Because a war in Chechnya is still a war

// 1 December 2007

A former conscript of the first Chechen war (1994-6) and volunteer in the second one (1999 onwards) has written a book about his experiences. Entitled ‘One Soldier’s War in Chechnya’, Arkady Babchechenko tells, in full unflinching detail, of

“the taste of water tainted with rotting human flesh, the merciless beating of new recruits and the killing of a pet dog for food.”

There are also the “venal, violent and incompetant” officers, who steal food from their soldiers, the fact that everyone flogs supplies to the rebels, and Chechen insurgents who slit their captives throats or trade them as slaves. As the review of the book points out, “Both sides treat civilians atrociously.” This book would appear to reinforce not only the work done by the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, but also reports submitted or reported on by such organisations and charities as Medicin Sans Frontiers and The Medical Foundation, who help victims of torture. Both have revealed that rape and torture are routinely being used by both the Russians and the Chechen insurgents in Chechnya, but that organisations such as the UN have so far proved less than interested in getting involved in a country under Russian control.

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