Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Apprehension

Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.):

Residents of Chechnya’s mountain districts worried by actions of Russian soldiers

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA – The situation in the southern districts of the Chechen Republic has significantly deteriorated recently. Local residents report that Russian soldiers are actively shelling forested areas and mountain gorges with long-range guns, and in a number of cases using combat helicopters and attack aircraft.

“In our district, and also in the adjoining Vedensky and Shalinsky districts, the situation is pretty nerve-racking. Soldiers once again actively firing cannon and conducting aerial bombings of the outskirts of the villages, as well as the forests and gorges. Fortunately there haven’t yet been any deaths or injuries among the population, but even so, people are very worried by what is going on,” says Abuyazid Alkhazurov, a 40-year-old resident of the mountainous Shatoysky district.

“Work started on rebuilding a bridge up here near our village of Zumsoy, so now the soldiers have declared open season on it,” Alkhazurov says. “On October 30 and 31 the district around the bridge was fired on from helicopters. A day earlier (on October 29), this locality came under fire from long-range guns. None of the workers was killed or injured, thank God. Now work on the bridge has stopped, since after two missile strikes and an artillery bombardment the workmen are simply unwilling to do the job. The machinery and construction materials are lying there unsupervised.”

The situation in Shalinsky district is not much better. Russian soldiers regularly subject the forested areas there to artillery strikes and aerial bombardments. Those who suffer most from the soldiers’ actions are the residents of the large settlement of Serzhen-Yurt. At the end of last week a picket was even organized in Grozny demanding an end to artillery attacks and air-strikes in the mountain districts of the republic.

The situation in the south of Chechnya has become so complicated that it is now even a subject of debate at the current session of the Chechen Parliament. The deputies of the National Assembly (Chechnya’s House of Commons) have passed a resolution for the creation of a parliamentary commission. This body will attend to the tasks of liaison with federal law enforcement command centres and the prevention of similar incidents in future. An ex-military officer, General Ibragim Suleymenov, has been appointed chairman of the commission.

Meanwhile in Grozny on November 3, General Yevgeny Baryayev, deputy commander of the United Group of Russian Troops in the North Caucasus, attempted to justify the deployment of aviation and heavy artillery in the mountainous part of the republic.

“The guerrillas in the mountains are trying to equip bases. In order to prevent them from restocking their supplies of ammunition and foodstuffs and penetrating into the villages, it’s necessary to employ artillery and open fire on areas of mountain and forest periodically,” the General said.

However, the republic’s residents take a rather different view of the matter. “The war has being going on here for seven years now. For seven years they’ve been bombing and shelling here. Russia’s highest leadership, including the military, has already announced several times that that there’s no war in Chechnya, that the ‘counter-terrorist operation’ is complete, that the guerrillas don’t present any serious threat, but for some reason there is no real confirmation of this,’ said a lecturer at Chechen State University who is a native of the Vedensky district. ‘The incessant bombardments and shelling of the mountainous part of the republic are the obvious evidence. I don’t know how many more thousands and millions of tons of projectiles and bombs the generals plan to bring down on our mountains and forests in order to ‘finally’ beat the guerrillas. It’s all plainly absurd.”

“At the very beginning of this war, these mountain districts were subjected to the most brutal air-strikes and shelling. Then hundreds and even thousands of people who weren’t guilty of anything were killed or became cripples. Very gradually, people have begun to move away from what they went through, they want to live, build houses for themselves, raise their children, but the military still refuses to be pacified. What’s the point of their indiscriminate bombardments and air-strikes on the forests and mountains? They ought to go there and fight, if that’s where the guerrillas are hiding as they say they are. And they should give the civilian population a chance to get on with a normal life,” he considers.

Translated by David McDuff.

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