Background Briefing

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Katyr-Yurt, February 4-6, 2000

In late January 2000, thousands of Chechen rebel fighters abandoned Grozny after several months of air attacks and weeks of ground battles with Russian troops. On their way to the mountainous south, the fighters entered the village of Katyr-Yurt, some thirty kilometers south-west of Grozny, on February 4. At the time, about 25,000 people resided in Katyr-Yurt, including some 15,000 IDPs.100

According to eyewitness testimony, up to 3,000 Chechen fighters entered Katyr-Yurt at approximately 4:00 a.m. Witnesses described to Human Rights Watch how the village, especially the center, was so full of fighters one could not but see them.101 Later that day, Russian airplanes began bombing and shelling the village. Over the course of the next three days, dozens of civilians were killed and large parts of the village destroyed.102

Villagers described to Human Rights Watch that they had great difficulty escaping Katyr-Yurt. Russian forces refused to allow civilians fleeing toward the village of Valerik to cross the Katyr-Yurt/Valerik checkpoint and then detained up to 1,000 persons in three houses on the village edge. Civilians who fled toward the town of Achkhoi-Martan, a distance of about six kilometers to the west, said the bombs continued to fall as they tried to escape. The fighters left Katyr-Yurt for the mountains in the south.

Magomed, aged forty-eight from Katyr-Yurt, fled Katyr-Yurt for Achkhoi-Martan. He spent the night of February 3-4 in a cellar with approximately eighty civilians including large numbers of women and children. The next day, perceiving a lull, he decided to try to leave the village. He told Human Rights Watch:

They started to bomb in the morning, killing civilians. I stayed in the cellar. When the shelling became a little quieter I came out of the cellar and went to Achkhoi-Martan. I travelled there with a large number of people; there was bombing and shooting on all sides, from planes and helicopters. I saw wounded and dead people. On the way to Achkhoi-Martan on Ordzhonikidze Street on the right side of the road, I saw five or six corpses. Cars were burning . . . At the exit I saw these bodies. Many people in the cellars died in the village.103





[100] Action Contre La Faim (ACF), Assessment report, April 21, 2000.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with Adlan Kovornokaev, Nazran, Ingushetia, March 26, 2000.

[102] The Action Contre La Faim assessment report of April 21, 2000 cited the head of the Commission for Investigating Destruction under the temporary administration of Chechnya as stating a total of 530 houses were burned or destroyed beyond repair. The report estimated the village originally comprised 2,860 compounds, with each compound containing from one to five houses.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview, surname witheld, Plievo, Ingushetia, March 26, 2000.

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