Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 4

The issue of the fate of relatives of Chechen separatist President Aslan Maskhadov has also remained the focus of attention of human rights groups. Memorial issued a press release on January 12 detailing what it said were the abductions of eight of Maskhadov’s relatives last December, based on eyewitness interviews. According to the press release, which was quoted by Kavkazky Uzel, the rebel leader’s 67-year-old sister, Buchu Alievna Abdulkadirova, was abducted from her home in Grozny on December 3 by kadyrovtsy who, according to neighbors, arrived in a convoy of some nine cars. Memorial reported that the kidnappers subsequently got into a fistfight at a checkpoint manned by spetsnaz from the GRU’s “Zapad” battalion, who said they would not permit the kadyrovtsy to take people out of territory under the battalion’s control. According to eyewitnesses, the kadyrovtsy shouted that Ramzan Kadyrov has sent them and that they had Maskhadov’s sister in custody.

At around the same time on the evening of December 3, Maskhadov’s 68-year-old brother, Lecha Alievich Maskhadov, was taken from his home in Grozny by a group of kadyrovtsy who arrived in 12 cars. The kidnappers initially asked for his son, Solman, who was not at home. Virtually simultaneously, a group of kadyrovtsy abducted Adam Abdul-Karimovich Rashiev, a 54-year-old distant relative of Maskhadov and an invalid, from his home in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district. Some two hours later, Maskhadov’s 55-year-old brother, Lema Alievich Maskhadov, was kidnapped from his home in the village of Pervomaiskaya in the Groznensky (rural) district. The kidnappers did not let him get dressed and kicked his wife when she tried to intervene. Around the same time, Maskhadov’s 35-year-old nephew, Ikhvan Vakhaevich Magomedov, was abducted from his home in the Groznensky (rural) district. According to Memorial, the kidnappers “did not hide that they belonged to local power structures and were acting according to Ramzan Kadyrov’s orders.”

Aslan Maskhadov’s 40-year-old niece, Khadizhat Vakhaevna Satueva, was kidnapped from her mother’s house in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district on December 28. Her husband, Usman Ramzanovich Satuev, aged 47, was taken away from his apartment that same evening, as was Satuev’s brother-in-law, a 35-year-old identified simply as Movladi. Both of them also lived in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district.

According to Memorial, relatives of those kidnapped were informed through “certain channels” that they were being kept in “an illegal confinement facility” in Tsentoroi, the Kadyrov’s home village in Chechnya’s Gudermes district. “That is where an illegal jail, in which the kadyrovtsy keep people they have kidnapped and illegally detained, is located,” the human rights group noted in its January 12 press release.

On January 13, Ramzan Kadyrov told Interfax that the reports about the detention of Maskhadov’s relatives were “not true.” He said he had ordered an investigation and that “neither Interior Ministry bodies nor any other agencies had received letters from relatives of the aforementioned people reporting their abduction.”

On January 19, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) detailed the kidnappings in an open letter addressed to the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee of the European Parliament and to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

“We have already addressed President Putin with a letter demanding that the aforesaid hostages be released and the perpetrators in this crime, including Ramzan Kadyrov himself, be effectively brought to justice,” the letter stated. “We hereby request that you support our demand and clearly indicate to the leader of the Russian Federation that his expedient reaction to this case is requisite, including in order to prove to the international community, still taken aback by the [Russian] Prosecutor General’s scandalous proposal [to take family-members of individuals suspected of terrorism hostage-CW], that the Russian Federation, as a reliable member of the European family and a member of the Council of Europe, upholds international human rights standards and shall not tolerate hostage-taking in any form.” The letter was signed by IHF Executive Director Aaron Rhodes and FIDH President Sidiki Kaba.

On January 20, Ramzan Kadyrov reiterated that “official power structures and law-enforcement agencies had nothing to do with the disappearance of Maskhadov’s relatives,” Itar-Tass reported. Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov issued a similar denial. That same day, Memorial received a copy of a request written by Kaipa Makhadova, wife of Lecha Maskhadov, to Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov asking for assistance in locating her husband, Kavkazky Uzel reported on January 21.