Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 19

The Nazran office of the respected Russian human rights organization Memorial reported last week that, on May 17, a civilian woman and a teenage girl were kidnapped in the village of Ulus-Kert, in Chechnya’s Shatoi district, presumably by Russian servicemen. The kidnappers arrived in armored personnel carriers at about 3:00 a.m., seized the women by force and took them off to an unknown destination. The two Chechens are Kurbika Gekhaeva, born in 1970, and her relative, Aminat Dugaeva, born in 1988. The former has a brain tumor and is subject to epileptic attacks.

Two days later the deputy head of the Russian federal procuracy, Sergei Fridinsky, announced that two female residents of that village had been arrested on suspicion of having helped recruit Chechen women to participate in last October’s terrorist attack on the Dubrovka theater in Moscow. But when relatives of Gekhaeva and Dugaeva, together with the village’s mayor, appealed to local Russian military and pro-Moscow Chechen police officials for more information, they could learn nothing.

According to the statement from Memorial, eyewitnesses reported that “a large force” was deployed to carry out the May 17 operation: “The entire street on which the Gekhaev family lived was full of armed men in camouflage uniform, some of whom were masked.” They battered Kurbika’s elderly mother, Ruman Gekhaeva, breaking one of her fingers, then forcibly bent her head to her knees, tied her up with tape and also taped up her mouth and nose. One of the armed men said, “Make it so that she can’t breathe.” After the attackers left, neighbors managed to untie and revive the old woman, who was already unconscious and turning blue.

Meanwhile, other troops seized Kurbika and Aminat, dragged them out to the street in their sleeping garments and forced them into the armored personnel carriers. They have not been heard from since.