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Bombing of Katyr-Yurt
Location Katyr-Yurt, Chechnya
Date February 4, 2000
Target Village, refugee convoy
Attack type
Indiscriminate bombing
Deaths At least 170 civilians, 363 by more liberal estimates
Perpetrators Russian Air Force
Motive Attack on the retreating rebel forces in area.

The reported bombing of Katyr-Yurt (Chechnya) occurred on February 4, 2000, when Russian forces bombed the village of Katyr-Yurt and a refugee convoy under white flags in an attempt to stop the breakout of the Chechen separatist forces from Grozny (or so claimed Russia), killing or injuring hundreds of people.[1] The village was also previously bombed by the Russians in 1995 and in 1996.[2][3]


A special operation was planned and executed by the federal military commanders to entice rebel forces from besieged Grozny. That plan involved leading the Chechen separatist fighters to believe that a safe exit would be possible out of the city to the mountains in the south of Chechnya. On February 2, 2000, they were allowed to leave the city and were then caught in minefields and attacked by federal artillery and the air force. Fleeing the ambush, a large group of armed fighters arrived in Katyr-Yurt[citation needed]. Journalists who managed to report on the area confirmed the use, by the Russians, of the vacuum bomb on the town.[4] Vacuum bombs are dropped by parachute, and, when a couple of meters from the ground, release a cloud of petrol gas. The gas then reacts with the air, causing an explosion and then a vacuum, sucking away oxygen from living people, thus killing them. They are banned by the Geneva Conventions. The residents, including many civilian refugees who had fled the fighting Grozny, were not warned in advance or told of safe exit routes by the Russian side. The sudden heavy bombardment of the village began in the early hours of the morning and subsided at approximately 3 p.m. At that time, many of the villagers attempted to leave, believing that the military had granted a safe passage out of the village. As they were leaving by road, planes appeared and bombed the cars.

The final atrocity came in the afternoon of February 4. The Russians told the Chechens they would be able to leave in a convoy of buses with white flags attached. The convoy which the Russians themselves dispatched for the Chechens was then bombed by the Russians.[5]

Ultimately, the bombing lasted for two days and resulted in the deaths of at least 170 civilians (some 363 according to one estimate[6]), all of them formally citizens of Russia. Many more were injured.

ECHR judgment

In the February 24, 2005 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held Russia responsible for the civilian deaths in Katyr-Yurt:

The Court concluded that the military operation in Katyr-Yurt, aimed at either disarmament or destruction of the fighters, had not been spontaneous. The Court regarded it as evident that when the military had contemplated the deployment of aviation equipped with heavy combat weapons within the boundaries of a populated area, they should also have considered the inherent dangers. There was however no evidence to conclude that such considerations played a significant role in the planning.

The military used heavy free-falling high-explosion aviation bombs FAB-250 and FAB-500 with a damage radius exceeding 1,000 metres. Using this kind of weapon in a populated area, outside wartime and without prior evacuation of the civilians, was impossible to reconcile with the degree of caution expected from a law-enforcement body in a democratic society.

It was further noted that no martial law and no state of emergency had been declared in Chechnya, and no derogation has been entered under Article 15 of the Convention. The operation therefore had to be judged against a normal legal background.[7]

Even when faced with a situation where, as the Government had submitted, the villagers had been held hostage by a large group of fighters, the primary aim of the operation should be to protect lives from unlawful violence. The use of indiscriminate weapons stood in flagrant contrast with this aim and could not be considered compatible with the standard of care prerequisite to an operation of this kind involving the use of lethal force by State agents.[8]

See also


  1. Eyewitness: Chechnya's war goes on, BBC News, 20 March 2000
  2. War with Chechnya spreads as Russians bomb once-peaceful villages, Knight Ridder, 24 January 1995
  3. Russia Says, 'Sorry', The New York Times, March 30, 1996
  4. Lester W. Grau and Timothy L. Thomas(2000)"Russian Lessons Learned From the Battles For Grozny"
  5. Wood, Tony. Chechnya: The Case for Independence. Page 101
  6. Revealed: Russia's worst war crime in Chechnya, The Guardian, March 5, 2000
  8. CHAMBER JUDGMENTS IN SIX APPLICATIONS AGAINST RUSSIA, European Court of Human Rights, 24.2.2005

External links

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