Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 11

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Eduard Petrukhin, the deputy director of the Federal Penal Jurisdiction Service (FSIN), reached an agreement on March 14 allowing Chechens who are serving terms in Russian prisons outside Chechnya to return to the republic to serve out their sentences. On March 15, Vremya novostei quoted Kadyrov as saying that, “prisoners must not be written off,” despite the fact that, “they are people who have strayed off the right path because of various life circumstances.” According to the newspaper, more than 900 Chechens are serving prison sentences in other parts of Russia, including several dozen women. “To see them behind bars must be shameful to the whole [Chechen] nation,” Kadyrov said. “Since antiquity, our women have been associated with protecting the household.” Vremya novostei reported that the FSIN has agreed to transfer all Chechens serving in prisons around Russia back to Chechnya except for those serving life sentences. It noted that Kadyrov has already expressed doubts about the guilt of Zara Murtazalieva, the Chechen woman sentenced to nine years in prison in 2005 for allegedly attempting to carry out a terrorist bombing in Moscow in 2004, and said he would seek a retrial for her. Russian and international human rights groups have charged that the case against Murtazalieva was fabricated (Chechnya Weekly, January 25). Murtazalieva is serving her prison sentence in Mordovia.

Meanwhile, Kommersant on March 15 quoted FSIN press secretary Aleksandr Sidorov as saying that around 100 Chechens who are serving prison sentences in various parts of Russia for crimes committed during the period of the Chechen war could be returned to Chechnya to serve out their sentences. Sidorov put the number of Chechens serving in prison in parts of Russia outside Chechnya as more than 1,000.

The APN news agency on March 14 quoted Sergei Markedonov, head of the International Relations department at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, as saying that the agreement to allow convicted Chechens to serve out their sentences in Chechnya was, “completely logical in the context of the policy of Chechenization that the Kremlin is conducting.” He added, “It is a dangerous precedent, because tomorrow analogous initiatives could follow from Tatarstan or Dagestan. In addition, Chechnya itself could demand more – ‘let our guys serve [in the military] only on Chechen territory, let taxes [collected in Chechnya] remain in Chechnya,’ and on, and on. It is not possible under these conditions to talk about a unified legal space. This is a typical imperial situation, in which various legal systems are operating on the territory of an empire. Preferences and special legal regulations are created for the border districts. We started the war in Chechnya so that we would have a unified legal space. It turns out that our sacrifices were in vain.”

APN on March 14 also quoted Yana Amelina, a commentator for the Rosbalt news agency, as saying in regard to the agreement allowing Chechen prisoners to serve out their terms in Chechnya, “Long before he was named Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov insisted that Chechens serve out their sentences on the territory of the republic, as well as that cases brought against some Chechens on terrorism charges be reviewed. Earlier, the Chechen leadership sought an agreement that Chechen [military] recruits serve only on the territory of the republic. No other federation subject enjoys such privileges, and such concessions mean yet another step on the path toward Chechnya’s further isolation, given that there is no reason to assume that Chechens who are handed over to the Chechen authorities will really serve out their terms. Having met Kadyrov’s conditions, the federal center has only demonstrated its weakness to Grozny. Concessions will not be sufficiently appreciated and will lead only to an escalation of demands on Moscow.”