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Russian Prisoners Call Yeltsin’s War ‘Unjust’

January 2, 1995

GROZNY, Russia (AP) _ Vladimir Chudinov had hoped to celebrate his daughter’s first birthday at home this month. Instead, the Russian soldier is a prisoner of a war he calls unjust.

``This war will come to nothing,″ the 19-year-old infantryman said softly.

He and two other young soldiers are among the many Russian soldiers and officers believed captured in President Boris Yeltsin’s 3-week-old invasion of the breakaway southern republic of Chechnya.

The three young men said they were the only survivors from two Russian infantry companies who tried to take the central train station in central Grozny.

Chudimov and his comrades were allowed to meet with journalists and an International Red Cross representative at a schoolhouse on the southern edge of the embattled Chechen capital.

Their story is that of reluctant soldiers and helps explain why Moscow has been unable to defeat the outmanned, outgunned Chechen forces.

Chudinov said his 120-man company was loaded onto a sealed railroad car and shipped to a base at Mozdok, in southern Russia just outside Chechnya. They arrived on Dec. 27, two weeks after the Russian invasion began.

Four days later, on New Year’s Eve, the regiment was sent into Grozny with artillery support and ordered to take control of the city railway station.

``Our whole company was killed. All the officers were killed,″ Chudinov said. ``I was the only one left.″

After his capture, Chudinov was taken to the schoolhouse _ a temporary headquarters for Chechen volunteer fighters _ along with two other prisoners, Viktor Abdullin, 18, and Alexei Rubtsov, 19, both infantrymen.

Rubtsov was captured after his armoured personnel carrier was attacked during the battle at the train station. He could hear the fierce cries of Chechen fighters outside his armed personnel carrier.

``I was very, very afraid,″ Rubtsov said softly. ``The corpse of my friend was next to me.″

Rubtsov serves the 71432th regiment in the Samara region on the Volga River.

``We shouldn’t have started a war when we don’t know why. What is this war for?″ Rubtsov said. ``It is foolish what we’re doing here.″

The Geneva-based ICRC representative, Roland Wavre, said the three prisoners appeared to be in good shape.

The three teen-agers said they have been treated well, provided with cigarettes, canned food, bread and tea.

They said at first they were afraid of being held prisoner by Chechens. Now, they said, they fear being punished when they go home.

``We are going to send them to a safer place, or to Russia,″ said one of their captors, Timur Tsurayev. ``But I’m afraid they will have a problem with the Russian intelligence services.″

Chudinov said he was afraid to go home. When asked about his wife and baby daughter, he answered with silence while a tear rolled down his cheek.

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