Last week, a mass demonstration against state kidnappings of civilians in Chechnya brought together in Grozny several hundred relatives of kidnap victims. According to a June 4 statement by the Memorial human-rights center, the anti-government demonstration was the largest the Chechen capital has seen for the last several years. The demonstrators, mostly women, burst into the headquarters complex of the pro-Moscow administration and were dispersed only after security guards summoned reinforcements. In Memorial’s judgment, it was a “miracle” that nobody was killed.
The unusually large size of the rally appears to have been caused by the inflated claims of a local activist named Kheda Saratova, who asserted to a Grozny television station that she had a specific list of 1,500 people who had been arrested during security sweeps and incarcerated in Russian prisons outside Chechnya. Women who showed up for the demonstration but were unable to learn more about their relatives then stormed through the outer security checkpoints of the government complex.
According to a June 2 account by Prague Watchdog, some of the protestors said that the head of the pro-Moscow administration’s Security Council, Rudnik Dudaev, told the servicemen guarding the complex that “all of these women are mothers of bandits.” Dudaev ordered the servicemen to break up the demonstration by force, which they did.