HAMED HASUYEV. Hampash Dudayev. Ibrahim Khankurkhanov. Hamed Dudayev. Adlan Jibetayev. Musa Gelkayev.
These are six civilian men murdered by Russian soldiers in the Chechen town of Alkhan-Yurt. There is nothing unusual about them, except that we know their names. Russian soldiers certainly have killed many civilians during their autumnal campaign of terror, but their total number is unknown, and to the outside world so are most of their names. In the case of Alkhan-Yurt, Post reporter Daniel Williams managed to interview 15 witnesses who survived and escaped to refugee camps beyond the war zone.
So we know, for example, that Hamed Hasuyev was 60 years old, a retired policeman who believed Russian promises to harm no one but rebels who had taken up arms against them. He believed them until soldiers burst into his house on Tolstoy Street and began carting away his belongings. When he objected to the looting, soldiers stabbed him, shot him, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire.
Human Rights Watch has documented, also by interviewing survivors, similar looting and atrocities in other towns and villages. Measured against the terror inflicted by Russia's indiscriminate bombing and shelling of Grozny and other cities and towns, and the resulting casualties, these crimes are probably small in scale. But they are telling. Even as officials in Moscow blithely claim to be fighting only "bandits" in Chechnya, these crimes make clear the true nature of a war against an entire population. And they foretell many years of violence and hatred; this is not an enmity that will be forgotten when the Russians decide they have inflicted sufficient punishment.
It so happens that, as Russian Grad missiles continue to pound away, Russians in the rest of the country are voting today in a parliamentary election. This is no small milestone for a country trying to make a transition from dictatorship to democracy. But it is an accomplishment sadly tarnished, not only by Russia's war, but also by its popularity among the Russian population.