Magazine article Newsweek

Dire Tales of a Dirty War

Magazine article Newsweek

Dire Tales of a Dirty War

Article excerpt

WE HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO detain you." The offhanded comment from a Russian soldier manning a checkpoint in Chechnya was the start of a nightmare, says Ahmed Idrisov, 29. The soldiers kicked and beat him savagely, he says, and burned another Chechen man's eyes with a cigarette. Then the Russians blindfolded Idrisov and three others add loaded them into a military helicopter. "Look, this one has gold teeth," he says he heard one Russian remark to another. Next he says he heard screams. "Soon the screaming stopped, but I could hear how they were still beating him," said Idrisov. "Then they opened the hatch, and a soldier shouted, 'Put him overboard.' I don't know whether they threw him off or just beat him to death."

Russia's wholesale bombardment of Chechnya's capital, Grozny, was the most brutal military offensive by a big power in recent history. As the war moves into the countryside, fresh eyewitness accounts suggest that the outrage continues--behind closed doors. With chilling unanimity, former detainees describe summary executions by Russian guards wearing blue or black masks. In a railroad yard near Mozdok, the Russians' rear base for Chechnya, hundreds of Chechens and even some local Russians are kept in railroad cars, subjected to sadistic daily beatings, they say. One group of ex-prisoners allegedly saw drunken vigilantes in cahoots with the Russians slit a prisoner's throat in a courtyard there. Ibrahim Ugurchiev, a local journalist, tells of being stripped naked and set upon by a police dog. "[The guards] were standing there laughing, satisfied as if they were watching a wedding," he said. "They leave no peace anywhere," said Salimkhan Timurziyev, 30, his right eye swollen and bloody after a week's captivity.

Pressure on Yeltsin: The human-rights issue has blown up in Boris Yeltsin's face. His own human-rights commissioner, Sergei Kovalyov, weeks ago began a campaign to bring pressure to bear over the abuses, and it's begun to bear fruit. …

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