Texto en Español
Fred Cuny was a disaster relief specialist who used his training in engineering to do humanitarian work. He worked in countries such as Biafra, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia. In March 1995, he disappeared in Chechnya and was never found. His life was featured on the PBS documentary program Frontline.
Most of the information contained herein is drawn from the Frontline documentary on Fred Cuny, the Cuny section of the PBS web site, and Professional Responsibility: Focusing on the Exemplary by Michael S. Pritchard of Western Michigan University.
You can find more information on these materials and other Cuny-related sources in sections 9 and 10.
Texto en Español
There was no aid operation in the war zone of Chechnya, the breakaway Russian republic, but Fred Cuny believed he could help. Grozny, Chechnya's capital, was full of civilians who needed to be evacuated. Russia's military was in the process of destroying the city's infrastructure, so the people needed to get out quickly.
Again, Cuny had a choice. One option was to travel to Grozny and try to figure out a way to get the people out. This might be the quickest way to aid the citizens, but it would be very dangerous and probably require substantial military support. Another option was once again to get mixed up in politics. But if he chose this second option, how far would he go? How would he try to deal with the dangerous wartime conditions? Would he be happy just to evacuate the citizens, or would he try to end all the suffering by somehow negotiating an end to the war?
When Cuny saw the opportunity to make such a far-reaching difference, he jumped at the chance. But this time, his ambitious designs would end in tragedy. He attempted to convince both Chechnya and Russia to negotiate a cease-fire. On March 31, 1995, he headed toward ground zero of the war with two Russian doctors and an interpreter. He wanted to obtain a cease-fire, and then use the cease-fire as a stepping stone for further negotiations to end the war.
Unfortunately for the city of Grozny and the world, Cuny's plan never came to fruition. He and his three companions were never heard from again, and their bodies were never found. It is believed that they were executed by Chechen intelligence, possibly because Russia circulated propaganda accusing Cuny of being a spy. Cuny's family, in fact, lays the blame on Russia.
Pictures from Chechnya