Chechnya. By day, these men collaborate with the Russians as paid soldiers in the pro-Russian militia. But by night they do what comes naturally: fight the Russians. Tonight’s mission is to plant a bomb in the dirt track leading to a Russian outpost, just one kilometre away.

As the bomb is placed, another irony is revealed: it’s made of a huge artillery shell bought for $30 from the Russians themselves.

Soldier: 'It’s a Russian projectile for the Russians….'

Q: Is it for a tank or an armoured personnel carrier ?

A: It’s for an armoured personnel carrier.”

A homemade remote control detonator is buried in place.

Q: Can you hear me? Have you finished?
A: Yes.

After nearly 30 months of war, Russian forces are coming under increasing pressure from Chechen rebels like these. When the sun sets, it’s not the Federal Forces who are in control, but the Mujaheddin who attack by night.

Soldier: Of course at night, wolves Walk at night.

Other soldier: and jackals during the day. We make Jihad in the name of Allah. The Russians come here and kill our sisters, brothers, children, everyone. We shall fight to the end.

This rebel intelligence unit sport brand new Russian uniforms, and show off the weapons they have bought from the enemy.

Soldier: The Russians sell them. This costs about $15. Russian officers and Generals sell them. They sell anything for money.

The rebels’ arsenal includes an automatic rifle with silencer, usually only found with Russian Special Forces …and the newest type of anti-tank rockets.

Soldier: It can destroy any Russian tank.

Q: How much does it cost?”

A: The launcher costs $700-800, depending on the seller”.

Despite being close to Russian forces, the rebels don’t seem to take the threat of attacks seriously.

They even claim the Russians know where the base is.

Soldier: Yes, they know where the base is, but they are afraid to enter the forest.

Some of the rebels even claim that the Russians collude with them to avoid their own casualties.

Rebel: Before a mop-up operation, they inform us so that we don’t make contact, don’t have a fight. They surround the village, they take civilians, but they are afraid of the Mujaheddin.

These claims make the case that the focus of Russia’s ‘War on Terror’ is off target.

In this winter-camp, fighters belonging to top-level commander Dokka Umarov familiarise themselves with new weapons, like this state-of-the-art Russian-made anti-aircraft missile. Half the group is in Grozny, half in this base. They hope to expand from 25 groups to 100.

Russian attempts to portray the war in Chechnya as a war on terror have had little affect on the military situation. Not so for human rights. Since September 11 Western criticism of Russian atrocities in Chechnya has all but vanished.

Soldier: The Russians aren’t interested in whether there are rebels in a town. They are interested in the towns where there are rich people. To rob them. They do mop-up operations in these towns. They take everything that can be of use.

This rare footage, filmed secretly by a Chechen journalist, shows the aftermath of Russian mop-up operations against the town of Argun…

It began on the 8th November, 2001, when Russian troops shelled the town. Several civilians were killed. Two men were kicked to death by Russian troops, and many others were wounded.

On December 12th the Russians began a mop-up operation in the area, and took around 100 civilians away for questioning. Seven bodies were later found, seven others are still missing. The bodies, too mutilated to show in this film, showed signs of systematic torture. The rebels find willing converts in these villages.

Rebel: Russia is anarchy. That’s why we fight for our freedom and independence.

Chechnya has fallen off the map in the post-September 11 foreign policy climate. But Russia’s use of violence against civilians is undermining it as a credible partner in the global war on terror.









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