A mass grave containing the remains of some 300 people has been uncovered at an asphalt plant in the Republic of Chechnya. As the Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday (RUS), the site dates from the Second Chechen war, and likely contains civilian victims of an attack by Russian forces.
Russia has led two wars against separatists in the region, and both sides have targeted and killed civilians. Russian troops have been accused of a systematic campaign of torture and “disappearances,” a charge the defense ministry denies.
In recent years, major fighting has died down, although eruptions of violence and attacks on the armed forces continue periodically.
Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, the Republic’s official human rights ombudsman, said the grave contained the bodies of refugee men, women and children shelled by Russian troops in October 1999. The refugees were traveling together in an attempt to leave Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, via a special “green corridor” opened to allow peaceful residents to flee areas of fighting.
“After completely destroying the convoy of refugees, the soldiers buried the corpses together with their vehicles and belongings in a big pit on the territory of the asphalt plant, which is located near the road,” Reuters quoted Nukhazhiyev as saying.
The grave was first discovered in 2000, but was never exhumed. Nukhazhiyev said he had petitioned Yury Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, to send an investigative team and establish a special laboratory to help identify the victims.
The announcement comes just over a week after another mass grave, containing some 800 bodies, was discovered in Grozny.
As many as 100,000 civilians are thought to have perished in the two conflicts. According to Nukhazhiyev, some 60 mass graves have been found throughout Chechnya.