Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 39

Many of the Chechens who have disappeared in “zachistki” security sweeps are still alive in Russian captivity, in the view of human rights activist Kheda Saratova. The head of the Vozvrashchenie (“Return”) foundation told correspondent Aleksandr Kolesnichenko of Novye izvestia that the organization has assembled more than a thousand individual case files. Vozvrashchenie was created only a month ago in Grozny, for the purpose of finding as many of the kidnapped as possible.

Ex-captives “who have been ransomed, or released thanks to family connections, have told about cellmates with ‘beards down to the floor,'” wrote Kolesnichenko on October 27. Saratova told him that it can be dangerous for those without such connections to visit military bases in search of their imprisoned relatives: “If one simply goes to a military unit and says that such-and-such a person is with you and we can prove it, that person will not still be alive the next morning.”

The kidnapping cases on which Vozvrashchenie is working include several that took place after the presidential election of October 5. That vote was billed by the authorities as a decisive step toward “normalization.”