Russians run amok among the Chechens

Even the Fascists did not treat us like this. Stalingrad wasn't as bad

A day after Boris Yeltsin declared the battle for Grozny won and the Russian military confined to "creative work", Said Dudayev, an 80-year- old Chechen invalid, hobbled , with the aid of a crutch, to a market on Tukhachevsky Street.

There he met an armoured personnel carrier full of jeering troops. The encounter cost him his life. "They were laughing. It was wild laughter," said Madina, one of the stall holders who survived this particular victory celebration by what Chechens and Russians left in Grozny describe as an army running amok.

"There was a girl next to me from my apartment block, Ira, selling cigarettes," recalled Madina, "She thought they were turning round but they drove straight into her, crushing her legs." According to witnesses, four people died and four were injured.

Mr Dudayev's body lies naked in the front room of the small brick house where he lived in north-east Grozny. Relatives scrubbed the corpse, as the skull oozed blood.On the front porch huddled a group of wailing women. "Even the Fascists didn't do this to us," cried Khara Akhmadova, Mr Dudayev's niece. "My father fought in Stalingrad and he said it wasn't as bad as this."

On Saturday, a day after the market place killing, the old man's crutch still lay where he fell, a trophy of another Russian triumph.

Now they have captured the Chechen capital of Grozny after two months of war, Russian troops, say residents, have gone on a rampage of killing and looting. Ordinary people, many of them Russians, speak of the horror of life in what President Yeltsin last week called a normal situation."Please tell them, tell them what's going on here," said Mrs Akhmadova.

Liza, the mother of Madina the stallholder, said soldiers came asking for vodka every day and were all drunk by nightfall. "They are beasts, not men," she said.

In Moscow the official line is that the Russian army and Interior Ministry troops are restoring "constitutional order" and "disarming bandit formations." The Justice Minister. Valentin Kovalyov. said last week that there had not been a single instance of looting.

As we approached Grozny from the north-west on Friday, the sky darkened, the dust thrown up by tanks mingling with the black cloud from burning oil refineries.

A grey pall has settled over the ruined city. We were on a bus, trailing a white flag from the wing mirror, bringing 40 refugees back to see what was left of their houses.

People gasped at the destruction, which mounts as you drive further into town. Many one-storey houses have been gutted, their blackened innards spilling onto the street. Whole apartment blocks have been incinerated, the streets full of churned up mud, burnt out cars and dangling trolley bus wires. A few gates and doors have been chalked with a feeble plea for mercy: "People live here".

In the Microrayon district where Mr Dudayev died , the boom of artillery still echoes from the south and west but people pay scant attention. The real danger is no longer shells, air raids or mortar fire but marauding soldiers.

Natasha, a Russian woman, was the only person of 50 inhabitants in the staircase of her apartment block. She had sat out the entire battle for the city, staying put even after a heavy-calibre bullet smashed through the wall of her bedroom. She said she had not slept for a month after she watched from a neighbour's window three Russian soldiers blown to bits by a grenade.

Like many Russians she feels little sympathy for the Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev, but is appalled at the chaos the Russians have brought.

"We lived in fear for three years under Dudayev and now we are living in fear," she said, lighting the candles for the evening and drawing the curtains against another long night.

No one appears to be in control of the soldiers, drawn equally from regular army and Interior Ministry units. "Lena, my daughter, was walking along with a friend when some soldiers came up to them, put guns against their heads and said: `they're nice, its a pity to shoot them,'" said Tanya, a Russian woman. "The girls cried out: `we're Russian` and the soldiers went on."

Most vulnerable are the Chechens, despised as "blacks" and "bandits" by many Russians. The village of Staraya Sunzha, just outside the city, had not seen a Russian soldier until a a week ago. Untouched by the fighting, most of its relatively prosperous residents opposed Mr Dudayev. But Russian troops are now dragging them into the war.

Rusland Utsiyev said riot troops came into his house, put a gun to this neck and asked for dollars. They took his bottles of Amaretto and vodka, shot up his car in the courtyard, smashing the windows and engine.

They then moved across the road. A machine-gunner guarded the gate as colleagues searched the brick house. When they left, neighbours rushed in to check on two brothers, Aslambek and Musa Atayev, living there.

"We couldn't find them anywhere," said Said Hassan, "Then we found them. They'd thrown them in the septic tank." The bricks above the tank are daubed with blood. Aslambek had been shot in the back of the neck and Musa in the neck, according to neighbours. "Now they are forcing us to take up arms," said Said Hassan.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent