Russians kill the Samaritan of Zakan

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The Independent Online
WHILE CHECHNYA was being torn apart by war over the past 10 years, Dr Abdurrashid Dadaev ran the last psychiatric hospital in the country. Without aid from the government he fed his patients from the hospital's own herd of cattle and food donated by people in the nearby village of Zakan.

One week ago, at 7am, Dr Dadaev drove as usual to his hospital accompanied by two assistants, both women. As his car got close to the hospital entrance it was hit from two sides by gunfire.

An old man who looked after the hospital's cattle ran up as soon as he heard the shots. He found Dr Dadaev dead and his two assistants wounded in the car. He saw Russian soldiers get into an armoured personnel carrier. Even in the middle of a war, people from Zakan, halfway between the Chechen capital Grozny and the border to the west, say they are shocked by the killing.

Elisa Manchigova, who is nursing her husband, Ruslan, whose left leg was smashed by a shell, said: "The hospital would not have existed without Dr Dadaev. He was from the village and helped everybody, not just his patients."

The tragedy for the Dadaev family did not end with the doctor's death. He and his wife, Tamara, had two sons and two daughters, aged between eight and 17. Mr Manchigov said: "As soon as Tamara heard her husband was dead she killed herself. It was five or ten minutes later. She took a pistol and shot herself through the head."

Villagers who have succeeded in making their way to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia all agreed that Dr Dadaev was shot by Russian soldiers, who have occupied his hospital. Quite why is unclear; the doctor was in his mid-forties and did not look like a Chechen guerrilla.

Alikhan Vissaev, who comes from a nearby village, but was in Zakan on the day of the shooting, says a delegation of local leaders went to the nearest Russian command post in the village of Dolinsk. Their main purpose was to ask the Russian officers to stop shelling their village, which they say contains no Chechen fighters.

While they were in Dolinsk the deputation from Zakan also asked the Russian army why Dr Dadaev had been killed. Mr Vissaev says that they were told: "`It was a mistake. We had information that fighters were in the area'."

It is possible that the doctor died at the hands of nervous soldiers. Zakan has never been a militant stronghold and played little role in the last Chechen war, in 1994-96. Asked why soldiers should have shot the doctor, Mr Manchigov pointed to his shattered leg and said wryly: "Why do they do anything. I'm not a fighter also and look what they did to me."

Usually the funeral of a popular local figure like the doctor would be well attended in Chechnya. In this case, with the local cemetery under shellfire, he was hurriedly buried at night.

The hospital itself has been taken over by the Russian army. Mr Manchigov said: "When I left Zakan two days ago we drove past it and I could see APCs [Armoured Personnel Carriers] parked in the hospital courtyard."

He believes the patients have fled into the countryside, but nobody knows where they have gone.


ONE OF the commanders leading Russia's offensive in Chechnya said yesterday that he would resign if ordered to halt his advance.

Major-General Vladimir Shamanov, commander of western Russian forces in the North Caucasus, also told Russian television that he supported Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the man to lead Russia in the future.

General Shamanov said: "The army will fulfil its orders, no one should doubt this. But for myself, I would say that I would tear off my epaulettes and go and do something in civilian life.

"Vladimir Vladimirovich [Mr Putin] is today a symbol behind which many people march. I am in the first rank, without a doubt. All Russians are sick of the fact that Russia is humiliated, insulted and asking for hand outs.

"We have it bad today but let us be patient and tomorrow will come and it will better. We will go with Putin and tomorrow will come." (Reuters)