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22 Feb, 2008 18:33

'Miracle resistance' remembered in Chechnya

For years the Chechen capital Grozny was a place associated with conflict and heavy fighting. Now, the city is trying to put its troubled past behind it. Roads are being rebuilt and renamed. One street has been named after 84 Russian paratroopers, who die

Some Grozny residents have got a new address overnight It's not their homes that have changed but the name of their street.

This quiet residential street in the Chechen capital is now a memorial to 84 young Russian soldiers who died after a fierce three-day battle with over 2,500 terrorists.

Now the land where they died is paying its respects.

“We name this street after the paratroopers who lost their lives in an unequal fight. They died like heroes. We'll always remember their deeds and write about them. And now we are arranging this commemoration in honour of them,” said Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, opening the celebration.

Ninety-one paratroopers from Russian city of Pskov were in Chechnya as part of 1999's anti-terrorist campaign. On March 1, 2000 they were attacked by hundreds of militants in the mountains.

For three days the young soldiers defended their position, killing over 700 militants. Only seven paratroopers survived. Their resistance has been called a miracle and their actions are considered heroic in Russia.

However, the armed conflict in Chechnya has been somewhat differently portrayed outside the country. Many in the West call it the war that was never declared and repeatedly criticise Moscow for its actions.

But that's politics and for some, like Aleksander Shvetsov, politics is not important. His 20-year-old son was among the 84 paratroopers that died. Now the only thing that matters to this father is keeping the memory of his child alive.

“First, I didn’t want to come here. I had some doubts, little faith. But then the parents called me and insisted I should go and bow to the Chechen land on their behalf too. That made my decision,” Shvetsov said.

The memorial is a symbol and not just for the relatives of those who died. Thanks to the memorial many see the significant steps made by the Chechen people towards rapprochement.