Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 23

Kavkazky Uzel reported on June 13 that there have recently been a number of abductions of relatives of rebels, but that the relatives of those kidnapped are afraid to discuss the cases. “Taking hostage the relatives of Chechen militants has already become the norm,” a Grozny resident identified only as Viskhan told the website. “It was long ago approved and gained currency as a tactic of the federal forces and local siloviki. One doesn’t have to go far for examples. Some 40 relatives of the former defense minister of Ichkeria Magomed Khambiev were taken hostage; relatives of Aslan Maskhadov and rebel field commander Doku Umarov were abducted. However, instances of relatives of ordinary members of Chechen armed formations being taken hostage do not receive wide publicity, above all because people are afraid to speak openly about it.” The website quoted an unnamed human rights activist as saying that relatives of those kidnapped are usually given an ultimatum that they will be freed only if this or that rebel turns himself in. Sometimes the abducted relatives are released after a long period in captivity and multiple interrogations, but relatives of rebels not infrequently simply disappear.

An anonymous Chechen NGO staffer told Kavkazky Uzel that the number of such abductions is on the increase. “Even women and underage children are taken hostage,” the anonymous NGO worker said. “This tactic is increasingly used by local siloviki. Such an inhuman tactic can lead to the most serious consequences: never-ending vendettas and reciprocal mass destruction of Chechens.”

Among the examples cited by the website was the April 2 abduction of Duk-Vakha Dadakhaev from his home in the Urus-Martan district village of Gekhi, during which several of his female relatives who tried to prevent the kidnapping were struck with rifle butts. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Dadakhaev had cousins fighting with the rebels, including one by the nom de guerre of Spartak who was killed by security forces. Another incident, which took place in the Shali district village of Novye Atagi, involved the kidnapping of a 13-year-old boy by members of Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov’s security service. On May 10, Chechen security forces detained 70-year-old Maret Khutsaeva and teenager Lipa Rashidova, demanding from the former information on the whereabouts of her son, Arbi Khutsaev. The women were freed on condition that Arbi turn himself. Maret Khutsaeva was warned she would be taken into custody again if he failed to surrender. On May 11, unknown armed people abducted Kharon Saidulaev, suspected of having contacts with the separatists, and his son Apti. The son was seized together with his father “with the goal of [exerting] psychological pressure on Kharon in order to get needed information,” Kavkazky Uzel wrote. On May 26, the day after a member of one of the security units loyal to the Yamadaev brothers was murdered in the Gudermes district village of Gerzel, members of unidentified Russia power structures kidnapped members of the Sirazhdiev family – two brothers, their sister and the wife of one of the brothers. Their fate remains unknown. (Sulim Yamadaev is commander of the Russian army’s Vostok special operations battalion; his brother Ruslan Yamadaev is a State Duma deputy.)

Kavkazky Uzel reported on March 14 that the relatives of Aslan Maskhadov who were recently freed after being abducted and held for six months do not want to discuss what happened during their detention. The website quoted an unidentified staffer with the Memorial human rights center as saying that Maskhadov’s brother, Lechi, is in “grave condition” while Maskhadov’s sister, Buchu Abdulkadyrova, has “serious” health problems as a result of their detention (see Chechnya Weekly, June 8).