On December 22, Human Rights Watch sharply criticized the recent murder of 44-year-old Luiza Betegirieva of the Russo-Chechen Friendship Society, who was shot to death near a Russian military checkpoint outside of Argun, Chechnya on December 13. “The killing would appear to be a horrifying tactic to silence those who expose abuses,” said Elizabeth Anderson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Asia division. The shooting took place near one of the military checkpoints in the city of Argun “immediately after Russian troops manning the checkpoint had turned back Betegirieva’s car” (Human Rights Watch Press Release, December 22).
A leading Russian human rights organization, Memorial, charged on December 19 that Russian military and MVD units serving in Chechnya are presently “out of control.” They have formed “death squads” and are attacking and killing civilians as well as extorting bribes from them. Oleg Orlov, a well-known leader of Memorial, accused the Russian forces of not following those procedures which are required of them by the Russian prosecutor’s office. These procedures had been adopted over the past summer due to heavy pressure from the Council of Europe. Orlov went on to criticize the Council of Europe, saying that “talks between senior representatives of the Council of Europe and the Moscow leadership are just that…. Dialogue, dialogue…. This strategy has produced no results, and clearly does not work” (Agence France Presse, December 19).
The pro-Moscow Chechen government website Kavkaz.strana.ru reported on December 20 that Russian law enforcement organs in Chechnya were looking into a politically charged act of vandalism committed by Russian forces based in the republic. “In the words of local residents, near the village of Pervomaiskoe, a Muslim holy site, Khedi-Ziyart, has been defiled and robbed; it is the spot where a sheikh is buried who, according to legend, was a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed.”