Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 5

Vladimir Kravchenko, the Chechen Republic’s Prosecutor, announced on January 31 that his office had on January 27 opened eight criminal cases related to the kidnapping of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov’s relatives, Interfax reported. Kravchenko stressed that the cases were launched by the law-enforcement agencies in connection with the wide “public interest” in – and numerous press reports about – the alleged kidnappings. Preliminary findings suggest that all the abductions took place last December, he said. This, it should be noted, is what Memorial reported earlier this month after conducting its own investigation. The human rights group listed the relatives of Maskhadov – his sister, two brothers, two nephews and three distant relatives – and detailed the circumstances of their abduction. The Memorial report also cited various eye-witnesses, including GRU commandos, who identified the kidnappers as kadyrovtsy – individuals subordinated to Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov (see Chechnya Weekly, January 26). Kravchenko, however, said that there is no evidence that “power structures” or “law-enforcement” agencies were involved in the kidnappings. There are “many versions” of what happened, he said, including kidnapping for ransom, which has become a “profitable business” in Chechnya.

Earlier on January 31, prior to Kravchenko’s announcement, Lt. General Arkady Edelev, head of the Regional Operation Headquarters of the Counter-Terrorist Operation in the North Caucasus, said that prosecutors had launched three criminal cases involving the kidnapping of three Maskhadov relatives, and that three commanders of federal military units were suspects in the cases. Geneneral Edelev told journalists in Grozny that besides “bandits,” those involved in kidnappings in Chechnya “unfortunately” include “representatives of both the federal forces and law-enforcement organs.” “We have evidence of the involvement of representatives of all three groups in this type of crime,” he said., meanwhile, reported on January 31 that Kravchenko had told a meeting of power structure representatives in Grozny that one in ten kidnappings in Chechnya are carried out by federal forces, and that victims are taken away in armored vehicles during so-called zachistki, or mopping-up operations. In connection with this, the Chechen government plans to increase control over the movement of armor in the republic and to create a unified data base of all kidnapped and “disappeared” persons, NTV television reported.

Meanwhile, Novye izvestia on February 1 quoted an anonymous official in Chechnya’s Interior Ministry who denied that any kidnappings of relatives of Aslan Maskhadov had taken place. “These criminals should simply be hanged, and not kidnapped,” the source added.