Issue 4.1 | February 2000 | Information in this issue may be outdated. Click here to link to the most recent issue.
Chechnya is not recognized internationally as a sovereign state. It declared
independence from Russia in September 1991, adopting the name Chechen Republic
Ichkeria. In December 1994, the Russian Federation sent troops in the republic
and used mines extensively. A peace agreement was signed in 1996, including
the delay of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria's official status until January
1, 2001. Chechen leadership currently claims the independence of their republic
but Russia maintains that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation. Chechen
law has been established but Russian law still applies. The humanitarian situation
in Chechnya deteriorated steadily from the end of the war in 1996. A lack
of humanitarian assistance and the withdrawal of nearly all international
organizations pervade Chechnya, due to the security situation. Russia had
faced a wave of international disapproval of it current military offensive
Mine and UXO Overview: Both sides used mines during the Chechen
conflict, around bases and checkpoints, in cities and sewers, in houses and
even on the corpses of Russian soldiers. Russian officials admitted that they
mined the main road between Grozny and Nazran in March 1995. The HALO Trust
said it had seen new minefields laid by Russian Interior Ministry forces along
Chechnya's border after the 1996 peace agreement. At present, armed groups
and armed robbers use antipersonnel mines.
and Casualties: There were as many as 500 civilian mine casualties
during the war in 1994-1995. The numbers increased following the war as people
returned to their homes. Since the war ended in 1996, there have been an estimated
600 to 800 landmine casualties, half of whom are reported to be children.
The majority of children are suffering psychological trauma. Chechnya is one
of the poorest of the Soviet republics with a health care system that was
already inadequate before the war. Current reports state that there are 3,500
people in need of artificial limbs. The Chechen Orthopedic and Prosthetics
center in Grozny ceased working in 1995 when Grozny was leveled. In Grozny,
two thirds of hospitals and clinics have been destroyed. Because of the kidnapping
and murders of foreign aid workers, international humanitarian organizations
have been almost absent. Information in other regions is difficult to gather
because of a lack of data organization.
No mine field maps have been made available and no survey conducted. Funding
for demining is almost nonexistent. The budget does not allow for humanitarian
demining. The responsibility has fallen on Russia, but their financial crisis
has limited any action toward the goal. The HALO Trust purchased equipment
from Russia and received a donation from the UK Ministry of Defense with the
plan of training 100 deminers.
Reality Check: The Russian Army lured rebels into a minefield trap
in early February 2000. Survivors said their commanders had told them that
the Russians were letting them slip out of Grozny for a bribe - a frequent
tactic often employed. Khamzat Tisayev, who was wounded in the foot, said
some fighters sacrificed themselves to clear a path, running ahead to set
off the mines for the 2000 fleeing fighters. "The boys marched on the
mine and shouted to us: 'Meet you in paradise!' Survivors walked on the bodies
of their dead comrades to survive crossing the minefield.
When the rebels,
clad in their winter white camouflage, finally reached Alkhan-Kala, they laid
scores of wounded on the snow near the hospital, which was too small to take
care of all the casualties. Baiyev, the hospital chief, performed amputations
with a hacksaw without any painkillers or antiseptics. "These people
don't know that they have gangrene and are doomed," Dr. Malika Sabiyeva
whispered, turning away from the wounded men. "We don't know what to
do. We have nothing to help them."
Center for Peace
Keeping and Community Development