Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Life for a Chechen in Moscow

The police are waiting on every corner and lurking under every bridge in Moscow, looking for the swarthy Chechen terrorists and gangsters described in chilling detail in the Russian press for the last three years.

So brutal are their investigative methods that Chechen actor-turned-businessman Meirbek Magomadov, who has lived in Moscow for two years, puts on thick pink-rimmed spectacles when he goes out on the street to disguise his dark brows and lashes.

"Basically they stop anyone who looks too dark to be Russian. I'm lucky because my hair's going grey. With that and the spectacles I can pass for a Russian. So I get searched less often than most Chechens I know here," he said with an air of resignation.

"But it's still unbearable. They stop you all the time. They search you, they take your car apart, they insult you. And they only give your papers back if you put money in their paws".

There is no let-up in Moscow for Chechens who have escaped the horrors of the 12-week campaign to crush the region's independence bid, including the land and air bombardment of their capital, Grozny. Since the conflict started, Moscow police have stepped up patrols to stop retaliation by terrorists.

Magomadov's wife Liza and their children, Laila, 11, and Ibragim, 13, escaped from the cellar of their Grozny home just over a month ago. When they finally crept out, they realized the flat had been bombed into oblivion over their heads.

Laila still has the dazed, sickly look of many Grozny children trapped under the bombardment. Her mother says she has screaming nightmares. All three still turn blank, fearful faces towards the window when they hear a plane approach.

The children are not leaving their new Moscow home, a cramped one-room flat once used by their father as a pied ? terre, to go to school.

The headmistress of the local school refused to take them when she realized they were Chechens, Magomadov said.

"She got very embarrassed and stiff after she saw my passport, which gives my nationality as Chechen, and said there were no places at the school. We're second-class people here".

Nor have the Magomadovs registered as refugees. Like other Chechens who have fled to their relatives in Moscow, they afraid to let the police have their address.

"No one believes they'd give us any money or help. But they'd know we're Chechens, and they'd know where we live".

The Directorate in the Fight against Organized Crime is reluctant to explain what so many uniformed men are doing rounding up Chechens, or to give details of the operation.

"There will be no meetings with journalists in the near future, and no clarification of the fight with the Chechen mafia until the situation in Chechnya becomes clearer," a press officer said. No arrest of any top criminal has been announced.