Ramzan Kadyrov Embraces Collective Punishment

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 24

Ramzan Kadyrov is now threatening publicly to apply to all separatist guerrillas what previously he has denied doing: retaliating against their relatives. Once again showing his lack of political finesse, he said last week that he would even appeal to the State Duma to authorize his security forces to take such steps. Whether or not such a law is passed, Kadyrov seems likely to use such tactics anyway—as he already has done to compel the defection of Aslan Maskhadov’s defense minister, Magomed Khambiev.

As Natalya Serova noted on the Politcom.ru website on June 10, the Red Army used roughly similar methods to put down Muslim uprisings in Central Asia in the 1920s. Villages suspected of giving shelter to guerrillas were totally destroyed as an example to other villages.

The young Kadyrov linked his sensational threats against guerrillas’ relatives to a unilateral offer to amnesty any rebel fighter who surrendered within three days. As of the expiration of that offer on June 10, only one guerrilla had accepted it, reported Luiza Andieva and Vladimir Barinov on the Gzt.ru website.

The combined amnesty/ultimatum, which apparently came as a surprise to other high-ranking officials in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration, came at a June 7 meeting of Ramzan Kadyrov with the field commanders of the administration’s security services—which in effect function as the Kadyrov family’s private army. As quoted by Gzt.ru, Ramzan publicly said to the separatist guerrillas: “I am giving you three days. Think hard. Any resistance is useless. For a long time now the people have rejected what you are doing. But now you can still show that you are not totally cut off from our nation. Anyone who is not stained with blood will be amnestied. I know that many of you have decided to do this but that you are afraid of something. You don’t need to be afraid of anything. If you are innocent, you are innocent. Do this not for the sake of anyone else, but for the sake of yourselves

and of your own relatives. If you do not surrender within three days, I will personally take the harshest measures.”

On June 9, with just one day remaining in that three-day period, Ramzan reiterated the message: “[I]f rebels do not surrender by the end of the period, then we will discuss things with their relatives,” he said. “If the relatives are helping the bandits, then they are bandits themselves.”

But the deputy head of the pro-Moscow administration’s procuracy, Aleksandr Nikitin, seemed to contradict Ramzan’s amnesty offer by pointing out to Gzt.ru that “the most recent amnesty was announced before the republic’s presidential election last autumn, and its period has expired.” “Today we are working strictly by law,” Nikitin said. Also casting doubt on the amnesty offer was Rudnik Dudaev, secretary of the pro-Moscow administration’s Security Council. He told Gzt.ru that one should not expect it to bring a mass surrender of rebels, and also suggested tactfully—or perhaps not so tactfully—that one should “consider Ramzan’s age [he is 27 years old] and his emotional temperament.”

Yet another skeptic was an unnamed official of the federal military headquarters for the North Caucasus, who told the website that gestures such as Ramzan’s “are not going to have any significant effect on the general situation.” According to Gzt.ru, “federal authorities let it be understood that relatives of guerrillas in the highlands are not answerable for their actions—that is not authorized by any Russian law.”

Visradi Albasov, deputy chief of staff of the pro-Moscow administration’s security services, told Gzt.ru that just one separatist rebel, whom he called “a high-ranking figure close to Maskhadov,” surrendered during the period offered by Ramzan.