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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soldiers Open Fire on Refugees, Kill 9

Russian troops guarding the Chechen border Saturday shot nine unarmed refugees fleeing the fighting in the area, according to eyewitness reports confirmed by a group of State Duma deputies who visited the site.


According to a witness, quoted by deputy Kara-Kys Arakchaa, a convoy of 10 cars filled with refugees was moving past a Russian border checkpoint near the village of Nesterovskaya in Ingushetia. The soldiers let seven of the cars pass but shot and killed the driver of the eighth.


Refugees from the last three cars in the convoy scattered and ran for cover, as soldiers continued shooting at them. Arakchaa said the witness told her that the Russian troops then sought out wounded people and shot them dead. Two of the cars were crushed with an armored personnel carrier.


Ella Pamfilova of the reformist Russia's Choice faction, another member of the Duma delegation, said the delegation had recorded testimony from four witnesses of the incident, identical but for a few minor details.


According to Arakchaa, only one corpse was found near the scene, the others apparently buried. But she added that the spot, when she visited it hours after the incident, was covered in blood and empty machine-gun cartridges, with the three mangled cars and a blown-up Russian armed personnel carrier sitting there like charred skeletons.


A dead Russian soldier was also found on the scene. Reuters quoted an unnamed Russian officer as saying the soldier had been abandoned by his colleagues to freeze to death. His only visible injury was a bullet wound through the shoulder.


The deputies' reports were confirmed by reporters and photographers in the area, who also talked to survivors and visited the scene of the shooting.


"I am simply scared to tell you what may have caused the shooting," Pamfi-lova told a press conference in Moscow after her return. "The soldiers may have been drunk or drugged or they may have had an argument among themselves and opened fire."


Members of the Duma delegation said the troops in the area were completely demoralized.


"These troops are completely unable to carry out peacekeeping functions," said deputy Alexandra Ochirova. "They don't know why they are there, what's going on and what they are supposed to do."