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Yevgenia Barisova of the Moscow Times
"Even pensioners submitted their pensions to pay off the ransom"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 January, 2000, 18:33 GMT
Chechens 'buy off' Russian troops

Checkpoint Claims that Russian troops were taking bribes surfaced in the first Chechen conflict

Russian troops are routinely accepting bribes from Chechens in return for not destroying their villages, it has been claimed.

Battle for the Caucasus
An undercover reporter from the Moscow Times newspaper told the BBC villagers had been buying their survival from Russian troops only too ready to accept their offers of cash and weapons.

Yevgenia Barisova went to the breakaway republic in disguise to avoid scrutiny at border checkpoints.

If an agreement is reached and the ransom or the bribe is paid the Russians stop the bombing
Yevgenia Barisova
She says she discovered evidence of a practice thought to have been widespread in the 1994-96 war.

"When Russian troops approach a village they do some shelling, cause some damage and kill some people," she said.

"The older Chechen men then talk to the Russian troops and discuss the terms of surrender of the village.

"If an agreement is reached and the ransom or the bribe is paid the Russians stop the bombing.

"The village is supposed to give rebels and weapons to the Russian troops.

Ruins Locals have been clubbing together to prevent this kind of devastation to their homes
"After that the federal troops carry out some sort of 'soft cleansing'.

"It means they don't really go into checking every home in the village, just some of them."

Ms Barisova said the Russian would even help Chechens set up their own local militia to guard the village afterwards.

She said the amounts changing hands were less than in the first Chechen conflict, adding she had learned that in the village of Katyr-Yurt, some 20 miles south-west of Grozny, about $5,500 had been paid.

It has also been reported that a big screen television was offered as part of the deal.

Homes destroyed

A local businessman stumped up most of the cash although each home in the village also contributed, she said.

"In the last war for Shali the total about $200,000 was paid three times in ransoms," she said.

"I was told even pensioners submitted their pensions to pay off the ransom."

Residents from Achkoi Martan, close to Katyr-Yurt, are also reported to have clubbed together to halt the bombardment of their village.

Ms Barisova said the consequences of not paying the bribes was all too evident.

'Not worth talking about'

"When I was in Katyr-Yurt which organised this kind of negotiation most of the village was in one piece, none of the homes were destroyed.

"But in some of the villages which failed to negotiate there was a lot of destruction."

Ms Barisova added that many Chechens believe Russian troops had come to Chechnya just to be involved in making money in this way.

She said at every checkpoint on the way from the border with Ingushetia to Grozny Russian officers were asking for bribes before allowing people to pass through.

The Russian Defence Ministry is reported to have described the allegations as "not worth talking about".

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See also:
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Can Russia win the Chechen war?
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Russia rethinks Chechnya tactics
13 Jan 00 |  Europe
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