Two Russian human rights activists have alleged that groups inside Russia’s military and special services have engaged in various criminal activities in Chechnya, including the murder of suspected Chechen separatists, their relatives and sympathizers. Tat’yana Kasatkina and Oleg Orlov, both with the well-known Memorial human rights organization, alleged during a press conference Wednesday (December 19) that “organized crime groups formed by representatives of Russia’s power agencies” had engaged in “kidnapping, torture and murder” and the “burning down and destruction of homes” in Chechnya, a development which, they said, should arouse “particular alarm and outrage.”
The Memorial activists said that the disappearances of Chechens had taken place mainly as a result of so-called “zashistki” (antiguerrilla security sweeps), carried out by federal forces in Chechen towns and villages. During these operations, local residents have been detained, and in some cases their bodies have been subsequently discovered bearing signs of torture. Kasatkina and Orlov cited the case of a zachistka in the town of Urus-Martan, during which eight Chechens disappeared, four of whom were later found buried not far from the Russian military base at Khankala, near the Chechen capital of Djohar (Grozny). In another case, Russian forces allegedly entered the home of 60-year-old Akhmet Dukuzov, one of whose nephews was on a list of wanted rebel fighters, in the early hours of December 9. The troops led Dukuzov, his wife and children outside and then blew up his house.
The Memorial activists cited several other similar cases–one in which federal forces burned down one home and blew up another in the town of Alkhan-Yurt, which is located in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district, after which they detained the homes’ owners. According to Kasatkina and Orlov, the bodies of seven Urus-Martan inhabitants were discovered last Thursday (December 13), and among them were the bodies of the two missing Alkhan-Yurt residents. One of them had been decapitated and was missing an arm. The other bore knife and gunshot wounds. The Memorial activists also charged that Russian forces maintain “secret and illegal” detention centers for incarcerated Chechens. Russian forces, they alleged, have also engaged in looting during zachistki, stealing televisions, radios and other valuables, and extorting money from residents in return for promises not to detain local youth.
At the same time, Kasatkina and Orlov noted that after Memorial issued a report about abuses during a zachistka carried out in the village of Avtury over December 1-3, the Chechen prosecutor’s office launched a criminal investigation and secured the release of eighteen Avtury residents who had been illegally detained by an Interior Ministry unit (NTV.ru, El Pais, December 20). Memorial said in a report this week that since the start of a “dialogue” during the recent Council of Europe-sponsored seminar on Chechnya in Strasbourg and the Civic Forum meeting of Russian nongovernmental organizations in Moscow, “the possibility for constructive mutual actions between the organs of the prosecutor’s office and the Memorial human rights center has emerged” (Memo.ru, December 19; see also the Monitor, December 19).
OSCE MISSIONS DECLARE COMPLETE VICTORY IN ESTONIA AND LATVIA.