Secret film shows proof of massacre by Russian troops

AS SOON as you arrive in Alkhan-Yurt, it is clear the place has been through a terrible ordeal. Most of the buildings have been flattened, and all those that remain are pitted with shell or bullet holes. But it is what happened after the Russian forces ended their massive artillery bombardment and moved in that has caused such anger and grief here.

"The Russians have been beheading people," one woman said, sobbing as she told her story in the muddy main street, churned up by armoured vehicles. "I saw the bodies of seven or eight people without heads. They threw grenades in the cellars where we were hiding. We have been living from hand to mouth ever since."

People said the ears had been cut from some of the severed heads, taken away as trophies of war by the Russian troops. Many people wept openly in the street as they told us how drunken soldiers had begun systematically looting - and had shot anyone who protested.

"The Russian soldiers came into our house and they made us kneel down," one old woman said. "I was crying and I said, `I'm a grandmother, my son, why do you make me kneel?' They said, `We're sent here to kill you.' I said, `Would you kill your grandmother?' and they spared me. But I had to beg for my life."

The villagers said that 41 men and women were killed, all civilians. If true, it is the worst atrocity of the war. The killings were said to have taken place between 1 December and 15 December.

Towards the end of this period, refugees began telling the Human Rights Watch organisation that something terrible had happened in Alkhan-Yurt. The first reports from the village itself were carried by the BBC on Monday - prompting the Russian Defence Ministry to issue a flat denial that any incident had taken place.

But yesterday, Human Rights Watch was given photographs smuggled out of the village substantiating some of the allegations of atrocities. One picture showed the head of a young man partly wrapped in a blanket and placed next to his body. The ear on one side of his face was missing.

And an amateur video emerged, showing that the Russian deputy prime minister with responsibility for Chechnya, Nikolai Koshman, made a secret visit to Alkhan-Yurt at the weekend, promising that justice would be done. In contradiction to earlier blanket denials, military sources yesterday said an inquiry into the allegations of a massacre was now expected.

On the video, Mr Koshman can be seen angrily upbraiding army officers in the village. "You will be held personally responsible for this," he tells one officer, who appears to hold the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. "I have never seen anything like it anywhere in Chechnya."

Mr Koshman is given documents containing the names of the dead and how they died. "There are eyewitnesses," he says handing the papers to a man identified as a military prosecutor. The film also shows piles of stolen goods that have been loaded into Russian vehicles: video recorders, carpets, crockery, an album of family photographs spattered with blood, presumably from the rightful owners.

The video was taken by a cameraman working for Malik Saidullayev, a millionaire Chechen businessman who is an ally of Moscow against the Islamic hardliners, but whose home is in Alkhan-Yurt.

Mr Saidullayev has now declared that he will run for the Chechen presidency after the war. One reason he is publicising this damaging material could be to boost his popularity by showing he can stand up to Russian excesses.

The film shows Mr Saidullayev walking through the village, accompanied by Mr Koshman and several generals. He notices a dug-out full of Russian soldiers drinking tea and - to Mr Koshman's embarrassment - they are drinking out of cups stolen from Mr Saidullayev's home.

A spokesman for Human Rights Watch said it was vital that Western observers be included in the investigation.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice