Russian troops also conducted sweep operations in Chernoreche and several villages in the Kurchaloi region in June and July 2001. Eyewitness testimony gathered by Memorial Human Rights Center, and to a lesser extent by Human Rights Watch, indicates that these sweeps were similar to those in Alkhan-Kala, Sernovodsk, and Assinovskaia. 187 Soldiers randomly detained fighting-age men, collected them at temporary bases just outside the villages, and ill-treated many of them. In the villages themselves, the soldiers looted homes and frequently destroyed property.
On June 8, two police officers died when an APC drove over a mine near Mairtup, a village southeast of Grozny. That same day, Russian troops sealed off the village and started a sweep operation that lasted two days. Memorial reported that on June 9 soldiers fatally shot a fourteen-year-old boy when he tried to run from them.188 According to the head of the administration of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, 300 villagers were detained during the sweep.189
Russian troops surrounded the village of Tsotsin-Yurt, located southeast of Grozny, in the morning of June 15 and blocked all ways in and out. Helicopters then lowered paratroopers into the village. During the one-day operation, according to Memorial, the soldiers detained dozens of men and brought them to the outskirts of the village where most were beaten and ill-treated.190 All but eleven of the detainees were released the same evening. Over the course of the next week, another nine detainees returned home. As of early July 2001, Memorial did not have any information on the remaining two detainees.
Early on the morning of June 16, Russian soldiers detained ten men in Kurchaloi in targeted operations.191 Later that day, military vehicles drove into the village and blocked the entry and exit roads. During subsequent checks over two days, the soldiers detained around 120 men and openly looted civilian property. The detainees were taken to the outskirts of the village, where many were severely beaten. Memorial interviewed several men whose limbs had been broken in detention. The first evening, the soldiers released all but seven of the detainees. On June 21, villagers discovered five mutilated bodies in an old farmhouse not far from the village. Three of the bodies were identified as having belonged to men who were detained during the targeted operations early in the morning of June 16. Memorial believed the two other bodies also belonged to men who were detained that morning. The organization said in late June that it had information that the two other men who were not released on June 16 were still held in detention.
Russian forces encircled the village of Chernoreche on the outskirts of Grozny on the evening of June 28.192 Early the next morning, they searched houses, randomly detaining, according to the estimates of several eyewitnesses, between 150 and 200 men. They took the men to a resort area near the water reservoir between Chernoreche and Aldi that served as a temporary base. Some detainees were forced to lie face down on the ground, while others were held in special vehicles equipped with cells. Eyewitness accounts suggest that many of the detainees were beaten and some subjected to electric shocks. All but about ten detainees were released late that same evening. According to eyewitness accounts, nine of the ten were taken to the military commander's office the next day and released. It was unclear whether the last detainee was charged with a criminal offense or also released.
Human Rights Watch obtained detailed information on the detention and torture of two Chernoreche residents, "Apti Aliev" and his cousin "Ali Aliev." 193 The soldiers arrived at the Aliev house at about 7:30 a.m. on June 29, took their documents, and led the two men outside to drive them away in an APC to a resort area (profilaktoria in Russian). They were held in a truck, which the soldiers nicknamed the Limousine. It contained three cells: a general cell for twelve persons and two small cells (called stakan, or cup, in Russian). Apti said he and his cousin were placed in the two small cells. Ali was then taken out of the vehicle for questioning. When he was brought back, Apti saw he had been beaten. The soldiers then took out Apti, led him to a place not far from the car, and started beating him. Apti did not provide any details. After the beatings, the soldiers put Apti in the larger cell. Ali was still in a single cell.
Some time later, the cousins, who were both blindfolded-their T-shirts had been pulled over their eyes-were taken out of their cells together and taken to the basement of a building. Apti said he and his cousin were put in different corners of the room. The soldiers then started interrogating Ali. Apti told Human Rights Watch:
Apti said the soldiers filmed them from all sides and asked them questions about the Akhmadov brothers (a clan widely believed to have been involved in numerous kidnappings of foreigners, Russians, and Chechens between 1996 and 1999). The soldiers also tried to force the cousins to become informers. Apti said, however, that he was not beaten much during that interrogation. After the questioning, the soldiers returned the two men to their cells.
An hour or two later, the soldiers took Ali away from the cell again. When he came back, Apti said, he looked like he had been ill-treated. It was Apti's turn next. Apti could make out through his blindfold that the soldiers took him to the reservoir near the resort. He said the soldiers then started pushing him from one to the other. A third soldier tried to hit him in the nose but he ducked and covered his face with his hands. The soldiers then started to beat and kick him, causing him to fall. Apti said one of the soldiers sat on top of him and put out a cigarette on his left shoulder. A Human Rights Watch researcher examined the left shoulder about a week after the incident; a small burn mark there was slightly infected.
Apti said the soldiers wanted him to cooperate with them as an informer and to name rebel fighters. When he said he didn't know any names, the soldiers attached wires to his fingers and subjected him to electric shocks. Apti described a military field telephone the size of a shoebox with a handle that was cranked to generate electricity. He estimated that after fifteen to twenty minutes of electric shocks he agreed to cooperate. He said:
When he agreed, the soldiers took him back to his cell.
Apti told Human Rights Watch that although most detainees were released that evening, he, his cousin, and some seven or eight other men continued to be held and were beaten severely.
The next day, the soldiers took Apti, his cousin, and the other remaining detainees to the police precinct in Grozny's Zavodskoi district. There the men were questioned and their fingerprints taken. After that all of them, with the exception of one man who apparently was on a wanted list were released from detention.
A week after his release, Apti had a burn mark on his left shoulder from the cigarette. There were five to ten scratches on his chest measuring two or three centimeters in length. According to Apti, the soldiers knocked a tooth out of his cousin.
192 The information in this section comes from a Human Rights Watch interview with "Apti Aliev" (not his real name), Nazran, Ingushetia, July 7, 2001; and Memorial's website (www.memo.ru/hr/hotpoints/N-Caucas/kurcaloj/zac.htm).