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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Anger and Resistance on the Road to War

GROZNY -- The road to Grozny through Ingushetia was littered with the wrecks of burned-out Russian army trucks.


Some 20 vehicles had been abandoned by the Russian forces, many of them overturned with their wheels torn off and axles broken. All had their windows smashed, and most had been set afire. Acrid black smoke was still rising from the wrecks as we passed them Tuesday.


Villagers said five civilians had been killed, and many more wounded, during clashes Sunday, when a column of Russian armor attempted to push through this tiny Moslem republic on its way to the Chechen capital.


An Ingush government official who attempted to mediate had been beaten by Russians and later died of a heart attack, they said.


On Tuesday, a second convoy of as many as 300 tanks, armored personnel carriers and trucks was held up by a crowd of men and women who formed a human barrier. This time there was no bloodshed, and the general in command persuaded the villagers to let the convoy through after pledging to stop the advance that day.


Further along the road a crowd of unarmed Ingush gathered at the spot where a car full of journalists from Reuters and Vesti television was shot at by Russian forces near the village of Ordzhinikidovskaya, on the Chechen-Ingush border.


Lieutenant Colonel Musa Albakov of the Ingush Interior Ministry troops spoke for the crowd. "This is genocide of the Chechen and Ingush nations," he said. "It is not a war against Chechnya but against the Moslem people."


"We do not want war; we just ask, as the Chechens do, to be left in peace. If the Russian army bombs and kills unarmed people, all the nations of the Caucasus will stand up against them," he said.


As Albakov spoke, two Russian helicopters flew closer, circling low over the crowd of 30 people and drowning his words as they clattered close above his head.


The Ingush have come out wholeheartedly on the side of the Chechens, with whom they fought against the Russian imperial armies in the 19th century. They were also deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia in 1944, and they shared a common republic -- Checheno-Ingushetia -- until 1991.


"We have one language; they are our older brothers," said Umar Galaborchev, an Ingush businessman who traveled from his home in Kazakhstan two weeks ago in order to move his family out of Grozny to a village in Ingushetia.


The Ingush leader, Ruslan Aushev, has also spoken out in solidarity with the Chechen cause. He was later attacked by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, who said Aushev had "in effect declared war on the Russian president." A few miles across the border into Chechnya, the second Russian convoy halted on the main road. Helicopters circled the length of the column, and military jets roared in the distance.


This was apparently a rear base being established in support of the advance to Grozny. Troops were busy digging trenches and preparing meals over smoking campfires.


The advance party had already started toward Grozny. Local Ingush warned that Russian troops were shooting at anyone who approached the rear of their convoy, so we took a parallel road, rejoining the main road several miles further. There were no signs of Russian forces, and only as we approached the capital did we meet a few small Chechen roadblocks.Grozny itself was quiet and dark Tuesday evening, and few people were in the streets. No women or children were outside, but a group of some 200 or 300 men continued to protest outside the presidential palace in the main square.