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IV. Grozny, August 1996. The Taking of Hostages
in the Region of Military Compound #15

       In the first half of August, the city of Grozny was like a layered cake, where neighborhoods, blockposts1 and individual buildings under the control of the Russian forces interweaved with the territory occupied by units of the army of the self-proclaimed CRI. The majority of the encircled divisions and groups of soldiers from the Russian army found themselves in a difficult situation.
       A part of the Russian forces were based in the neighborhood of the republican hospital on Lenin Street, which was on territory known as the 15th town.2 At the start of the fighting in Grozny, this territory remained in the possession of the federal forces and soldiers from other regions of the city were able to retreat to this area.
       According to the testimony of witnesses, on August 11, 12 and 17, servicemen conducted a cleansing in the areas adjacent to the 15th town which were composed mostly of one-story buildings (Izberbashkaya, Kalinin, Kuibyshev, Lazo, Matrocov, Odeskaya, Ukrainskaya, Shchors Streets). In the course of these cleansings, civilians were seized and brought to the military compound. As a condition of their release, relatives of those captured were made to bring in the bodies of dead Russian soldiers or to provide for the delivery of goods to Russian posts which were being blockaded. These same relatives were forced to engage in talks with units of the armed forced of the CRI in order to see that these demands could be met. Numerous people who witnessed or in some way suffered from the cleansings were interviewed by the Memorial HRC.

***

       On August 12th, Alexei Evgenevich Ptukhin, who was born in 1975 and lives on 68 Shchors Street, and two of his neighbors, Mamed Yusupov and Musa Mankiev,3 left home at about 10 oclock in the morning. According to M. Mankiev, it was quiet on the street, there were no signs of any Russians, a group of Chechen fighters were walking along the streets. These young men had intended to simply buy some cigarettes and then immediately return home. However, at the corner of the street, they were detained by Russian soldiers who checked their documents, then handcuffed them and lead them away. The boys were told that there was nothing to be afraid of, that they were simply being used as shields until they reached the military compound and would then be released. Several other detainees, including two Russians who seemed quite drunk, were also taken. The detainees were lead into the military compound where an officer examined their hands and shoulders4 after which he declared them all to be rebels. The fact that Russians were detained particularly angered the Russian soldiers.
       According to Musa Mankiev:

We were forced to lay on the ground and were tied up. Then I heard one of them say: "Are these three Russians?"
"Yes," responded someone else.
"Shoot them, said the first, They arent Russians, theyre traitors. All the Russians have left already."
I didnt really believe that they would shoot them. I thought they were just trying to scare them.

       The three Russians, including Ptukhin, were immediately separated from the rest and lead away.
       The following account was told by Magomed Taramov, born in 1941 and living on 41 Odeskaya Street.5

They came to our house on the 12th. I went out myself to open the gate so that they didnt force it open with the butt of their guns. My son6 and I were placed against the side of the house. My family was in the house, there were children there, a lot of shouting, noise, hubbub. The women showed them our passports. We arent fighters and definitely hadnt take any part in the armed conflict. We were brought out to the street, where about nine people were standing by a wall. We were joined by even more people who had been taken from their homes. Altogether there were twenty four people. A colonel was in charge. Our hands were tied up and we were led along the street.
On Lenin Street there was some serious gunfire. The soldiers took cover behind us...
We were led through a hole in a fence into the military compound...

       In the evening of August 12th, relatives of those detained , mostly women, headed in the direction of the military base with white flags.7 However, they were shot at and as a result went home. The following morning, these relatives along with Victoria Petrovna Arutyunova, the director of School #34 of the October region, again approached the military base. They were not allowed into the military base although several officers came out. The women were able to convince these officers that the detained men had not taken part in the fighting. Apparently, the officers had already understood that and they expressed their readiness to release the detainees, but only on the condition that the women brought them wounded soldiers from the 13th blockpost which was surrounded by Chechen fighters or the bodies of Russian soldiers who had been killed near the Luch store.
       Garib Asiyalov, who lives at 8 Lazo Street8 related how the women approached him and requested that he be present during the talks with the officers. At the military base, he tried to shame the officer who attended and to prove to him that such actions were a disgrace. He also tried to explain that peace talks between the Russian and Chechen sides had already begun. In response to that, G. Asiyalov claims that the officer said: That doesnt concern me. I could care less about Lebed and Maskhadov  I take orders from Kulikov.9 We will exchange a head for a head  our wounded or dead men for your living ones.
       On the first day, the women were not able to get permission from the Chechen rebels to take away wounded soldiers from the 13th blockpost. On the following day, the well-known Chechen commander, Akhmed Zakaev declared that he was prepared to give up one wounded Russian soldier in exchange for the release of one detained person from the Chechen side. He refused to send his men to dig up dead bodies but promised that he would not impede Russian soldiers from doing so.
       The relatives rented a truck and began to transport wounded and dead soldiers. According to G. Asiyalov, 32 hostages were exchanged. There were some complications since the women often brought in the bodies of dead soldiers who werent under the jurisdiction of that military compound.10
       However, Alexei Ptukhin, Magomed and Alimkan Taramov werent among those released. An officer, in command of a certain intelligence group, promised that on the next day he would give up the bodies of three people who had been shot. In exchange for them, he wanted the bodies of some dead soldiers from his group. On the following day, after the bodies of these soldiers had been brought in, relatives of the hostages were first given the body of an unknown person and then the body of Alexei Ptukhin. There were four bullet wounds on his body and his head was smashed.
       Magomed and Alimkhan Taramov were released several days later in exchange for the bodies of eight Russian soldiers.
       Immediately after the exchange, all the interviewed hostages and their relatives left Grozny and did not return until September.
       Those who were detained recounted that they were treated with cruelty.
       After being beaten severely, Yusupov and Mankiev were thrown into a pit where they remained for three days.
       Magomed Taramov

In the "15th town, we were blindfolded and told to lie on the ground... After that four people, including my son and I, were among those selected. We were taken to an APC. I thought that, because of the background noise from the motor, they either wanted to hang or shoot us... Two soldiers put me on the APC. I then thought theyre going to hang me. I was placed up there and behind me there was another guy like myself and we were tied together with wire... I then understood that they were making a target out of us, that they wanted to drive down Lenin Street and were hoping that the rebels wouldnt fire.
After fifteen minutes of driving around, I immediately realized that we were at Khankala.13

       Four people were driven in like that and were placed in a pit where the other detainees were kept. Those being kept in the pit were subject to beatings every day as well as frequent harassment from the contracted soldiers.14 Magomed Taramov was once interrogated.
       After five days, both father and son (the Taramovs) were taken back to the 15th town. There they were told that they would soon be exchanged. They were again beaten although this time a certain Russian officer interceded on their behalf and guarded them until their release.
       Among those detained were two militiamen, Murat and Movsar (those relating the account could not remember their last names) from the MIA CR. Their homes had been searched by Russian soldiers who found their guns. They were brought to Khankal along with the Taramovs and were kept together in the same pit. They were interrogated and, like the others, they were also beaten. However, in connection with the fact that the MIA CR took an interest in their fate, they werent exchanged but were instead released on August 22-23.

***

       Another cleansing of the areas adjacent to the 15th town took place on August 17th, in which new hostages were seized.
       The first report regarding the hostage takeover of civilians in this region was released on Radio Liberty on August 19th. Correspondent V. Dolin confirmed that a group of masked Russian soldiers had broken into several houses near the local hospital in Grozny on August 17th, had taken non-militant residents hostage, had attempted to take able men hostage, and ended up abducting 20 youngsters.
       Representatives of the Memorial HRC interviewed local residents living regarding the abovementioned events. Those interviews revealed that Russian soldiers conducted this cleansing in the area of the 15th town during which hostages were seized and taken to a military compound. The opposition forces did not engage in the conflict, and simply retreated from the area.15
       However, Alexei Ptukhin, Magomed and Alimkan Taramov werent among those released. An officer, in command of a certain intelligence group, promised that on the next day he would give up the bodies of three people who had been shot. In exchange for them, he wanted the bodies of some dead soldiers from his group. On the following day, after the bodies of these soldiers had been brought in, relatives of the hostages were first given the body of an unknown person and then the body of Alexei Ptukhin. There were four bullet wounds on his body and his head was smashed.
       Magomed and Alimkhan Taramov were released several days later in exchange for the bodies of eight Russian soldiers.
       Immediately after the exchange, all the interviewed hostages and their relatives left Grozny and did not return until September.
       Those who were detained recounted that they were treated with cruelty.
       After being beaten severely, Yusupov and Mankiev were thrown into a pit where they remained for three days.
       Magomed Taramov

In the "15th town, we were blindfolded and told to lie on the ground... After that four people, including my son and I, were among those selected. We were taken to an APC. I thought that, because of the background noise from the motor, they either wanted to hang or shoot us... Two soldiers put me on the APC. I then thought theyre going to hang me. I was placed up there and behind me there was another guy like myself and we were tied together with wire... I then understood that they were making a target out of us, that they wanted to drive down Lenin Street and were hoping that the rebels wouldnt fire.
After fifteen minutes of driving around, I immediately realized that we were at Khankala.13

       Four people were driven in like that and were placed in a pit where the other detainees were kept. Those being kept in the pit were subject to beatings every day as well as frequent harassment from the contracted soldiers.14 Magomed Taramov was once interrogated.
       After five days, both father and son (the Taramovs) were taken back to the 15th town. There they were told that they would soon be exchanged. They were again beaten although this time a certain Russian officer interceded on their behalf and guarded them until their release.
       Among those detained were two militiamen, Murat and Movsar (those relating the account could not remember their last names) from the MIA CR. Their homes had been searched by Russian soldiers who found their guns. They were brought to Khankal along with the Taramovs and were kept together in the same pit. They were interrogated and, like the others, they were also beaten. However, in connection with the fact that the MIA CR took an interest in their fate, they werent exchanged but were instead released on August 22-23.

***

       Another cleansing of the areas adjacent to the 15th town took place on August 17th, in which new hostages were seized.
       The first report regarding the hostage takeover of civilians in this region was released on Radio Liberty on August 19th. Correspondent V. Dolin confirmed that a group of masked Russian soldiers had broken into several houses near the local hospital in Grozny on August 17th, had taken non-militant residents hostage, had attempted to take able men hostage, and ended up abducting 20 youngsters.
       Representatives of the Memorial HRC interviewed local residents living regarding the abovementioned events. Those interviews revealed that Russian soldiers conducted this cleansing in the area of the 15th town during which hostages were seized and taken to a military compound. The opposition forces did not engage in the conflict, and simply retreated from the area.15
       While conducting this cleansing, the Russian forces fired on houses with automatic weapons and machine-guns. After the military forces departed that evening, mortar firing descended upon the quarters  probably with the intention of preventing the retaking of the area by rebel forces. As a result, according to witnesses, many peaceful civilians were killed or wounded.
       Among the unintentional deaths were

      Among the wounded were

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       The following is an excerpt from the account of Aishat Khadasheva:16

On August 17th at 8:20AM, the soldiers began to fire and descend upon us. They descended upon us from above  from the Central hospital at the end of Izberbashskaya Street...There were masses of soldiers and lots of tanks and armored vehicles. As the soldiers descended upon us, it became clear that they were inebriated; they were waving their firsts  oh! how savagely they behaved...Our neighbor was visiting at the time, and was playing chess with my husband. The soldiers led my husband, our son, and the neighbour outside.17 They said to my son: Show us your hands." My son had been working in the boiler station...And the soldiers told him: You have callouses on your hands. As one of the soldiers was contemplating whether they should take him with them, another shouted: Take them away! Take them away! They took off my husbands jacket, and began to strangle him with it, and then, they led the three detainees away to the APC...I grabbed onto the APC and refused to let go. Then, the soldiers dragged me into the unit as well."

       According to Aishat Khadashevas account, the Russian soldiers did not loot her house, however, it was not at all uncommon for them to steal from other houses. They would open the gates, enter the house, choose whatever they wanted, and then spray the remains with their machine guns. Nina, one of the neighbors who survived a Russian  entered the courtyard of the Khadashevs house while the soldiers were still occupying it. She tried to convince them to behave more humanely toward the civilians, and emphasized that Russians also lived in the apartment complex. In response, they swore at her, and said If you were sane, you would not be living here yourself! They then raided her house and stole her sons clothes.
       Many witnesses have acknowledged that raids, theft, and vandalism occured while troops cleansed the houses, however, this topic is not the focus of this particular report.18
       In addition, it should be noted that the soldiers did not take hostage all the men they encountered. Svetlana Gapuraeva confirmed the accuracy of Aishat Khadashevas story, but acknowledged that the soldiers did not detain her two sons, husband, or brother-in-law who were in the house.19 On two occasions, Russian soldiers entered her house, but only to check her documents.
       Sultan Larsanov reported that he was a witness to a similar incident:20 His relatives, who were living on the corner of Ul. Kalinina and Ul. Matrosova were rounded up to be led away as hostages, when Sultans children started to cry. A Russian officer cried out I also have a son and a daughter. My soul can not bear this sin! And he ordered that the hostages be freed.
       In the military compound where Aishat Khadasheva was taken, she tried to find out what had happened to her relatives:

I cried: "Please, if there is among you at least one person, one commander, someone, please, listen to me." Someone shouted from under an alcove: "Take her away! Take her away immediately! Blindfold her!" Then, they dragged me down to the APC, took me home, and deposited me there.

       The next day, when Aishat Khadasheva returned to the military compound with her neighbors, they were informed that the detained persons would be released in exchange for the corpses of Russian soldiers, buried near the bus station and the chemical plant. The women begged the Chechen rebels for assistance, got a car and then drove to the site and began to dig up the corpses. They soon realized that the task was beyond their strength, and agreed that it would be easier for the Russian soldiers to pass through the land occupied by Chechen rebels and take the corpses away themselves. Two burial grounds were dug up, and 28 corpses were dragged away. As compensation, some of the hostages, including Ishmat Khadashevas relatives, were released; however, their passports were not returned to them. While in the compound, they had remained under surveillance for 36 hours, during which time, they were blindfolded and their hands were bound.
       The following is an incomplete list of hostages seized on August 17th:22

Musa Abdulaev, born 1968 (address: 39 Ul. Matrosova);
Ruslan Abdulaev, born 1962 (address: 39 Ul. Matrosova);
Sheukhi Golbatsev, born 1960 (address: 18 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Ramzmn Gishaev, born 1969 (address: 19 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Dima Daudov, born 1969 (address: 170a Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Abdurashid Magamgadiev (address: 12 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Said Mamadeav (address: 8 Third Ukrainian pereulok);

       In the military compound where Aishat Khadasheva was taken, she tried to find out what had happened to her relatives:

I cried: "Please, if there is among you at least one person, one commander, someone, please, listen to me." Someone shouted from under an alcove: "Take her away! Take her away immediately! Blindfold her!" Then, they dragged me down to the APC, took me home, and deposited me there.

       The next day, when Aishat Khadasheva returned to the military compound with her neighbors, they were informed that the detained persons would be released in exchange for the corpses of Russian soldiers, buried near the bus station and the chemical plant. The women begged the Chechen rebels for assistance, got a car and then drove to the site and began to dig up the corpses. They soon realized that the task was beyond their strength, and agreed that it would be easier for the Russian soldiers to pass through the land occupied by Chechen rebels and take the corpses away themselves. Two burial grounds were dug up, and 28 corpses were dragged away. As compensation, some of the hostages, including Ishmat Khadashevas relatives, were released; however, their passports were not returned to them. While in the compound, they had remained under surveillance for 36 hours, during which time, they were blindfolded and their hands were bound.
       The following is an incomplete list of hostages seized on August 17th:22

Musa Abdulaev, born 1968 (address: 39 Ul. Matrosova);
Ruslan Abdulaev, born 1962 (address: 39 Ul. Matrosova);
Sheukhi Golbatsev, born 1960 (address: 18 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Ramzmn Gishaev, born 1969 (address: 19 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Dima Daudov, born 1969 (address: 170a Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Abdurashid Magamgadiev (address: 12 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Said Mamadeav (address: 8 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Khalid Merzhoev, born 1961 (address: 39 Second Izberbashskii pereulok);
Ruslan Ozniev, born 1961 (address: 5 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Sultan Ozniev, born 1965 (address: 5 Third Ukrainian pereulok);
Sultan Khadashev, born 1940 (address: 41 Ul. Izberbashskaya);
Iliaz Khadashev, born 1973 (address: 41 Ul. Izberbashskaya).


       The above hostages were released (in exchange for the corpses of Russian soldiers) on August 19th. According to witness accounts, in some cases, Russian soldiers demanded that relatives of the detained provide, in addition to the corpses of Russian soldiers, food and drink to soldiers positioned in the blockaded guardposts.



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