Pro-Kremlin Chechen President Alu Alkhanov said during a June 6 press conference in Moscow that abductions in Chechnya were declining, with only 23 people kidnapped since the beginning of the year, compared with 168 people abducted during the same period last year. Alkhanov said that while 58 people were initially reported missing during the first five months of 2005, investigations revealed that some of those were in fact in custody as part of criminal investigations. He also said that federal forces were involved in only 5 to 10 percent of all the kidnappings in Chechnya. “Unfortunately kidnapping happens in this region,” Reuters quoted Alkhanov as telling reporters. “Nevertheless, these crimes have decreased 10-fold, if not 100-fold.”
However, Usam Basaev, a representative of the Memorial human rights center in Ingushetia, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on June 7 that 74 people were kidnapped in the first four months of this year. He also noted that Memorial’s statistics are incomplete as it is only allowed to work in some 50% of Chechnya’s territory and because relatives of kidnapping victims often pay the ransoms and do not make the cases public.
Meanwhile, the Council of Chechen NGOs and the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORChD) reported on June 7 that five young people were kidnapped in the Groznensky agricultural district settlement of Prigorodnoe on June 6. The kidnap victims included Chechen State University student Umar Ilyasov, Muslim Akaev, Shamsudin Gatsaev, Khalid Zingaev and Ali Kulaev. The Council of Chechen NGOs, as quoted by hro.org, the Prava cheloveka v Rossii (Human Rights in Russia) website, reported that “representatives of Russian power structures, presumably GRU,” carried out the abductions.
The ORChD cited eyewitnesses as saying that the young people were seized from three different homes in Prigorodnoe, and that the attackers were armed men in camouflage who arrived in 10-12 cars and then dispersed around the village. Eyewitnesses also reported that after some of the kidnappers took victims from the Gatsaev home, members of the Chechen presidential security service who were stationed in the village approached the kidnappers and asked whose orders they were acting under. This led to a gun battle in which one presidential security service officer, a local resident named Ruslan Murtasaliev, was shot in the leg.
The ORChD quoted a neighbor of the Gatsaevs as saying that the Russian security services never try to catch “bandits,” meaning rebel fighters. “They’re afraid of the bandits, because they are armed and might kill them,” the unnamed resident said. “They take away peaceful residents…because they need bags of money. But where will these poor people get money? They haven’t even received compensation [for homes damaged in the war]. And they beat the children and force them to sign what they themselves have made up.” According to the ORChD, the number of such crimes has increased recently.
The hro.org website stated that the five young Prigorodnoe residents have already been released. However, the ORChD reported that a sixth young resident, Bekkhan Bisultanov, was kidnapped earlier, on June 3. His fate remains unknown. According to the group, two of Bisultanov’s brothers were killed – one, in 1999, during the bombardment of Grozny; the other, an eleven year old, in 2001, when a Russian military column opened fired on the village.
The ORChD reported that on June 3, armed raiders in camouflage uniforms and masks kidnapped 21-year-old Ramzan Yunusov from his home the village of Samashki (Achkoi-Martan district), also stealing 2,000 rubles that had been saved for medical treatment for the victim’s ailing mother. According to the ORChD, Yunusov’s father and older brother were abducted in October 2003 by federal forces on the Samashki-Grozny road.
On June 1, some ten men in camouflage uniforms abducted Abubakar Dushukuev, a resident of the village of Urd-Yukhoi (Shatoi district). His whereabouts remain unknown. That same day, some 12 men in camouflage abducted Usman Laiev, a policeman and resident of the settlement of Ilinskaya (Groznensky agricultural district).
Meanwhile, Memorial announced on June 2 that seven relatives of the late Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov had been freed more than five months after their abduction, the Associated Press reported. Memorial spokesman Dmitry Grushkin said the relatives, including Maskhadov’s elderly sister and brothers, were blindfolded by unknown kidnappers and returned to their homes in and around Grozny on May 31. Citing witnesses, Memorial said security forces under the command of Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov had kidnapped the relatives in December.
Maskhadov’s sister, Buchu Abdulkadyrova, told the AP on June 3 that armed people who did not identify themselves took her and nine of her relatives, including two brothers, from their homes on December 2 and drove them to a remote location. “They put us in a brick shack without any conveniences,” she said. “We didn’t have a chance to wash our faces, let alone have a bath, until a week before our release. We looked much worse than coal miners coming back from work: black, dirty and in tatters.” Abdulkadyrova said that though the relatives feared for their fate, the abductors treated them normally and fed them three times a day. “They weren’t beating or abusing us,” she said. “But it was horrible to remain unaware of our fate.”