When the federal forces reached Grozny, my men and I were in Gudermes, where we had quartered to form an organized unit made up entirely of men from the Naur District . On January 4th , a runner sent by Maskhadov was placed in our command post. He gave me the order to converge on our capital with all the men at my disposal. Once in the city, I met a young volunteer, who made himself available to organize our group and put it in coordination with the other fighting units. It is called Turpal Ali Atgeriev. In conversation with him, I learned that he had taken part in the war in Abkhazia and that he had some fighting experience. There was not a single war veteran among us, starting with me: I was in desperate need of someone with combat experience. For this I asked Atgiriev to become my deputy, and he accepted my proposal. Since he didn’t have a weapon, I handed him an RPK-74 machine gun. Someone criticized my decision, accusing me of having appointed a stranger as my deputy. I was not interested in this gossip and intrigue, I was worried about only one thing itself: saving lives and at the same time beating the enemy.
We were deployed in defense of the Pedagogical Institute. A regiment of Russian marines had targeted the building: if this had been taken, it would have been possible to easily reach Maskhadov’s headquarters, which was literally fifty meters from our position, under the Presidential Palace. The Russians tried to break through our defenses almost every day, until January 19 , 1994, but without success. In these attacks they lost many soldiers, whose corpses remained in the middle of the road, in no man’s land, prey to stray dogs. We tried to remove them, to save their bodies, but without a respite we could not have prevented them from being eaten. Several times, during the fighting, our command and the Russian one reached an agreement for a 48-hour truce, precisely to clean the streets of the corpses of Russian soldiers. During these truces we talked to the Russian patrols stationed on the side streets. I remember one of these conversations with a Russian captain, to whom I had thrown a pack of cigarettes: Guys he said, quit, you will not win, because you are not fighting the police, but the army. His voice was not arrogant, he was a simple Russian peasant. That battle was also difficult because to supply our armories we had to capture weapons and ammunition from the Russians. In every disabled armored transport vehicle we found a heap of weapons, cartridges and grenades, which we looted. Later the Russians became more careful, and we didn’t find much in their means. On the other hand, their vehicles were stuffed with all sorts of carpets, dishes and other goods looted from the population.
January 19 , when it became clear that the defense of the Pedagogical Institute would no longer slow down the fall of the Presidential Palace, we withdrew. I was ordered to organize the defense of the Trampark area , and we occupied positions on Novya Street Buachidze . Trampark changed hands several times, and there were fierce battles until February 7th . Right in via Novya Buachidze suffered a shock from a tank bullet which, entering the window of the room where I was with some of my men, hit two of them in full, killing them. This shock still undermines my health. Finally, on the evening of February 7 , a messenger from Maskhadov handed me a note in which I was ordered to leave the position, join Basayev in Chernorechie and leave the city. I should have assumed the defense in the parking area in Via 8 Marzo, where the departments were concentrating to prepare for the exit from the city. Once there we counted all those present: also considering the staff of the Headquarters, we were 320 men. Obviously some departments were not present: detached units fought in other areas of the city, and besides them there were the so-called “Indians”, armed gangs who did not obey anyone, they fought when it was favorable gold and along the way they plundered everything that they could find. When Maskhadov lined up us in the square, he told us that our descendants would be proud of us, that the victory would be ours, that we were leaving Grozny only to return one day. The night between 7 and 8 Fenbbraio we left the capital.
The Naursk Battalion
It was after the retreat from Grozny that my unit, still an amalgam of more or less organized groups, began to become a real tactical unit. This same process was also taking place in the other units that had formed spontaneously at the beginning of the war. Moreover, in the Chechen resistance there were no military units and formations in the classical sense of the term: “battalions”, “regiments” and “fronts” were symbolic terms that did not correspond to a battle order in the classical sense. For example, what was called the “Argun Regiment” was an association of several groups, often poorly armed, made up of a variable number of people, each of which replied to its own commander. The members of these units, all volunteers, could leave at any time, there was no precise chain of command.
Our team spirit had already been forged in the battles we had fought together, and which unfortunately had forced us to count the first fallen. The first of our men to die for the defense of Chechnya was Beshir Turluev , who fell at the Ishcherskaya Checkpoint in December 1994. Since then, other young Chechens had sacrificed their lives for their homeland. Among those who remained alive, and who fought more assiduously with me, a group of “veterans” began to form, who by character or competence acquired the role of “informal officers”. Thus, for example, a 4th year student of a medical institute, whose name was Ruslan, became the head of the medical unit, while Sheikh Khavazhi , from the village of Naurskaya , became the head of logistics. The latter was in charge of keeping in touch with the Naur region , from which the supplies for our unit came. The inhabitants collected the food intended for our livelihood and delivered it to us via a KAMAZ truck, driven by Umar, from the village of Savelieva, and his companion Alkhazur . Sometimes money was also collected, usually a small amount, which was scrupulously recorded and distributed among the men. For the needs of the battalion, for the entire period of the 1994-1996 war, I, from the central command, did not receive more than 3 thousand dollars.
After we had withdrawn from Grozny, Maskhadov ordered us to fall back on Argun, to help defend the city. We quartered ourselves in the city hospital, now empty and unused. The commander of the stronghold was Khunkarpasha Israpilov, and the commander of the largest unit, the so-called “Combined Regiment”, was Aslambek Ismailov. We were deployed in the sector of the so-called “Indian village”, a front of about 350 meters along the Argun River. On our left were the so-called “Black Wolves”, characterized by wearing very dark jeans. On the other side were Alaudi ‘s men Khamzatov , guard posts on the main bridge over the Argun. In front of us was a Russian paratrooper unit. We learned that we were facing special forces from a Russian soldier whom we captured when, with his squad, he attempted a reconnaissance close to our lines. At that juncture, as soon as the other side learned that their group had been identified and attacked, the Moscow artillery launched a massive bombing on our positions, during which two of our militiamen fell: Daud, coming from the village of Kalinovsky and Rizvan , from Naurskaya . To scare us, the Russians played Vladimir Vysotsky ‘s “Hunting for Wolves” at very high volume . We responded with “Freedom or Death”. The supply of the militias in the city of Argun, as well as in Grozny, was very scarce, there was a severe shortage of ammunition, there was a catastrophic lack of machine gun cartridges, RPG-7 grenade launcher shells and only dressing bandages they were more or less in abundance among the drugs.
On the morning of March 20, the Russians began testing our defenses along the entire line of contact, simulating a force attack from our side. In reality, the main attack took place, surprisingly, at the Moskovsky state farm . We did not expect the enemy to break in from that side, and after a fierce battle during which we lost many men (including the commander of the Melkhu – Khe militia , whose name was Isa and a brave, young Lithuanian named Nicholas) we had to leave the city, to retreat to the wooded region of Nozhai – Yurt. In the defense of Argun, Abuezid , from the village of Naurskaya , Umar, Mekenskaya , Muslim, Nikolaevskaya also fell , while another ten of us were wounded. We left Argun in the night between 21st and 22nd March 1995.