Chechens complain of humiliation, beatings by Russian troops

Posted: Wednesday, July 12, 2000

MAIRTUP, Russia (AP) - Chechen women selling cigarettes, beer and vodka outside this Russian-held village in Chechnya told on Wednesday of drunken Russian soldiers shooting in the air, beating women and emptying houses of valuables.

``Previously, our concern was to earn a little money to buy bread. Now we think how to earn money and remain alive,'' said Yakha Mirzoyeva, one of about eight women clad in black dresses and kerchiefs.

The women sell cheap cigarettes, beer and nuts, vodka and pharmaceutical alcohol from their makeshift wooden tables. Alcohol and Russian Ochakovo beer, they say, are the items of choice among the soldiers, who are the main buyers.

But relations with the army are rough in this village 19 miles southeast of the Chechen capital Grozny. The women describe continual harassment.

``The soldiers get drunk frequently, they shoot in the air, threaten and humiliate us,'' said Mirzoyeva. ``I'm not sure that I will be alive tomorrow.''

Maret Maskhadova, whose family name coincidentally is that of Chechnya's separatist President Aslan Maskhadov, said she was often questioned and beaten by troops.

``Once in the winter, I was so badly beaten that I couldn't walk for a week,'' Maskhadova said. ``My husband has become a cripple with kidney problems and concussion. This is what the soldiers did to him.''

Another woman, Zara Dadayeva, said soldiers have emptied Chechen homes in the village of most valuables during raids in search of rebels.

Mairtup has been quiet in recent days but troops stationed here are tense, fearing rebel attacks such as the nine skirmishes reported elsewhere in the breakaway republic overnight.

The attacks usually don't inflict heavy casualties but have put a constant strain on the Russians. They reflect how Moscow can't keep even keep the two-thirds of Chechnya it controls free of violence despite beefing up security and imposing a curfew.

The overnight attacks targeted the capital Grozny and its outskirts, and two servicemen were wounded, a spokesman with the Interior Ministry said.

In neighboring Dagestan, the target of a rebel invasion last year, security agents thwarted a major bomb attack by discovering 10 containers filled with explosives under railway tracks, Russia's security service said Wednesday.

The service, or FSB, said in a statement that the foiled attack was planned on a high ``professional level,'' and the security service again warned ``the citizens of Russia about the reality of the threats by Chechen and international extremists.''

A rebel leader said the militants recognized such attacks were their most effective weapon against the federal troops, who far outnumber them and have far more arms.

``We consider it a large-scale operation when small groups of our fighters are involved in the combat actions throughout the entire territory of Chechnya,'' field commander Mumadi Saidayev told The Associated Press.

Russian forces kept up their air and artillery raids, with Russian jets flying 50 sorties in the last 24 hours, the military command said.

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