18:26 May. 23, 2016
Former detainee shares his story in a letter to the newsroom.
I want, Ukrainians to know about the tortures authorities use to get confessions out of prisoners in Chechnya. That is a quote from a letter by Musa Lomaev addressed to the newsroom of TSN (Television Service of News, 1+1 Media).
In May 2004, Lomaev was a young student in Grozny. He was detained, kidnapped and taken in for questioning at the local police precinct. In June of the same year, Mikhail Vladovskykh, another student went through the same ordeal. The two young men did not know each other prior to the summer of 2004 but the authorities decided that their case was one-in-the-same.
Lomaev and Vladovskykh were accused of terrorism - allegedly they were a part of a gang and were active participants during several assaults. As far as the evidence goes, there were no documents, no traces, nothing that would confirm Lamaev's confession.
Vladovskykh did not confess to anything. In order to get the confession out of at least one of the two suspects, police questioned them every day and every night. Eventually, there was another name added to their case. A name neither one of them was familiar with - Muslim Chudalov, who gave tons of information on the assaults conducted by Lomaev and Vladovskykh.
This case - despite how awful it may sound, is not unique for Chechnya. The sensation here is that despite the expectation, the High Court of the country acquitted both Lomaev and Vladovskykh because of the torturous circumstances confession was given under.
These days Lomaev lives in Finland. When found out that Ukrainians Mykola Karpiuk and Stanyslav Klykh were convicted in Chechnya, For the first time in over a decade Lomaev decided to share his story. His reasoning? He says he wants Ukrainians to know what their fellow citizens went through.
"You know, we lost both guys... Vladovskykh and Lomaev. The country lost both of them - they both left. They're - refugees, seeking refuge... from us. And unlikely will they ever return". This is from an article published in October 2005 by Anna Politkovskaya (was killed in Moscow after reporting human rights abuses in Chechnya) about the case of Lomaev and Vladovskykh.
Musa Lomaev: "What do I think of? I think about the tortures those two Ukrainians, that are in Grozny went through in order to confess against themselves. They weren't tortured the way we were in the temporary run-down precinct under a temporary government, then everything was temporary so when police interrogated suspects they didn't care if nothing will last, you survive it - then you have to live with this nightmare all of your life, fall asleep and wake up with it. Nowadays, the government isn't temporary in Chechnya - it's permanent. Now, offices are clean, prison cells are clean as well. But...still fellow prisoners bring you back to life after yet another round of questioning telling you to "hold on, it's your part".
The night was short, yet another nightly interrogation. I got lucky, they didn't torture me that much, just choked me a few times until I lost consciousness. There were a few people on staff that night but only two tortured me, brought me back to the cell.
The morning started with another interrogation session. They took me to a room and right there and then put a bag over my head. The handcuffs were behind my back, my whole body was ready to take a hit. I just didn't know where and when the first one will be - that's usually the most painful one. The conversation started with a cache. I answered that I have no clue about any sort of cache. I'm facing a wall, two men come up to me and ask again about a cache, tell me there are weapons there, that in their opinion, I should know of. I started yelling that I have no clue what they are talking about. I know, they're going to torture me no matter what, I just want it to be over soon, to get my lifeless body back to the cell. The first punch was to my head. I don't know what they hit me with, I fell to the floor. The handcuffs tightened immediately. As soon as I fell, they started kicking me. They kicked me everywhere, in every part of my body. I regained my consciousness, my nose was bleeding, I could taste blood in my mouth, couldn't figure out whether I was laying down or sitting. The head was spinning a lot, I couldn't feel my arms, and the bag was still in my head. Realizing that I'm conscious, they continued the interrogation.
We need to know where the cache is, we know you have it, give it up".
I answer again, that I don't know of any cache. Again, they put a bag over my head, it's tough to breathe, I start yelling while getting hit with a baseball bat, so you start fighting for every breath just to avoid feeling the pain. They take off the bag, ask me " speak Chechen". This word sounds so demeaning, so ugly. It's addressed with so much hate that it's an awful word in the world to hear.
I answer again that I don't know anything. The bag gets tightened and they start hitting me hard with a baseball bat. I try to get my arms up with all my strength, I want to breathe, a lot, just one breath, but I can't focus, it's black in front of my eyes, I stop feeling the pain, and pass out.
A strong punch to my face, I open my eyes and hear "This satan is alive", and with no words they start kicking me. I don't understand whether I'm on a wall or on the ground. I don't feel my arms or hands, they are numb. They stop for a bit, ask the question again, I answer the same. We go through it again. The bag over my head, tight, they hit me everywhere, and I pass out. Then awake again. I'm laying on the floor, face down, I can't feel my jaw, everything is covered in blood. They start kicking me again. They see that I'm conscious and drag me up as if I were a bag of potatoes. I fall to the floor, they put me against a wall, the bag is still over my head, my sweat and blood have mixed. My ears are ringing, through it all I hear " Give up, you can stop all of this if you give up your cache, why are you torturing yourself, the war is over for you".
I try to say something but my jaw isn't cooperating. I wait a moment, and then I say " fine, I'll give my cache up, the one that I have".
They put me on a chair. I can't sit.
One of them is holding me up, the bag is torn near the eyes. The other took a pen and paper and said. Give us the address and the amount of guns there. I still remember his face. I know, what awaits me, know that there's no road back home, I understood that these are the last people to see me alive, and I got extremely sad over that matter. At that moment I had rented a place near Grozny for an internal deal of a private home, I gave that address and the floor, said there were several bags and started listing the content of those bags. All I had there was my work equipment - hammer , jigsaw , saw and so on. And then I added, this is the only storage place I ever had.
Ukrainians Mykola Karpiuk and Stanyslav Klykh were convicted in Chechnya
The one that was holding me up hit me with the gun's buttstock. He hit my head and I fell to the ground. I remember that they ran up to me and started hitting me, then I lost consciousness. I recall, two men took me back, I couldn't feel my body as if I were in some sort of vacuum. They dropped me off in the cell and locked me in. I don't know how long I was passed out. That day I was in and out of consciousness, I couldn't move anything. Only in a few days I could stand on my feet. The interrogation about the cache continued, they got me to a state where I started yelling to dig me a hole, to put their weapons there and I will tell them that it's my cache.
After they tortured me to give them passwords and tons of other things, but I didn't know anything and that even worsened my situation. They simply tortured me until they got bored until they got tired. The scars from the handcuffs, the ones that I'm looking at right now, are not the only reminder of the days in captivity. All of this is always with me, every day, every hour. I have given up on trying to not remember it... Somehow, got used to the thought this is the strongest part of me."