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Monday, June 23, 2008

Annals of Mass Murder in Chechnya -- Echoes of Katyn

Reuters reports:

A mass grave of some 800 people, mostly civilians, was reported in the war-torn Chechnya's capital Grozny, human rights officials said Friday.

"A Grozny resident, Arbi Tuzhayev, addressed Nurdi Nukhadzhiyev, human rights representative in Chechnya, to point out a place in the city's Christian cemetery where some 800 people were buried from January 2 to October 31, 1995," Nukhadzhiyev's spokeswoman Rosa Satuyeva said.

Nurdi Nukhadzhiyev is Russia's human rights representative in Chechnya.

"He said that he worked in a volunteer team that collected and buried corpses in 1995, during clashes in Grozny. He said that most of those were civilians," Satuyeva said.

According to Tuzhayev, "the city's streets and roads were littered with the dead soldiers, guerrillas and civilians, and we found a lot of bodies in ruins."

The bodies were brought to the place set by the military, who "photographed the bodies, registered and described them, and every corpse was provided with a number," Satuyeva said.

Three major battles have been fought for control of Grozny - two of them involving Russian air and artillery carpet bombing that destroyed most of the city.

There are no official statistics on how many people have been killed in the 11-year conflict in Chechnya, that began when Russian troops first attempted to crush a separatist uprising in 1994.

Human rights experts believe that as many as 100,000 civilians, out of a population of about one million, have died. Approximately 10,000 Russian soldiers have died, according to the military, although independent human rights campaigners believe the true figure is at least twice as high.

Rights activists know of some 60 mass graves in Chechnya, though exhuming and identifying the bodies remains a problem.

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