Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 7

First Deputy Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov has vowed to sue human rights activists who accused him involvement in kidnappings, including the abduction of relatives of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, RIA Novosti reported on February 13.

On January 19, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) addressed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin charging that “that members of the presidential security service under the command and order of Ramzan Kadyrov” – the so-called kadyrovtsi – had abducted at least eight relatives of Aslan Maskhadov “in order to force Maskhadov to give up his armed resistance against the federal government.” The letter said the charges were based on information from the Memorial human rights center and “other reliable Russian sources.” The two groups also sent an open letter to a subcommittee of the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), detailing the kidnappings of Maskhadov’s relatives (see Chechnya Weekly, January 26). On January 31, the Chechen Republic’s Prosecutor, Vladimir Kravchenko, announced that his office had opened eight criminal cases related to the kidnapping of Maskhadov’s relatives (see Chechnya Weekly, February 2). The IHF’s Aleksandr Mnatsakanyan recently cited federal servicemen in Chechnya as saying that the kadyrovtsy were responsible for as much as 75 percent of the crimes committed in Chechnya (see Chechnya Weekly, February 9).

Meanwhile, Chechen President Alu Alkhanov lashed out at Memorial on February 9 for implicating Ramzan Kadyrov in kidnappings, including the abduction of Maskhadov’s relatives. “There are people working in Memorial who in their time were in Maskhadov’s entourage and worked in his government,” RIA Novosti quoted Alkhanov as saying. “At the time they didn’t mention the slave trade, murders, and kidnappings that were flourishing [in Chechnya], nor did they mention how people who had been kidnapped far beyond the borders of Chechnya were being brought to the republic. When they [the Chechen separatist authorities] mistreated their own people, Memorial employees kept quiet.” RIA Novosti quoted Alkhanov as asking rhetorically why Memorial did not speak out “when the Dudaev-Maskhadov regime forced more than 250,000 people to leave Chechnya?” It also quoted Alkhanov as saying that “the security services headed by Ramzan Kadyrov have nothing to do with instances of people disappearing without a trace.”

Memorial rejected Alkhanov’s charges. “We are ready to cooperate with the Chechen authorities, but we regret that the president of that republic appraises our work as the dissemination of unobjective information,” Memorial’s Oleg Orlov told Interfax on February 9. “We have always aimed at cooperation with the authorities of the Chechen Republic and we first of all send our information to the organs of the [Chechen] prosecutor, which in an absolute majority of cases do not refute the information we have collected and…launch criminal cases [on the basis of that information]. We believe that this is an indicator of the high level of reliability of our information.” Orlov added that nobody from Memorial has been part of either Djokhar Dudaev’s or Aslan Maskhadov’s inner circle. “On our staff there is a person who worked in the Foreign Ministry of Ichkeria but was not a member of the government or in the entourage of Maskhadov or Dudaev,” Orlov said. Orlov added that human rights activists have information that there are people currently working in the pro-Moscow Chechen administration’s power structures who earlier worked in the security departments and guards services of the Dudaev and Maskhadov governments. “At the same time, during the period of Maskhadov’s government, Memorial reported about violations of human rights in Chechnya, spoke about the danger of the criminal situation emanating from the Chechen Republic and sent information about it to the Russian Federation government and the Interior Ministry,” Orlov said. “We were not silent during that period.”

Human rights activists do not have the right to remain silent about information concerning Chechen power structures’ involvement in the disappearance of local inhabitants, Orlov said: “We are obligated to make it public and we are reporting it to the organs of the prosecutor.”

Meanwhile, one close observer of developments in Chechnya, believes that the Kremlin’s conferring of the Hero of Russia award on Ramzan Kadyrov last December 29 (see Chechnya Weekly, January 5) was an indication that it is preparing to clip his wings. The award, Vadim Rechkalov wrote in the February 14 edition of Moskovsky komsomolets, “is a guarantee that on the day after his resignation he will not be put in prison for any violations of the law committed by him during the period of [his] uncontrolled power. You don’t put a Hero in prison: it will be necessary to explain why, then, he was given the Hero award.” At the same time, Rechkalov speculated that Ramzan would cling to his current status because losing it would place his life in danger and/or simply because he likes power.