A Moscow correspondent for the French newspaper, Libération, Anne Nivat speaks about covering the war in Chechnya.
Anne Nivat: My choice was not to cover this war under the control of the Russian military. Almost as soon as ... after the war started, the Russian military launched sort of “organized tours” of Chechnya for journalists. And I had never wanted to be part of that because I knew I had the possibility to do differently, even though of course it was much more dangerous. But I thought that it was my duty not to allow myself to be under their control. You know after all I am neither Russian nor Chechen, and this is a war between Russians and Chechens, and I’m French. Well, in fact, it’s not important who I am, but I am not taking part in this war. I am a witness who happens to write stories. I am a journalist, that’s my only reason to be in Chechnya, was filing my stories every day.
The situation has deteriorated in the last year in Chechnya. There are no jobs for the people. The money, supposedly money coming from Moscow for repairing buildings, infrastructure, etc., has not arrived, or has been, you know, stolen in between, but I haven’t seen any sign of any repair of, you know, the capital Grozny and I’m not even talking about villages. So no jobs, no infrastructure, no normalization, and fear everywhere, which is worse, much worse, than a year ago.
So I managed to enter the village two days after it had ended, this awful “Zachistka”; (“cleaning-up operation”), and I will never forget this woman, a mother of six, three daughters, three sons, who told me that ... Well she had lost her three sons, 15, 13, and 11 year old. They just happened to be “in the way,” you know, when the Russians entered her house. They were just playing in front of the house. And she never saw them again. They took them away, and killed them. They killed them, and I saw the bodies, I saw the bodies. The bodies were ... and all the bodies all put together in a hole, you know, in the neighborhood of the village. And that’s what is this war in Chechnya about now. That’s about that kind of daily killing, killing innocent people.