Anna Politkovskaya tells
Conversed Marcin Wojciechowski 26-05-2004, last update 26-05-2004 19:13
Marcin Wojciechowski: Where this video-movie, which shows the guards unloading Chechens from trucks and loading them to those prison railroad cars has been taken?
Anna Politkovskaya: That was on a railroad side-track near the Chervlyonnya station in the northern Chechnya. People who could be seen in this video are the fighters captured after the battle for Komsomolskoye on the turn of February-March 2000. That was the biggest battle of this war in Chechnya besides the siege of Grozny . Then some 1,500 people were defending themselves in that native village of commander Ruslan Gelayev. The army used airplanes and heavy artillery. A part of fighters broke through the encirclement, a part was taken prisoner. The were promised amnesty, to encourage the other guerillas to surrender.
Have people seen on this vido clips been already amnestied?
That’s what a man from whom I’ve got this video-cassette asserts. But, from a group of more than
70 people we were able to find out that only three have survived the captivity. Two of them hanged themselves later and one has disappeared. It’s totally unknown what has happened with the rest. Possibly they were moved in the railroad cars to the next filtration camps. A majority could got into the camp in Chernokozovo. I’ve reached some statements of other prisoners who assert that under cover of the night they were told to move the bodies of prisoners from Komsomolskoye. Some corpses supposedly were still warm, that means that the prisoners were getting killed on the spot. On their bodies there were marks of sapper shovels and other blunt objects.
Who is the man who had taken this video?
- That’s a young soldier, who was on the contract in Chechnya. He was serving in a special unit of the Ministry of Justice. He has taken this video for a keepsake. Maybe he wanted to boast to his collegues about fighting in Chechnya. I also have some info that this is not the only one this type of case – although I haven’t seen other videos. After his return from the war he suffers from this “Chechen syndrom” – which affects many of our soldiers. He had a bad nervous breakdown, he drank alcohol, took drugs and at the end he’d decided to reveal this video to partially hush the voice of his conscience.
In every truck there’s close to 40 persons sitting, squeezed like in the can of sardines. At some moment we can see some corpses being thrown out. Why corpses?
- The man who was shooting this video says that all people who were loaded on the trucks were alive, which means they died while en route. The reason for that could had been a squeeze, lack of
air, tortures which the prisoners were subjected to, lack of medical aid.
Does the army still apply tortures in Chechnya?
– According to persons who get in touch with me – yes, it does. Generally in every unit there are places for holding and interrogating prisoners. Sometimes that’s a whole in the ground covered by a tent fabric – so nothing can be seen. Sometimes it’s a cave in the mountains, a clearing in the forest. A big prison is also in the Khankala Russian base, in Grozny, but there’s absolutely no access to it. It’s own jails has also a pro-Moscow Chechen police commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov who tortures detained as well.
Allegedly, his house in Tsentaroi it’s big torture room?
- Interrogations take place in basements and courtyards. I heard stories of cutting off pieces of skin from people’s backs. Young Kadyrov likes to stage a trial in his courtyard. He sits on a platform and pretends to be a judge. People are being beaten up till they acknowleged their guilt or to agree to collaborate. Malik Saydullayev – who was one of the candidates for president of
Chechnya had a personal body guard – and he was let go only when he agreed to plant a bomb underneath of his chief’s car.
Weren’t they afraid that after leaving that jail, outside, he will tell about this?
- His own and his family’s life was warranty of silence. This man was able to leave Chechnay with his wife and children. After that, he told me everything about it.
Acquaintance of mine, from a humanitarian organization at the Caucasus, was telling me that the army more often kills than bothers with holding prisoners.
- That depends what’s needed at the moment. If there’s a bombing attack, and a guilty one must be found very fast, then some prisoner gets tortured till he acknowledges his guilt. There was a case where two brothers were arrested – and one of them was mentally ill. The healthy one was ransomed
out by his familly and the sick one admitted himself that he wanted to plant a bomb.
Was there even one case that the prosecutorship investigated described by you some cases of torture?
- In Chechnya there’s a civil and military prosecutorship. The first one tries to do something, but all the cases regarding soldiers are handed over to the military prosecutors. Civil prosecutors even showed to me some documents that they sent this particular case to the military, but after two
months everything returns to them untouched. Also, after our publication of this video-movie from Chervlyonnaya – there was no response from the authorities. The Russian journalists also haven’t
got interested in this.
But in your texts some militarymen appear, those who don’t like violence, tortures, lawlessness.
Sometimes they even deliver some information for you.
- Some of them give me informations for money. But there are idealists too, even among generals.
Those who understand that this war destroys Russia and people who participate in it.
(tr. by M.L.)
Anna Politkovskaya tells