Memorial Notes a Sharp Drop in Disappearances in Chechnya

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 19

Oleg Orlov, the chairman of the board of Memorial Human Rights Center, told Radio Ekho Moskvy on May 7 that the number of disappearances in Chechnya has dropped sharply. “In Chechnya in recent months some changes for the better have taken place: for the first time, a sharp drop in the number of abductions can be seen,” Kavkazky Uzel quoted Orlov as telling the radio station. “Hitherto, all reports of this kind were greatly exaggerated by the authorities, but this time, it is the case. We, at least, have noted it.” Orlov told Ekho Moskvy that the decrease in the number of abductions followed a “personal order” from Ramzan Kadyrov to the siloviki he controls to stop kidnapping people. “And they have stopped it,” Orlov said. “I don’t know whether it is temporary or for good.”

On May 8, Vremya novostei quoted Aleksandr Cherkasov of Memorial as confirming the drop in the number of kidnappings. He told the newspaper that 16 people were kidnapped in 2007 between January and March, ten of whom were subsequently freed. During the corresponding period last year, 53 people were kidnapped. At the same time, Cherkasov noted that Memorial is able to monitor only a quarter to a third of Chechnya’s territory, and that the figures sometimes change due to various circumstances. Still, Memorial recorded that in 2006 187 people were kidnapped, 94 of whom were freed, 11 were found murdered and 63 disappeared without a trace. While in January of this year just 10 people were kidnapped, in February only three were abducted and then three more in March. “In January, Ramzan Kadyrov gave a corresponding order to the republican formations that he controls,” Cherkasov told Vremya novostei, adding that the kidnappings now occurring are mainly being carried out by “siloviki who are not subordinated to Kadyrov – that is, federal soldiers, yamadaevtsy [the mainly Chechen fighters belonging to the Vostok battalion, which is commanded by Sulim Yamadaev and is part of the federal Defense Ministry’s 42nd Division], ORB-2.”

According to Memorial’s Oleg Orlov, on the flip side of the Kadyrov-mandated drop in the number of kidnappings is the emergence of a dictatorship in Chechnya. “On no account should one forget or close one’s eyes to what has been created in Chechnya as a result: a regime of absolute personal power has been created,” Orlov told Ekho Moskvy. The reconstruction taking place in the republic is being carried out according to “absolutely non-transparent financial schemes” and “massive purposeless spending of budgetary funds,” he added. “Everything is being built exclusively on Ramzan Kadyrov’s personal orders. In fact, this is a method slightly reminiscent of Stalin’s building projects.”