Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 3

The January 10 detention of Zulai Kadyrova, the sister of Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister, by police in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district and her subsequent “rescue” by a group of armed men led by her brother has continued to reverberate in North Caucasus inter-republican relations. Dmitri Kozak, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, said on January 14 that the federal Prosecutor General’s Office would investigate whether violations of the law took place in the incident but added that the leaders of Chechnya and Dagestan had a “full understanding” of “what to do” and how to prevent such incidents from happening again.

But on January 16, Dagestan’s State Council and government released a statement quoted by RIA Novosti complaining that its attempts to determine the circumstances surrounding Zulai Kadyrova’s detention the day it happened had been “interrupted by an incursion…by armed people headed by the first deputy prime minister of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov,” some of whom “forced” their way into the Khasavyurt police station, where Ms. Kadyrova and the bodyguards traveling with her were being held, took the detainees out and set off for Chechnya. “This is not the first time armed people have crossed the administrative border between the Chechen Republic and Dagestan in vehicles with no registration plates without submitting to the legitimate requirements of Dagestan Interior Ministry officers carrying out their duties at road check points and implementing the inspection and registration of road transport,” the statement said. “The people of Dagestan interpret such actions as a mark of disrespect towards them.” According to RIA Novosti, the Dagestani authorities say that armed people crossed the border between Chechnya and Dagestan more than twenty times over the last year. At the same time, the statement said “Dagestanis relate with understanding to the difficulties that the people of the Chechen Republic are experiencing in the fight against international terrorism and in establishing a peaceful life.”

Vyacheslav Izmailov, military correspondent for Novaya gazeta, wrote in the bi-weekly’s January 17 edition that both Ramzan Kadyrov’s sister and mother were detained near the settlement of Gerzel on the Dagestani side of the Chechen-Dagestani border on January 10, and that the detention was carried out not by Dagestani police, but by Interior Ministry personnel from other Russian regions who had been assigned to the area along the Chechen-Dagestani border. According to Izmailov, members of Ramzan Kadyrov’s presidential security service “have repeatedly carried out illegal actions on the territory of Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, the result of which has been the kidnapping of local inhabitants,” and relatives and neighbors of those kidnapped have on several occasions blocked the Rostov-Makhachkala federal route to demand that the Dagestani and federal authorities “suppress the unlawful actions of the…kadyrovtsy and provide protection to local residents.” In addition, Izmailov reported that in response to these protests, the Chechen and Dagestani interior ministries held a special meeting on December 22, during which the Chechen side agreed that it would take actions inside Dagestan against “illegal armed formations” only in conjunction with Dagestani Interior Ministry personnel. A high-level Dagestani Interior Ministry official told Izmailov that Dagestani officers could have accompanied Ms. Kadyrova and her entourage or that the entourage’s members should have filled out the necessary documents (one bodyguard reportedly did not have proper documentation), given the threat from militants. “Police personnel are not obligated to recognize Ramzan Kadyrov’s relatives by face,” the official told Izmailov. “We have identical requirements for everyone.”

Izmailov wrote: “Chechen First Deputy Premier Ramzan Kadyrov should draw at least two lessons from these events: in providing security for one’s relatives, one should not ignore the security problems of other people, and, secondly, a certain infringement of human rights having made itself felt on his relatives, the fact that the kadyrovtsy themselves over many years have kept hundreds of thousands of their fellow-tribesmen in fear should be reflected upon.”

Meanwhile, Novye izvestia on January 18 reported that while she was detained in the Khasavyurt police headquarters, Zulai Kadyrova had an asthma attack and fainted, injuring her arm. According to the first reports, Dagestani police broke her arm during the arrest and Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Musaev continued to insist that this is what happened. Musaev also said that when Ramzan Kadyrov and his entourage arrived to free his sister, he “shoved everybody” but that there was no other violence. According to the initial reports, Kadyrov’s men beat up Dagestani policemen. Musaev also said that Kadyrov traveled to Khasavyurt “in a private capacity” and was not accompanied by members of Chechnya’s presidential security service. More generally, Musaev tried to play down the incident, calling it “a tempest in a teapot.”