References & Notes

[1] See for instance the International Federation for Human Right report. That this is not a simple hypotheses is also confirmed by State Duma deputy Sergey Kovalyov, a former Soviet dissident, who served 12 years in Soviet labor camps for his beliefs and is today actively engaged as a human rights activist. See his short report.

Civil and military casualties of the wars in Chechnya

The true amount of military and civil casualties suffered by both sides is one of Russia's best kept secrets. Numbers vary widely.

However, the Russian Interior Minister Kulikov claimed that during the first Chechen war (1994-1996) fewer than 20,000 civilians were killed. State Duma deputy Sergey Kovalyov, a former Soviet dissident, then a top human rights official, oversaw research to  estimate the death toll. After two years of fighting, Kovalyov's team  could offer their conservative, documented estimate of more than  50,000 civilian deaths. Wheras then-Secretary of the National Security Council Aleksander Lebed asserted that 80,000 to 100,000 had been killed and 240,000 had been injured. The number given by the Chechen authorities was about 100,000. Human rights groups estimate 80,000.

The Soldiers' Mothers of Russia group, basing its information on information from wounded troops and soldiers' relatives (and counting only regular troops, i.e. not the mercenaries/kontraktniki and special service forces) estimated that 14,000 died in the first war — well over twice the official toll of 5,500 dead and 700 missing.

Estimates on the second Chechen war (August 1999 - March 2000), and on the subsequent guerrilla warfare lasting to our days, are fuzzy. The casualty reports issued by the Russian government throughout the war have often been contradictory, apparently reflecting official attempts to conceal losses.

Some human rights groups estimate 20,000 civilians killed approxiamately during the 1999-2002 period (see: Russia accused of killing 20.000 Chechen civilians). But considering that the second Chechen war has been at least as devastating as the first, one expects that numbers must be comparable at least to those of the first Chechen war, if not higher. Indeed some claim that the civilian losses in Grozny alone were counted about 40,000 civilians during the Russian bomb and missile war. The Maskhadov government today counts about 150,000 civilians killed during military action or murdered or disappeared later in the second war. Spokesman of the Domestic Subcommittee of Informational Council of State Defense Council «Majlis al-Shura» of CRI reported to Shariah news and information agency that the overall civilian casualties in Chechen Republic of Ichkeria over the last two Russian military aggressions against Chechnya are at least 230 thousand. On November the 10th of 2004, the chairman of Chechnya’s State Council, Taus Djabrailov, told that about 200.000 people have been killed in the Chechen Republic since 1994. Djabrailov is known to be a pro-Moscow man and it is unlikely that he would overestimate the numbers. Later he dismissed his own statements talking about 160.000 dead, of which only 25% of them where Chechens while most casualties being ethnic Russians (this is quite strange since not more than 20% of the original population in Chechnya was Russian).

About the military casualties now.
According to Artyom Vernidoub of the Russian Gazeta, the Interfax Defence Minstry published unofficial data confirming that at March 2000, 2331 military servicemen died from the hand of Chechen separatists, whereas a November 2001 Kremlin report already spoke of 3438 killed. The Soldiers' Mothers of Russia group always dismissed these government casualty reports as "nonsense". Indeed, suddenly, on February 17, 2003, the Russian defense ministry's press service itself told Interfax another story again: law enforcement casualties totaled 4,572 with another 15,549 wounded from October 1, 1999 through December 23, 2002. But this came as a hasty response with an official denial of an embarrassing Itar-Tass release which quoted military officials saying, in the first apparent acknowledgment of high casualties in the nearly 3 1/2-year-old conflict, that in 2002 alone, 4,739 Russian servicemen were killed in Chechnya, 13,108 more wounded and 29 went missing!

On August 8, 2003, the Soldiers' Mothers of Russia group estimated that about 12,000 servicemen, have been killed and more than 30,000 wounded since the war's start (however apparently contradicting an own report of February 17th, 2004,which claimed that Russia lost 15,000 killed and 25,000 injured soldiers). However, despite all
, perhaps for an overall view of the military losses during the two wars, the most credible account remains the Soldiers' Mothers of Russia group, because the committee's data are based on the lists presented by different regions of Russia where each of it knows how many people were killed because it is connected with the social support of the families.

Later, on October 24, 2003, according to an Itar-Tass press release, Colonel-General Nikolai Rogozhkin, chief of the Interior Troops staff, told that a total of 2,898 Russian army soldiers and 4,720 soldiers of other law enforcement agencies died since October 1, 1999. But a decisively different figure emerged from the (British) International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) which claims that Russian forces have suffered 4749 casualties in one year alone (between August 2002 and August 2003). A casualty rate which is the highest since war resumed in 1999. The Kremlin declined to comment on the IISS report. This makes the estimates of the chechen side, if compared to the russian reports, more credible. According to data estimated by the State News Agency Cechenpress (11 Sep 2003), about 25,000 soldiers, officers, miltiamen, members of special services, spetsnaz, pilots were killed and about 20,000 people were injured in Chechnya during the second Russian-Chechen war. Russia said its forces had killed more than 15.000 rebels in separatist Chechnya since August 1999. Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian groups called the figures grossly exaggerated. Kavkazcenter claims that 5,000 killed Chechen Resistance soldiers were killed during 4 years.

On July 6 2004, in an interview with the Moscow News
the head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, the executive secretary Valentina Melnikova, told that the number of killed and those who died of their wounds in the second Chechen campaign is close to 13,000. This number includes those who died of their wounds later in hospitals in the number of Chechen war victims.

In an onother previous interview on Ekho Moskvy radio on  May 5th 2004, Melnikova stated that about 25 thousand soldiers, officers and policemen who had fought on the side of the Russian armed forces got killed in the course of two Chechen campaigns. This number are soldiers who died of wounds, diseases, connected to the war and who had committed suicide. Besides this, at least, 50 thousand servicemen have suffered traumas, mutilations, some of them have became invalids - emphasized Melnikova.

Anyhow, whatever the truth is, according to these unofficial figures, the war in Chechnya results much more costly than Afghanistan. The shorter Chechen wars have been far more deadly for Russian forces than the Soviet war in Afghanistan, in which an estimated 14,000 Soviet forces were killed and 35,000 wounded over close to a decade of combat. Its is no wonder that Russian authorities hide their own public opinion the truth.

So, for the period from 1994 to 2003 estimates range from Chechen 50,000 to 250,000 civilians and 10,000 to 50,000 Russian servicemen. Given that almost certainly both sides have tended to exaggerate enemy military casualties while minimizing their own and grossly underestimating its responsibility for civilian losses, setting the death toll, from the beginning of the first war to present days, at 150,000 - 200,000 civilians, about 20,000 - 40,000 Russian soldiers and possibly the same amount of Chechen rebels, is a plausible estimate (and still perhaps a too conservative one). There are however well founded analysis which came to different conclusions (for instance Norbert Strade, the list moderator of the Yahoo mailing list on Chechnya, gives a quite different picture on the casualties - see his account.)

See also a report by the Federation of American Scientists about a military analysis on the first and second war in Chechnya . Also: an interesting article on the military losses updated to March 2002: Military lose a soldier per day in Chechnya - by Artyom Vernidoub.

[3] See also: "Memorandum to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the Human Rights Situation in Chechnya", pag. 8 (Human Rights Watch, March 18, 2002). "All information regarding the bombardment of civilians are the propaganda of terrorists that opened a new front, that of the battle of information", Putin told, according to an AFP of October 31, 1999.

[3b] "Chechnya said deadliest area for mines", by Jonathan D. Salant, The Associated Press 9/9/2003, 12:16 p.m. CT & "Russian rights envoy slams violations in Chechen refugees` resettlement", Interfax, September 11, 2003.

[4] Conditions in Detention in Chehcen Republic Conflict Zone. Treatment of Detainees. (From a report of "Memorial").

[5] From an interview with Oleg Orlov, by Alice Lagnado, Crimes of War Project (April 18,2003).

[6] Russia. Last Seen... : Continued "Disappearances" in Chehcnya. (Human Rights Watch. April 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3 (D)).

[6b] The Situation in Chechnya and Ingushetia Deteriorates - New Evidence of Enforced Disappearances, Rape, Torture, and Extrajudicial Executions.
Joint Statement by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, and Memorial 

[7] Swept Under: Torture, Forced Disappearances, and Extrajudical Killings during Sweep Operations in Chechnya. [Human Rights Watch. February 2002, Vol.14, No.2 (D)].

[9] "Memorandum to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the Human Rights Situation in Chechnya", pag. 9 (Human Rights Watch, March 18, 2002). Or also: On Chechen's Terrorism and Hostage History.

[10] As of January 2003, according to the Ingush authorities, there are 65,000 refugees from Chechnya in the republic of Ingushetia to date, while according to the Danish Refugee Council they number 95,000. Of them 43,000 lived in tent refugee camps or spontaneous settlements. While the vast majority of internally displaced persons from Chechnya were living in Ingushetia, about 5,000 are believed to be still in Dagestan, and between 5,000 and 7,000 are believed to be refugees in Georgia. Because refugees in Georgia have not been registered, it is difficult to confirm the accuracy of this estimate. Many others live in Russia or are "scattered" throughout the world. About the situation of the displaced population:"Displaced persons in Ingushetia" - by the Danish Refugee Council. See also: Chechnya / Ingushetia: Vulnerable Persons Denied Assistance (Médecins Sans Frontières, January 2002). Or also: "Memorandum to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the Human Rights Situation in Chechnya", pag. 13 (Human Rights Watch, March 18, 2002). The UN published also interesting data (however it must be emphasized that because of Russia's power of veto UN reports can not be considered as "independent").

[11] According to an ITAR-TASS (19-12-2002), the Kremlin's representative to the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev, said that "more than 400,000 Russian-speaking people have left Chechnya". Instead according to the Moscow News (No. 49, Dec. 2002), Dmitry Pushkar claims that "before Dudayev came to power, there were approximately 230,000 ethnic Russians living in Chechnya."

[11d] See for instance: "Chechnya: Learning to Parrot", by Tanya Lokshina, Transitions Online, 5 August 2004.

[12d] For a personal account by Dr. Khassan Baiev who has written a memoir of his struggle to uphold the Hippocratic Oath during both Russian-Chechen wars: "The Otah. A surgeon under fire", Walker & Co.

[13] From a statement of Olivier Dupuis at the European Parliament sitting of Wednesday, 10 April 2002.

[16] In particular, the June 8, 1977 Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, which the Russian federation is a party of.

[17] Despite the initial aperture of the 1990s, in the Russian media and among journalists the old Soviet mentality and censorship was probably only asleep. See about this an interesting account by Andrew Jack of the Financial Times.

[18] About the journalists and relief workers abductions or death click here.

[20] Aslan Maskhadov and his government

President Aslan Maskhadov, former commander of the Chechen armed forces during the first war and author, with Russian general Aleksandr Lebed, of the peace agreements in the Khasaviurt Accords in August 1996, came to power with an overwhelming majority as the head of a regularly and democratically elected government in 1997 (the regularity of this election was monitored and confirmed by different international independent organization, among others the OSCE). Also the Russian government recognized Maskhadov as the legitimate President of Chechnya.

However, after the beginning of the second Chechen war, in 1999, Maskhadov, and all his ministers, had to retire and operate clandestinely in Chechen territory, and some of them had been imprisoned or fled in exile. Maskhadov government was considered the moderate and legitimate political representative part of Chechnya's population and continued to appeal for a peaceful solution of the conflict, rejected any form of terrorism against innocent civilians, remaining open to political talks without any precondition. The Russian side however, convinced that sooner or later a "final solution" by military means is possible, refused the political alternative.

Aslan Maskhadov

Especially after the October 2002 hostage taking in Moscow's theater and later after the Beslan school massacre, Russian authorities branded Maskhadov and all his ministers simply as "terrorists". Maskhadov is for Putin what Bin Laden is for G.W.Bush. So far however no reliable evidence on Maskhadov's, or on any of his ministers', involvement in intentional attacks on civilians emerged. While his political adversary, Shamil Basayev, appears on the international black list of terrorist organizations of the UN or the US State Department, Maskhadov's name does not. Maskhadov was a quite different figure than Dzhokhar Dudaev, the former Chechen President. CW1 broke out not only because of Yeltsin's corrupt, violent and selfish attitude and that of the collaborators surrounding him, but also because Dudaev was indeed an illegitimate, undemocratic and intransigent extremist. Maskhadov instead always distanced himself from any terrorist or criminal formation as any form of religious extremism and envisages a democratic Chechnya based on libertarian values (it might also important to recall that he has always appealed for an independent investigation into all war crimes committed by all sides in the conflict. Russia refused this too).  After offering a last proposal for a peacful settlement of the already six years long conflict in Chechnya and declaring a onesided ceasfire for one month, both of which were rejected from Moscow's side, Aslan Maskhdov was killed by Russian troops on March the 8th 2005.

Particularly interesting in this regard is the case of Akhmed Zakayev, who since 2001 has been Aslan Maskhadov's special representative to Europe. From 30 October to 3 December he was under arrest in Denmark under an extradition request from Russia. The charges filed against him were what Russia defined "irrefutable information" about his involvement in the Moscow theater siege of 23-26 October and other supposed crimes. But after a meticulous inquiry, the Danish Justice Ministry, dismissed these "information" as "insufficient and unconvincing" and Zakayev was released. Somewhat surprisingly Zakayev flew to England on December 5th 2002. He was detained at Heathrow airport, but released the next day after the famous Oscar winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, also a human rights activist, posted 50,000 pounds (US $ 78,000) bail. What he had in mind was to appear before Bow Street magistrates court in central London again, because he "would like Britain to have its say as well. Because neither Rogozin, Ivanov, nor anyone else will be able to level charges that Denmark is a small country obsessed with its own liberal democratic values against Britain."

Akhmed Zakayev

On January 30 2003, the British government had authorized the start of an extradition proceeding against him. At a brief court hearing, Judge Timothy Workman ordered Zakayev to attend a hearing on Feb. 14, when the court will set a timetable for the months-long extradition process. Workman ruled that Zakayev, who has been in Britain for almost two months, could remain free on bail. Zakayev said there was no legal basis for extraditing him to Russia. "If the Home Office launches extradition procedures, this can only regarded as a political decision". He warned that extraditing him to Russia would send the wrong signal about the West's attitude toward alleged Russian human rights abuses in the Chechen war. "If Britain takes the decision to extradite me to Russia, this will be a sign that Europe is in solidarity with Russian methods in Chechnya," he said. During the court case a highly disturbing claim from a witness alleging that he had been tortured into providing accounts to support the Russian Federation's extradition bid emerged. On this and other grounds, finally, on November 13 2003, Workman rejected Russia's request for the extradition of the Chechen envoy. "I have come to the inevitable conclusion that if the (Russian) authorities are prepared to resort to torturing witnesses, there is a substantial risk that Mr Zakayev would himself be subject to torture," judge Timothy Workman ruled. "The inevitable conclusion is that it would be unjust or oppressive to return Mr Zakayev to the Russian Federation," added the judge at Bow Street magistrates court in central London. "I find that the Russian government are seeking extradition for purposes of prosecuting Mr Zakayev on account of his nationality and his political opinions," he said.

While the Russian side and its puppet-quislings of the actual Kadyrov government are doing their best to prove that Maskhadov and his ministers are involved in international terrorism, from their side
they answered by abducting about 80 members of the family of Mr. Oumar Khanbiev, Minister of Health in Maskhadov's former government. Mr. Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, received Khanbiev during his stay in Strasbourg and Khanbiev has met numerous MEPs from various political groups in order to inform them of the abduction of his family members.

Oumar Khanbiev

Anyhow, Maskhadov's government has no longer any legal value for Russia and therefore Moscow indicted for March 23, 2003 a constitutional referendum and presidential elections in Chechnya, also in order to show that the situation is normalized. But it has been declared as having no value from human rights organizations because it was clear from the outset that these elections were a farce because illegal means have been used and all the candidates have been chosen by the Kremlin and the outcome was already known.

So long however there will be no new regular elections and Maskhadov's government continues to appeal for a nonviolent political solution, he and his ministers remain the only legitimate regular representatives of the Chechen population. M.M.

[20] The word "radical" should not suggest some form of "extremism" or "fundamentalism". The TRP is a transnational but originally an Italian political party. The word "radical" is the unfortunate translation of the Italian word "radicale" which is the adjective of "radice" (from the Latin "radix"), which in English means "root". In this context to be a "radicale" means to be someone who tries to find out the "root" of the problems. A political radical is looking for the ultimate cause, i.e. the "root" of a political problem. Exactly the opposite of extremism and fundamentalism.

[21] Our main, even if not exclusive, source of information are the press releases, articles and news reaching the Yahoo group Chechnya list, moderated by Norbert Strade. Another source are the Transnational Radical Party (TRP)[20] press releases. (These are only some of the many possible examples one can find and are, in any case, not intended to promote a particular political party or movement. However, fact is that Olivier Dupuis, a member of the European Parliament, and other members of the TRP are actively investigating on the EU's political attitude towards Russia, making particularly revealing discoveries).