsin-Yurt, Kurchaloevsky region, was accompanied by gross and massive violations of human rights and the norms of Russian law.
The presence of representatives of the prosecutor's office in the village during the "cleansing operation" could not protect local residents from violence and arbitrariness from the side of representatives of federal forces. Nonetheless, it's possible that a positive outcome of the prosecutor's surveillance was the fact that on December 31 most of the detainees were released from the temporary "filtration point" organized on the edge of the village by the military command.
People brought to the "filtration point" were exposed to taunting, beatings and torture. Approximately 100 residents of Tsotsin-Yurt passed through the "filtration point."
During the course of an armed clash in the center of the village at the Idrisovs' house, peaceful residents were exposed to fatal dangers as military servicemen did not allow them to exit the besieged territory. As a result two individuals were wounded.
Robbery, extortion, insults and beatings of local residents occurred on a massive scale at the hands of representatives of federal forces carrying out the "cleansing operation."
The Human Rights Center "Memorial" knows of five instances of murders of detained civilians. The names of three of the dead have been determined: Idris Zakriev (born 1965), Musa Ismailov (born 1964), and Alkhazur Movlaevich Saidselimov (born 1978).
In the course of the special operation, residents of Tsotsin-Yurt detained by federal forces disappeared: Sheikh-Akhmed Magomadov (born 1976), Salamu Mazaev (born 1960), Khamzat Israilov (born 1969), Akhmed Ezir-Pashaevich Baisultaov (born 1962), Khanpash Ezir-Pashaevich Baisultanov (born 1968, schizophrenic), and Suleiman Ezir-Pashaevich Baisultanov (born 1974).