One Man's Story of Brutality by Russians

RUSLAN KHADJIYEV, a young Chechen security guard with the Kredo Bank in the capital of Grozny, was detained by Russian troops on Jan. 2 as he walked to the bank to protect it against looters. He, like many civilians in Russia's two-month-old war against the breakaway republic of Chechnya, have been targeted by Russian troops in the brutal war.

Here is his description of what happened to him and other Chechens during his detention:

All of a sudden a soldier appeared, and even though it was 10 o'clock in the morning and he could see me clearly he began shooting. [They did not hit him and] soldiers put me up against the wall to search me.

They beat me, but they didn't ask me anything. They were discussing whether to take me somewhere, or just to shoot me on the spot.

Just then a grenade exploded nearby, so they took me into a building, blindfolded me, and put me up against a wall pretending to shoot me.

An officer put his pistol to my head, but moved the barrel just as he pulled the trigger, so the bullet hit the wall.

Then they put me in an APC [armored personnel carrier] and hit me all the time as they took me to a warehouse where about 60 Chechens were being held.

There were people there of all ages, 70-year-old men and 13-year-old teenagers. They had all been taken from the shelters [where Grozny residents had hidden from heavy fighting between Chechen fighters and Russian soldiers over New Year's].

Two hours later a Special Forces soldier in a mask came and told us to leave one by one. The soldiers put two men in a car, and then for some reason took them out again and just shot them dead.

People were terrified, and a lot of us were crying. We were made to lie in the back of a truck, face down with our hands behind our backs, four layers deep. The soldiers told us if we moved they would kill us. People on the bottom were screaming, saying they were dying, but the soldiers just hit them with their rifles.

Then without any warning they killed two of the boys in the truck, one 13 years old, the other 17. They put their guns to the back of their heads and shot them.

Their father was lying close to me, and screaming, but the soldiers just hit him.

There were 64 people in our truck. When we got to Mozdok [the town in the republic of North Ossetia where the Russian military command for the war is located], we were made to pull the corpses from the truck. There were six or seven, because besides the ones they had shot, some had suffocated to death.

Then they made us lie down in the snow while they took all our valuables, money, jackets, hats, and then put us in a special railway car for prisoners. There were 24 people in the compartment I was in, designed for seven people.

I was taken for interrogation. They kept asking me where [rebel Chechen President Dzhokhar] Dudayev was, and where I had hidden my Kalashnikov [rifle].

They were hitting me with a truncheon, and I passed out. Then they told me to go outside. I asked if I should take my stuff, but they said I wouldn't be needing it. At that moment I heard some crying, then a gunshot, then no more crying. Then another cry, then a gunshot, then silence.

[Mr. Khadjiyev said he was held for nine days in Mozdok, given only the occasional piece of dry bread and some water, and was repeatedly beaten by his guards and interrogated. From Mozdok he was taken by train to Piatogorsk, and then to a jail in Stavropol.]

They beat us badly there, they broke my nose. They made us run the gantlet between two rows of soldiers who were hitting us. It was terrible. I fainted, and when I came to I was blind. That was on the morning of Jan. 20, now I have got my sight back more or less -- about 30 percent.

Mr. Khadjiyev was released on Jan. 28 by Russian forces, after officials from the pro-Moscow Chechen forces interceded on his behalf, protesting his innocence.

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