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Chechens Tell of Terrifying Attacks on a Dark Road

They say three civilians were killed by drunken Russian soldiers demanding money.

November 20, 2005|Kim Murphy and Mayerbek Nunayev | Special to The Times

STARAYA SUNZHA, Russia — The Russian soldiers were drunk when they started flagging down cars and demanding money one night last week in this suburb of the Chechen capital, witnesses say. By the time the night was over, three civilians were dead and three of the Russians' uniforms were soaked in blood.

Witnesses said the soldiers opened fire without provocation and then apparently turned on their victims with bayonets, sparking a new outcry on the eve of parliamentary elections in Chechnya, and demands for an end to military violence in the separatist republic.

"We can hardly restrain emotions among the local population," Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, the head of Chechnya's constitutional rights defense service, told Interfax news agency. "We are trying to settle the situation, but the lack of clear explanations from the military is not helping."

The Russian Defense Ministry reported that three servicemen were detained in the incident. "A criminal case was initiated," the ministry said.

In interviews Saturday, Staraya Sunzha residents said the shootings occurred about 7 p.m. Wednesday after nine or 10 Russians began stopping cars and demanding money.

Ruslan Dushayev, whose 35-year-old cousin was one of those killed, said two other vehicles already had been stopped when he and his cousin approached.

Two soldiers, who he said were obviously drunk, demanded their identification. One soldier said they were celebrating their impending leave. The other one told them, "Take your ID cards and get out of here quickly!" Dushayev said.

Then the first soldier, he said, began shouting and cursing and told them to stay. When Dushayev heard gunfire, he dove into a nearby ditch and then ran back to the village, leaving behind his cousin, Dzhambulat Dushayev.

Movsar Munayev said he and two friends had been gathering scrap metal to sell before they were stopped by the soldiers.

"They were so drunk they could hardly hold their guns, they were simply lifting and dropping them," he said Saturday from his hospital bed in Grozny, the capital, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound to the leg.

The soldiers demanded his scrap metal, and Munayev quickly assented. But when the soldiers began shouting, one of Munayev's friends gave him the $140 in his pocket and his cellphone.

Meanwhile, another truck and a car, probably Dushayev's, stopped some distance away. Most of the soldiers peeled off toward those vehicles, he said, but one remained behind and kept his gun pointed at Munayev. "He told me that his brother was killed in Chechnya, and said, 'Maybe it was you who killed my brother,' " Munayev said.

Not long after, he heard gunfire near the car that had stopped in the distance. The soldier pointing his gun at him quickly turned and began firing toward that car, Munayev said.

"One of the soldiers who was not as drunk came back and tried to lock his gun, but the first soldier managed to unlock it and continued his random shooting, all the while shouting that they had killed his brother," he said.

The soldier again pointed his gun at Munayev's head; his colleague pushed him away, and Munayev was shot in the leg. He jumped into a ditch and fainted as he heard police officers arriving.

Salman Dushayev, 39, Dzhambulat's brother, said a bayonet was found that apparently had been used to stab the bodies of those shot. Dushayev's body, he said, had nine stab wounds in addition to numerous bullet wounds; the other bodies were in similar condition.

On Thursday, Staraya Sunzha resident Mavlad Israilov, who had seen the soldiers at the scene the previous day, was called by the authorities to identify the attackers. "I can tell you that it was not difficult at all to identify them," he said. "Their clothes were soaked in blood -- unfortunately, not their own blood."

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Times staff writer Murphy reported from Moscow and special correspondent Nunayev from Chechnya.

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