Samashki massacre

Samashki massacre

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Samashki massacre (1995)

partof=First Chechen War
place=Samashki, Chechnya
date=April 7-8, 1995
result=Russian victory, a massacre of non-combatants
strength1=More than 3,000 [ Russians' Killing of 100 Civilians In a Chechen Town Stirs Outrage] , "The New York Times", May 8, 1995]
strength2=Some 40Fact|date=May 2008
casualties1=At least 2 killed
casualties2=At least 4 killed
casualties3=More than 100 civilians killed [ [ Terror in Moscow] , "The Nation", October 31, 2002]
Campaignbox First Chechen War The Samashki massacre was an incident which occurred on April 7-8, 1995, in the village of Samashki, at the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. Numerous villagers died at the hands of Russian paramilitary troops, many of them reportedly drunk or drugged, under the command of Gen. Anatoly Kulikov. [ [ VOA: Samashki Syringes Contained Strong Drugs] , "The Moscow Times", 21 April 1995] The incident attracted wide attention in Russia and abroad. [ By All Available Means: The Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs Operation in the village of Samashki: 1. Preface] Memorial]

The March 1996 United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) report said:

It is reported that a of over 100 people, mainly civilians, occurred between 7 and 8 April 1995 in the village of Samashki, in the west of Chechnya. According to the accounts of 128 eye-witnesses, Federal soldiers deliberately and arbitrarily attacked civilians and civilian dwellings in Samashki by shooting residents and burning houses with flame-throwers. The majority of the witnesses reported that many OMON troops were drunk or under the influence of drugs. They wantonly opened fire or threw grenades into basements where residents, mostly women, elderly persons and children, had been hiding. [ [ The situation of human rights in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation - Report of the Secretary-General] UNCHR]

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), this was the most notorious civilian massacre of the First Chechen War. [ [ RUSSIAN FEDERATION Human Rights Developments] , Human Rights Watch 1996 annual report] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that approx. 250 civilians were killed. [ [ Wounded Bear: The Ongoing Russian Military Operation in Chechnya]] According to Amnesty International [!OpenDocument RUSSIAN FEDERATION Brief summary of concerns about human rights violations in the Chechen Republic] Amnesty International] and HRW more than 250 people were killed, while the elders of Samashki stated that up to 300 inhabitants were killed during the attack. [ [ Mothers' March to Grozny] WRI]

The operation

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) forces (identified as Sofrinskaya Brigade of the Internal Troops, Moscow Oblast OMON and Orenburg SOBR, some Moscow policemen and possibly members of the elite counter-terrorist unit "Vityaz") began an operation to "mop-up" the village ("zachistka" - an intense search of the streets, house-by-house) on April 7, in the area around the train station, and then on April 8, through the entire village. According to Lt. Gen. Anatoly Antonov, deputy commander of MVD forces in Chechnya, it was "the first completely independent military operation by MVD troops," carried out by combined units of more than 3,000 MVD troops, including 350 in the storm detachments; artillery, a multiple rocket launcher battery, and tanks been also deployed around Samashki. Interfax reported that Russian forces fired "Uragan" (BM-27) and "Grad" (BM-21) rockets on Samashki. [ [ Cluster Munitions Use by Russian Federation Forces in Chechnya] , Mennonite Central Committee, 2000]

Despite claims by the Russian military sources, armed resistance in Samashki was not of an organized nature, as the main Chechen rebel forces left the village following the Russian ultimatum on by Generals Antonov and Kulikov, as well as the Russian Ground Forces Lt. Gen. Anatoly Romanov on April 6 1995, to hand over the 264 automatic weapons supposedly in Samashki (the villagers had handed in 11 automatic weapons). [ [ Samashki Demand Vengeance] , Kavkaz Center, 7 April 2005] Before the ultimatum, Samashki was a place of prolonged siege and several failed storming attempts by the Russian forces since the beginning of the war in December 1994. However, the main force of more than 200 fighters left Samashki under the pressure of the village elders who wanted the village spared. The same elders and the village mullah were fired on by the Russians on the morning of April 7 while returning from the negotiations before the federal attack; the military command announced that it was the separatists who had shot at the elders.

Nevertheless, a lightly-armed village militia of some 40 self-defense fighters, all of them local residents, resisted the MVD and fighting occurred. A group of 12 fighters immediately broke out from the village, while the other groups put out of action a Russian tank and two armoured personnel carriers (APCs), before retreating as well. There were human losses on both sides, and two Russian troops and four self-defense fighters identified and known by their names are believed to have been killed in combat. There were also reports of the Russian armoured vehicles lost on the minefields during their advance. Figures of losses among the MVD forces released by the Russian commanders and spokesmen varied considerably, ranging from none dead and 14 wounded to 16 dead and 44 wounded; [ [ By All Available Means: The Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs Operation in the village of Samashki: 7. CASUALTIES AMONG SOLDIERS AND OMON] Memorial] according to Stanislav Govorukhin from the Russian parliamentary commission, some 350 Russian troops were wounded and 16 killed out of the total of about 350 who took part in the combat operation (sic). [ [ By All Available Means: The Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs Operation in the village of Samashki: 6. THE MVD OPERATION TO TAKE SAMASHKI] Memorial] The federal forces' officials claimed that 120 [ [ PR victory fades in fog of Chechen war] , "The Independent", Apr 20, 1995] "pro-Dudayev fighters" were killed in the village and some 150 suspects were detained. =


Killings in the village

In 1996 the Russian human rights group Memorial compiled the incomplete list of 103 confirmed dead villagers, most of them male civilians. Their minimum estimate of the general number of deceased was 112-144 people (in 2008, Memorial leader Oleg Orlov, who went into Samashki soon after the events of April 7-8, said he saw nearly 150 bodies of those killed), including some ethnic Russian residents. Russian troops intentionally burned many bodies, either by throwing the bodies into burning houses or by setting them on fire. Many of the burned corpses could not be identified and are not on the list.

The majority of those killed were summarily executed during the house-to-house searches. The victims, which included elderly Chechen World War II (WWII) veterans and at least three (four according to the Ingush commission [ [ DETAILS OF SAMASHKI MASSACRE EMERGE.] , The Jamestown Foundation, May 5, 1995] ) ethnic Russians, [Matthew Evangelista. [,M1 "The Chechen Wars: Will Russia Go the Way of the Soviet Union?"] ] were usually executed by shooting at close range or killed with grenades in the basements, but some were also beaten to death. Several of the other victims were apparently burned alive or shot while trying to escape the burning houses. Of the rest of people from the list of the deceased, 29 were established to having been killed by the possibly combat-related causes (such as the artillery and tank fire, conducted since the night of April 6, or the shooting from armoured vehicles).

Illegal detention and torture

The male population of the village was detained indiscriminately in their hundreds and taken to the "filtration camp" in the town of Mozdok, North Ossetia, or to the temporary holding center in the nearby Chechen village of Assinovskaya (a number of them were executed during the march while tied to the armoured vehicles). There, the detainees were beaten and mistreated, and many of them were tortured. Most of these who survived were released after a few days.

Wanton destruction

The killings were accompanied by the widespread arbitrary and wanton destruction of property by the Russian troops, as well as the numerous reports of theft and pillage. Hundreds of buildings were either destroyed (375 according the to the May 1 1995, U.S. Congressional hearing of Sergei Kovalev [ [ RUSSIA: PARTISAN WAR IN CHECHNYA ON THE EVE OF THE WWII COMMEMORATION] HRW] ) or seriously damaged. The destruction of the majority of homes happened as a result of premeditated arson the troops. Even the local school where the troops quartered was blown-up as they left the village. [ Russians `roasted' Chechen village] , "The Independent", Apr 14, 1995]

An eyewitness account

A Chechen surgeon, Khassan Baiev, treated wounded in Samashki immediately after the operation and described the scene in his book: Khassan Baiev, Ruth Daniloff. "The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire." 2004. ISBN 0-802-71404-8. Pages 130-131. ]

"Dozens of charred corpses of women and children lay in the courtyard of the mosque, which had been destroyed. The first thing my eye fell on was the burned body of a baby, lying in fetal position... A wild-eyed woman emerged from a burned-out house holding a dead baby. Trucks with bodies piled in the back rolled through the streets on the way to the cemetery.
While treating the wounded, I heard stories of young men - gagged and trussed up - dragged with chains behind personnel carriers. I heard of Russian aviators who threw Chechen prisoners, screaming, out their helicopters. There were rapes, but it was hard to know how many because women were too ashamed to report them. One girl was raped in front of her father. I heard of one case in which the mercenary grabbed a newborn baby, threw it among each other like a ball, then shot it dead in the air.
Leaving the village for the hospital in Grozny, I passed a Russian armored personnel carrier with the word SAMASHKI written on its side in bold, black letters. I looked in my rearview mirror and to my horror saw a human skull mounted on the front of the vehicle. The bones were white; someone must have boiled the skull to remove the flesh."

The MVD statements

The Information Telegraph Agency of Russia quoted Vladimir Vorozhtsov, chief spokesman of the regional Russian command, as denying any large number of civilian casualties. In the same report, however, Gen. Anotonov was quoted as saying many Chechen civilians had been killed in Samashki but they were supposedly killed by Chechen fighters. In the May 1995 press conference, General Kulikov said: "This is warfare. They fired at us. We did not fire first. It is true that 120 residents died, but they were people who resisted us and fought us."


Up until April 10, villagers were not permitted to take out the wounded, and doctors and ICRC representatives were denied entry to Samashki. Consequently, at least 13 of the wounded villagers died from the lack of medical aid in the closed-off village. From April 10 to April 15 only Chechen women were allowed to go either way through the military cordon outside of Samashki. On April 14, Western reporters who were allowed into Samashki for the first time since the assault said the streets were littered with decomposing bodies. [ Dissent on Chechnya: Word to the West] , "The New York Times", April 14, 1995] The ICRC was authorised to entry only on April 27. [ [ Chechnya : aid distributed in the village of Samashki] , ICRC, 9-05-1995]

After the Samashki massacre, neighboring towns and villages like Achkoi-Martan capitulated, while several villages made bilateral truces with the Russians and asked the Chechen forces to leave, although they kept supporting Dudayev's government secretly.

At around the time of the incident, President of Russia Boris Yeltsin compared the Chechens to the Nazis during the 50th anniversary of the Moscow's victory in WWII. [ [ Why do the Chechens hate rule by Russia?] , "Socialist Worker", 11 September 2004] The news of the massacre embarrassed Yeltsin's foreign guests, including Bill Clinton and John Major. [ [ Defiant Chechens fight on in nuclear bunkers] , "The Independent", Apr 17, 1995] European Union expressed concern on the incident, while the Washington had warned that the events of Chechnya could wreck the anniversary event. [ Russians `kill 250 Chechen civilians'] , "The Independent", Apr 13, 1995]

The member of the State Duma Anatoly Shabad, who was smuggled to the village by the Chechen women, [ [ Eyewitness to Samashki] , "The Moscow Times", 01 June 1995] compared the Russian troops to Nazi extermination squads. "What happened there was a large-scale punitive operation aimed at destroying the population"," Shabad said. "There was no organized resistance in Samashki. It was surely planned with the idea to kill as many as possible, in order to achieve a threatening effect"."

Sergei Arutiunov, head of the Department of Caucasian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, compared the massacre to that of "Khatyn in Belarus, Lidice in Czechoslovakia," and said that the name Samashki "sounds more sinister than My Lai in Vietnam." [ Russian strategy in the Chechen-Russo War of 1994-96] ] The "Moscow News" newspaper wrote in an editorial: "What the Russians did in Samashki is what the Germans did to us throughout the war [WWII] , but Russians did this to their own people. And that is unforgivable. What happened in Samashki during those days has only one definition. Genocide."

Stanislav Govorukhin of the official parliamentary commission said "nothing unethical" has happened in Samashki.

Further attacks on Samashki


In March 1996 the attack on the town took the form of a full-scale assault with rockets and artillery shelling, with apparent disregard for the civilians trapped during the heavy fighting in Samashki. According to HRW, Russian forces used civilians as a human shields on APCs. [ [ ACCOUNTABILITY By the Russian Side] HRW] Civilians who managed to escape estimated that up to 600 people may had been killed as a result of an indiscriminate attack; althrough later reports suggested some 500 civilians were killed altogether in the result of the April 1995 and March 1996 attacks. [ Russian bombardment sows terror in town] , "Boston Globe", 13 November 1999]

Nadezhda Chaikova, the Russian journalist who filmed the destruction in Samashki, was killed execution-style in Chechnya in April 1996. [ [ Journalists Killed in 1996: 26 Confirmed] , CPJ]


Another heavy artillery and rocket attack on Samashki took place in October 1999 during the Second Chechen War, despite the demilitarization of the village, [ [ How war came to a Chechen village] , BBC News, 1 December, 1999] killing or injuring dozens of residents on the day of October 27 alone, according to HRW. [ [ Many Civilians Killed in Samashki Village, Chechnya] , Human Rights Watch, November 4, 1999] At the time, Russian General Aleksander Belousov (deputy commander of the North Caucasus Military District) announced that there were only "bandits and terrorists" in Samashki; the Parliament of the United Kingdom report claimed civilians were killed in revenge for the heavy casualties suffered there by Russian forces during the first war. [ [ The Conflict in Chechnya] UK Parliament]

The actual fighting in Samashki took place more than half year later in May 2000, with dozens of killed enemy combatants claimed by both sides. [ [ Top Russians killed in Chechnya] , BBC News, 31 May, 2000]

Further reading

*"Chechnya Diary: A War Correspondent's Story of Surviving the War in Chechnya" by Thomas Goltz ( [ sample] )

ources and references

* [ By All Available Means: The Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs Operation in the Village of Samashki] by Sergei Kovalev's Observer Mission (Memorial website)

External links

* [ At Least 47 Chechen Civilians Killed in Weekend Massacre] , "Los Angeles Times", April 14, 1995
* [ Chechen Town's Survivors Live Amid Ashes and Rubble of Russian Attacks] , "The Washington Post", 27 August 1996
* [ Part 3] & [ part 4] of the interview with Thomas Goltz by University of California, November 7, 2003
* [ Escaping a Massacre] , National Geographic Society, July 2005
* [ 13 years ago in Chechnya, Russian militaries massacred residents of Samashki village] , Memorial, 10/4/2008


* [ Samashki Massacre] , ABC Evening News, Apr 13, 1995
* [ Samashki: Crime without a statute of limitation] , Kavkaz Center, April 07, 2007

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