Komsomolskoye massacre occurred following the battle of Komsomolskoye of the Second Chechen War in March 2000, when large numbers of the Chechen rebel fighters were reportedly massacred by the Russian troops. Prominent in the incident was fate of the group of about 74 Chechen combatants who had surrendered on March 21, 2000 on the federal promise of amnesty, but almost all had either died or "disappeared" shortly after they were detained.
Village after the battle and mopping-up operations
Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya compared the events in Komsomolskoe to Khatyn and called it "a village that no longer exists." A month-long battle between Ruslan Gelayev's and Russian forces left behind "a monstrous conglomerate of burnt houses, ruins, and new graves at the cemetery." It used to be a large village with thousands of residents. A year after the events, close to 150 families remained in the village, but they were all practically homeless and lived in self-made huts. While visiting the village, Politkovskaya talked with a man "thin as a Buchenwald prisoner" who was probably ill from tuberculosis. His son, a teenager Isa, angrily confronted her and asked:
- "Why was the whole country stirred when the Kursk sailors were dying, but when they were shooting people leaving Komsomolskoe right on the field for several days, you kept silent? They shot at me - do you understand?"
A Russian video footage, dated March 21, 2000, and released four years later by Anna Politkovskaya, shows the Chechen prisoners who accepted a federal offer of amnesty, most of them injured. The captives shown are mostly men and adolescent boys, many of them with untreated wounds and some missing limbs. While moving from one crowded prison truck to another, they are abused by the Ministry of Justice Spetsnaz troops. Two women, who unlike the men did not show signs of beating, are separated and led away. At the end of the tape, some captives are ordered to unload comrades who had already died during transport. The naked corpses are dragged from the truck and heaped next to the railway tracks.
According to Politkovskaya, making the video public was the idea of a Russian junior officer who made it, hoping it would help free him from "a nightmare which continues to torture him." "This video recalls only one image: movies from the Nazi concentration camps," Politkovskaya wrote.
Quoting Chechen witnesses, Politkovskaya alleged the prisoners were then sent to the notorious Chernokozovo filtration camp, where most of them were then tortured and killed, and then buried by the other inmates. Three families of the missing said that they recognized their men among those shown on the video and it is believed the video shows them only shortly before they were killed. Of the three known survivors, two later committed suicide and one disappeared.
1996 execution of the Russian soldiers
According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), "When Russia invaded Chechnya for a second time in September 1999, the video-tape became a powerful weapon in the Kremlin's propaganda war. It was shown to human rights organisations across Europe as well as to soldiers preparing for active service in the war-torn republic."
The Chechen commander Salautdin Temirbulatov, nicknamed Tractor Driver, was captured in March 2000 in the village of Duba-Yurt while forcing local residents to provide food and shelter to wounded rebel fighters. He was accused of murder and tried in a Russian court in 2001. According to the prosecution, he subsequently confessed to the 1996 execution and showed where the bodies had been buried.
- Politkovskaya, Anna (2003) A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, translated by Alexander Burry and Tatiana Tulchinsky, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, ISBN 0-226-67432-0
- Mówi Anna Politkowska, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2004-05-26
- Russian soldier execution video
- Chechen Commander in War Crimes Trial, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 19-Jan-01
- Chechnya. The White Book
- War in Chechnya: a Chechen militiaman tells his story Memorial
- VIDEO IMAGES SUGGEST RUSSIAN ATROCITIES IN CHECHNYA The Jamestown Foundation
- Video documenting the "amnesty" in Chechnya Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (also a collection of translated articles from the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza)