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V. Grozny, August 1996.
Occupation of Municipal Hospital No. 91

       In the beginning of August during bombing in Grozny, one of the groups of surrounded Russian soldiers managed to find shelter in a few houses near Municipal Hospital No. 9 on Ul. Mozdoksaya. These Russians were part of a division that was located approximately six hundred meters from the hospital in VSAAAN, a former auto-mechanic school.
       Although they controlled a large part of the area adjacent to the citys hospital, the Chechen rebels were not directly based on the territory of the hospital.
       At this time, there were approximately 300 sick and wounded Grozny citizens housed in Municipal Hospital No. 9 (1/3 of whom were immobile), as well as an additional 100 relatives taking care of their sick relatives and 90 members of the medical staff. (By the time the building was occupied by Russian troops, approximately 30 members of the medical staff remained.)2 Among the patients, there were approximately 20 children. According to Movsar Tembulatov, assistant to the head doctor of the hospital, during the first few days of the fighting wounded Chechen rebels, to whom doctors had refused medical care, were redressed in civilian clothing and placed among the other patients.3
       The hospital was not intentionally fired upon, but since the city was so heavily bombed, doctors began to relocate the patients to the basement of the hospital on August 8-9 in order to insure their security.
       On August 9th, Russian soldiers invaded the hospital.



       Umar Khunarikov, a surgeon in Municipal Hospital No. 9, retold the events:4

On the morning of the ninth, a group [of soldiers] slipped into the hospital and started to shoot from inside the building. In a few hours they disappeared. We had a strict agreement with the soldiers that neither side was permitted to enter the hospital and interfere in the hospitals functions. The commander of the forces based near the hospital, gave us his word and his forces did not enter the hospitals premises.5
On the tenth, an even more determined group of Russian soldiers entered the hospitals premises. This group was led under the command of Vladimir, a battalion commander. The soldiers demanded that the hospital release the Chechen rebels they were protecting. They forced the nurses to stand against the wall."


According to Movsar Tembulatov:

The Russian soldiers reasoned their actions by the fact that someone had been firing at them from the hospital. They searched the entire hospital as well as the attic, but nothing was found. Then, they searched the basement. When we went downstairs, they placed me or one of the other doctors in front of them, like a shield, with a machine gun against our back.


       There were about 20-30 soldiers in the group, including both drafted soldiers as well as older soldiers. The hospitals medical staff called the older soldiers contracted soldiers. It is possible that some of the soldiers occupying the hospital were from of a special sub-division of the MIA.6
       According to the account told by Zuli Suleimanova, a nurse in the traumatology wing:7

When the soldiers came in, Toita11 and I were standing in the corridor, and we shouted: "No one is permitted to enter this division. We have a lot of seriously wounded individuals. If you come in, then the rebels outside the hospital will fire on us because they know you are in here."
They forced Toita and I against the wall with their machine guns. They demanded that we give up the soldiers. You see, they found some weapons in the courtyard. I told them that nothing out of the ordinary is going on in the hospital, no military participation, and no rebels were hiding in the hospital. I thought that there was no longer anything to hide  indeed, two seriously wounded rebel fighters without weapons were carried into the hospital, and no one else bearing weapons had entered the hospital. In the morning, the rebels took the two corpses away.
Andrei, one of the commanders of the forces  a Buryat12  said that they would not leave until they had thoroughly checked everything. They began forcibly openng doors, went downstairs into the basement, but didnt end up finding anything suspicious, and said that they would leave."

       However, as the group of Russian soldiers was leaving the hospital, Volodya, the battalion commander, was shot in the thigh and seriously wounded while still in the courtyard of the hospital. The doctors and nurses carried him back to the hospital and gave him immediate assistance.
       The soldiers radioed their commander and requested assistance.13 Later the medical staff found out what response the soldiers got to their request: assistance wont be sent  stand strong until the end. Evidently, in an attempt to protect themselves, the soldiers had to occupy a defensive stand in the hospital. According to the medical staff, they closed off and even mined the entrances and said: Nobody is going anywhere. The only opening remained through two windows overlooking the hospitals courtyard, through which water, reserves, and food was passed. A few people holed up in the hospital managed to escape through these windows.
       Soldiers set up shooting stations on all the floors.
       According to Umar Khunarikov:

When the soldiers came in, Toita11 and I were standing in the corridor, and we shouted: "No one is permitted to enter this division. We have a lot of seriously wounded individuals. If you come in, then the rebels outside the hospital will fire on us because they know you are in here."
They forced Toita and I against the wall with their machine guns. They demanded that we give up the soldiers. You see, they found some weapons in the courtyard. I told them that nothing out of the ordinary is going on in the hospital, no military participation, and no rebels were hiding in the hospital. I thought that there was no longer anything to hide  indeed, two seriously wounded rebel fighters without weapons were carried into the hospital, and no one else bearing weapons had entered the hospital. In the morning, the rebels took the two corpses away.
Andrei, one of the commanders of the forces  a Buryat12  said that they would not leave until they had thoroughly checked everything. They began forcibly openng doors, went downstairs into the basement, but didnt end up finding anything suspicious, and said that they would leave."

       However, as the group of Russian soldiers was leaving the hospital, Volodya, the battalion commander, was shot in the thigh and seriously wounded while still in the courtyard of the hospital. The doctors and nurses carried him back to the hospital and gave him immediate assistance.
       The soldiers radioed their commander and requested assistance.13 Later the medical staff found out what response the soldiers got to their request: assistance wont be sent  stand strong until the end. Evidently, in an attempt to protect themselves, the soldiers had to occupy a defensive stand in the hospital. According to the medical staff, they closed off and even mined the entrances and said: Nobody is going anywhere. The only opening remained through two windows overlooking the hospitals courtyard, through which water, reserves, and food was passed. A few people holed up in the hospital managed to escape through these windows.
       Soldiers set up shooting stations on all the floors.
       According to Umar Khunarikov:

From the 10th through the 11th, fearing that Chechen soldiers might fire on the Russian soldiers located inside the hospital, we carried the patients down to the basement.14 The basement had not been used for ages; it was dirty and humid. Theoretically, it was forbidden for us to go down to the basement since if attacked, the Russian soldiers couldnt use us as cover.
Later, two doctors and nurses approached the Chechen rebels and pleaded for them not to fire at the hospital. The rebels said that not a single shot would be fired if the Russians would leave the hospital. But whether they were ordered not to leave or else were afraid, they ended up staying all night."

       According to Larisa Bokaeva, a nurse in the surgical sector:18

We had 210 seriously wounded patients in the basement. They were literally rotting there since we were forbidden to provide them with medical assistance. Many of them died as a result. The soldiers often prevented us from going down into the basement and from getting medical supplies   everything depended on their mood. There were two corpses lying in one of the wings. They were already beginning to decompose, but the soldiers nonetheless forbid us to bury them.

       According to nurse Larisa Bokaeva, during the time that the hospital was taken hostage, eight patients died in the basement. Tembulatov, assistant to the head doctor, reported that ten patients had died, and that their deaths were directly related to the lack of adequate medical care due to the conditions. However, he denied that the soldiers directly obstructed the doctors from offering medical assistance   the doctors were given permission to enter the basement through two entrances from the hospitals courtyard, and with special permission, they were allowed to collect medical supplies from the upper floors.
       Nurse Kurueva alleged that the soldiers broke all the safes and took all the hospitals drugs.19 Tembulatov denied that safes were broken, but confirmed that the soldiers had opened all the doors on the upper floors, that all the medical supplies were shifted around, and that everything was in complete disarray. In addition, according to the nurses, the soldiers shot themselves up with Promedol.20

Later, two doctors and nurses approached the Chechen rebels and pleaded for them not to fire at the hospital. The rebels said that not a single shot would be fired if the Russians would leave the hospital. But whether they were ordered not to leave or else were afraid, they ended up staying all night."

According to Larisa Bokaeva, a nurse in the surgical sector:18

We had 210 seriously wounded patients in the basement. They were literally rotting there since we were forbidden to provide them with medical assistance. Many of them died as a result. The soldiers often prevented us from going down into the basement and from getting medical supplies   everything depended on their mood. There were two corpses lying in one of the wings. They were already beginning to decompose, but the soldiers nonetheless forbid us to bury them.

       According to nurse Larisa Bokaeva, during the time that the hospital was taken hostage, eight patients died in the basement. Tembulatov, assistant to the head doctor, reported that ten patients had died, and that their deaths were directly related to the lack of adequate medical care due to the conditions. However, he denied that the soldiers directly obstructed the doctors from offering medical assistance   the doctors were given permission to enter the basement through two entrances from the hospitals courtyard, and with special permission, they were allowed to collect medical supplies from the upper floors.
       Nurse Kurueva alleged that the soldiers broke all the safes and took all the hospitals drugs.19 Tembulatov denied that safes were broken, but confirmed that the soldiers had opened all the doors on the upper floors, that all the medical supplies were shifted around, and that everything was in complete disarray. In addition, according to the nurses, the soldiers shot themselves up with Promedol.20
       On August 11th negotiations with the rebels surrounding the hospital continued. The group which had taken the hospital hostage was in regular radio-contact with its commander. The soldiers told the nurse that their commander had ordered them not to leave the hospital. In the meantime, groups of Russian soldiers hidden in surrounding houses began to venture toward the hospital. As a result, based on different estimations, there were about 60-90 Russian soldiers in the hospital. After the battalion commander, Volodya,24 was wounded, command of the Russian soldiers occupying the hospital was transferred to some other officers. According to Tembulatov, there were three separate groups of soldiers each with their own commander occupying the hospital, yet all were under the command of a person nicknamed Bob.
       According to Khizir Khachukaev, commander of one of the CRI units blockading the hospital:25

Their commander said: If you let us leave without firing a single shot, then well leave. Well, okay, we offered them the chance to leave. But, they held out until the evening, at which point they said that they were given orders not to leave. They threatened to torture the patients if we opened fire on them or stormed the hospital.

       According to the Chechen rebels, during negotiations the Russian soldiers threatened to throw grenades into the basement where the patients were located if their demands were not satisfied.
       It ought to be noted that the Russian soldiers who were occupying the hospital realized that they were acting much like the Chechen terrorists who had occupied hospitals on two previous occasions. The nurses told the representatives of the Memorial HRC that the threat of repeating Budennovsk was acknowledged several times, and one of the commanders even said that he was repeating the feat of Basaev.26 Tembulatov relayed the following dialogue which took place between himself and Alik, the commander of one of the groups of soldiers who were occupying the hospital:
       On August 11th negotiations with the rebels surrounding the hospital continued. The group which had taken the hospital hostage was in regular radio-contact with its commander. The soldiers told the nurse that their commander had ordered them not to leave the hospital. In the meantime, groups of Russian soldiers hidden in surrounding houses began to venture toward the hospital. As a result, based on different estimations, there were about 60-90 Russian soldiers in the hospital. After the battalion commander, Volodya,24 was wounded, command of the Russian soldiers occupying the hospital was transferred to some other officers. According to Tembulatov, there were three separate groups of soldiers each with their own commander occupying the hospital, yet all were under the command of a person nicknamed Bob.
       According to Khizir Khachukaev, commander of one of the CRI units blockading the hospital:25

Their commander said: If you let us leave without firing a single shot, then well leave. Well, okay, we offered them the chance to leave. But, they held out until the evening, at which point they said that they were given orders not to leave. They threatened to torture the patients if we opened fire on them or stormed the hospital.

       According to the Chechen rebels, during negotiations the Russian soldiers threatened to throw grenades into the basement where the patients were located if their demands were not satisfied.
       It ought to be noted that the Russian soldiers who were occupying the hospital realized that they were acting much like the Chechen terrorists who had occupied hospitals on two previous occasions. The nurses told the representatives of the Memorial HRC that the threat of repeating Budennovsk was acknowledged several times, and one of the commanders even said that he was repeating the feat of Basaev.26 Tembulatov relayed the following dialogue which took place between himself and Alik, the commander of one of the groups of soldiers who were occupying the hospital:

Alik "Are you one of the superiors?"
Tembulatov "I am."
Alik "Do you remember Budennovsk?"
Tembulatov "Yes."
Alik "You are going to be our human shield."

According to Zuli Suleumanova:

There was an agreement between both sides not to shoot. Two houses away there were wounded Russians, and the soldiers left to bring them back to the hospital. Khizir Khachukaev sent one of his men, Ibragim, unarmed. He had to accompany the Russian soldiers so that there would not be any shooting. They took me and another nurse, Zarema, with them. The three of us were hostages. We all voluntarily cooperated so that no one in the hospital would be harmed. We collected all the wounded bodies and even one corpse. Then, just as we were leaving, Ibragim, who was leading the way, was hit by a sniper. And only then did we realize that there was no unity among the groups of Russian soldiers. A Chechen soldier couldnt have shot him. Finally we escaped through a window facing away from the shooting.
The house that we had entered was occupied by drafted27 soldiers. I was not able to leave the house immediately because of the shooting, and so I sat with them for some time. The soldiers were crying. They told me that they originally didnt even know where they were being sent: "When we arrived in Chechnya, only then did we realize where we were."

       While evacuating the wounded bodies, they were showered upon by mortar fire and one of the Russian soldiers shielded a nurse from a flying shrapnel. Having witnessed this episode, one of the interviewees declared that it would not be fair to write them all off as scoundrels and bastards.
       Only four wounded Russian soldiers made it to the hospital.
       According to Movsar Tembulatov:

From the first moment the Russian soldiers appeared, I suggested several ways of getting out of the situation. We tried to conduct negotiations with the opposing commanders. We first offered to surround the Russian soldiers with a living shield" and get them safely to the military compound based in VSAAAN, the auto-mechanic school. We requested that they allow us to transfer our patients out of the hospital. However, this issue went unresolved  they said that it was imperative that they discuss this issue with their commander...
The second day after the hospital was seized, a young man named Alikhan approached us. He was wearing clothes with the International Red Cross emblem. He said that he had come to the hospital at the request of a Chechen division of the Red Cross in order to transfer all the mobile patients to the International Red Cross Center. Later we realized that the Red Cross division had not sent him, but rather, he had acted on his own. Alikhan had also made an agreement with the rebels not to shoot the patients leaving the hospital. We were glad that at least some of the patients would be able to leave. But the Russian commanders who were in the hospital refused to let anyone leave, regardless of who it was."

       The reason for the refusal was such: people walking in a large group on the streets of Grozny would be exposing themselves to danger. The doctors were told that the decision to permit anyone to leave the hospital could only be made by the commander of the troops based in VSAAAN. The Russian officers allowed Tembulatov and Alikhan to leave the hospital with them so that they could speak directly to the commander in charge, and contacted him by radio in advance of the visit.28
       According to Movsar Tembulatov:

We ran to the military compound. As we approached the compound, we cried out for the soldiers not to shoot. The soldiers met us and led us to the commander in charge... We explained the entire situation to him, and requested that he release all the mobile patients and assistants. He negotiated with us, and finally said: I will allow 50 people to leave but only women and children. In addition, he agreed to allow two medical personnel to accompany them, as long as they too were women.
Alikhan led the women and children out of the hospital. There could have been more than 50 of them  we did not count them exactly. Practically all the children and women wishing to leave left. Many of the women refused to leave because they feared that once the women left, the soldiers would kill the men."


       On the morning of the following day  August 12th  the head of the post-operation recovery department heard on the radio that the hospital had supposedly been seized by rebels who had taken the medical staff and patients hostage. This information soon reached the Russian soldiers and seriously alarmed them they were afraid that other groups of Russian forces would start bombing or heavily shooting
       At mid-day on August 12th, Russian troops located in VSAAAN attempted an assault on the hospital. The rebels surrounding the hospital managed to hold off the assault, and two APCs were set ablaze (one of them, which was in front of the main entrance on August 19th and 20th, was observed by representatives of the Memorial HRC). Four of the soldiers who managed to break through to the hospital were captured by Khachukaevs men.29
       During the attack, shooting came from inside the hospital. According to the nurses, the Russian soldiers had dragged into the hospital machine-guns, mortar weapons, and a small, long cannon on wheels...As soon as they began to fire the machine-guns, we were all deafened. According to the testimony of one of Khachukaevs men, the rebels began to fire only in response to shooting from inside the hospital. As a result of the shooting, two Chechen soldiers were killed, and according the medical staff, there were also wounded Russian soldiers. It was only during this attack that the hospital was subject to shooting.30
       During the attack, Russian soldiers tried to force the men held hostage in the hospital to gather the wounded bodies in the hospitals courtyard.
       According to Kisa Kurueva, a nurse in the operating room:31

During the attack, they forced from the basement the men, children, elderly, as well as those who were assisting the sick and wounded.32 We asked: Where are you taking them? And they responded: Our wounded must be picked up from the street  the sooner the better. We told them they should go and gather the bodies themselves, and that we would not let any of our men leave the hospital. All the women stood up and tried to prevent the soldiers from leading the men away. The soldiers began to swear, and threatened to shoot. We said: Go ahead, shoot. We also forbid the male doctors from leaving the hospital."

       After the assault failed, the soldiers in the hospital realized that there would be no more assistance, and again proposed talks with the rebels about leaving the hospital for the VSAAAN, where a larger group of soldiers were based.
       According to Khachukaev, he himself initiated the discussion by ordering the officer they had captured to write a message to the soldiers in the hospital.33
       According to an account provided by one of Khachukaevs men:34

We agreed to attend the negotiations only because we wanted to free the patients. There were women, old people with liver and kidney problems in the hospital. There were a lot of Russian-speaking patients there as well...They entered the negotiations because their men were in our hands  a lieutenant and other soldiers. Only after we had captured them did they agree to engage in negotiations. They were given the opportunity to leave armed  nobody demanded that they put their weapons down. Simply leave with their weapons in hand, and if they were going to fight, then it could at least be in a different place. They did not demand that condition  we suggested it.

       Khachukaev, the Chechen commander, and Alik, one of the commanders of the soldiers occupying the hospital, met in front of the hospital. A few nurses and doctors, including Tembulatov, surrounded them so as to guarantee their safety during the meeting. Alik agreed to lead the Russian soldiers occupying the hospital back to VSAAAN; however, he demanded a guarantee of their safety. He did not trust the Chechen commanders promises not to shoot. Tembulatov repeated his former proposal  some of the hostages would voluntarily form a human shield around the Russian soldiers along the road back to VSAAAN.
       Within three to four hours on August 12th, an agreement had been reached.
       According to Khizir Khachukaev:

We agreed that they would lead the hostages, patients, and medical staff back to their territory. We also promised to turn over our hostages. During the negotiations, they threatened that should something happen, they would kill the hostages...such threats from officers in the MIA.

       Both sides agreed not to take the hospital hostage and not to open fire on it in the future.
       The Russian soldiers demanded that 100 people accompany them. The medical staff, the mobile patients and their relatives agreed to accompany the soldiers.35 In addition, two unarmed rebels accompanied the group. The human shield surrounded the soldiers; the wounded and dead soldiers were also protected by the shield.
       As the group progressed toward VSAAAN, an unpleasant incident occurred. According to Tembulatov, the Chechens released their hostages once the group was no longer on the hospitals premises. The soldiers leading the group took this to mean a breach of the agreement.
       One of the hostages, Khadis Malsagov recalled the incident:36

As soon as we exited the hospital, they lined up the women and said that they were going to shoot them if they refused to release the hostages immediately. One of the doctors broke away from the group, and ran back to the hospital in tears. After that, the rebels quickly brought all the hostages out into the open.
Near the gate of the compound, they tried to take a surgeon, the assistant to the head doctor of the hospital (Movsar Tembulatov), with them because they claimed only to have one medical attendant in the compound. But, the women managed to free the surgeon."

       This account was also confirmed by reports of others present during the incident, including Zuli Suleumanova who, among others, was threatened with her life.
       In the meantime, the medical staff in the hospital prepared the remaining patients for an evacuation to the International Red Cross Center, which was located nearby.
       When the people who participated in the human shield returned from the military compound, the hospital was subject to mortar firing. Up until that point, the hospital had only been subject to minor mortar firing; yet, upon the return of the human shield, the hospital was subject to several rounds of mortar firing for a half-hour. Those hospital employees interviewed confirmed that the Chechen rebels had not yet reached the hospitals premises  they only managed to enter the hospital the following day after the evacuation of all the patients and the medical staff.
       According to Usam Malsagov, one of the hostages in the basement:37

As soon as the women returned to the hospital, the wounded and ill patients started to move around more freely  they even ventured out of the basement. I also left the basement. At that very moment, the hospital was showered on by mortar firing. A young medic shouted: Go back, go back! Dont come out! The crowd of patients stopped in their tracks, and stood dumbstruck. Then, shooting started to come from the basements exit. I dont know how it happened, but the young medic, standing two to three steps below me, was shot to death while I only ended up with a contusion.
Toita.JPG

       Thus, nurse Toita Kutukhanova, born in 1973, was killed (address: Staraya Sunzha, 18 Ul. Ozernaya).38 As a result of this round of mortar firing, two other nurses, two doctors and one female patient were wounded.
       That evening, the remaining patients and the medical staff evacuated the hospital, and were relocated to the International Red Cross Center in the morning.

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       The testimonies of witnesses and victims provide a reasonable basis to assume that the Russian soldiers who took the patients and medical staff in Municipal Hospital No. 9 and civilians in the vicinity of the 15th town hostage, did not undertake these actions on their own, but rather acted under direct orders from the commanders of their units.
       The following episode also serves as a clear indication of this. Five months before the above-mentioned events took place  in March 1996 similar events had already occured in Grozny. Masses of Chechen rebels penetrated the city, and over the course of a few days, serious fighting took place. Radio recordings were taken of conversations held during this period between a Russian blockpost surrounded by Chechen rebels and the headquarters of the MIA of the RF (code 800). The Russian soldiers at the blockpost were apparently in a desparate situation  they hardly had any cartridges left; there were many casualties; evening had fallen. However, in response to their desparate demands for assistance, the headquarters instructed that there was no assistance available, and moreover, they should take two Chechen familes hostage and leave the area under their cover. In any case, no one was taken hostage, and the surrounded soldiers responded: Those who are attacking are not thinking about who is Chechen or Russian. We will make the decision ourselves.39



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