The distinctive feature of the kidnappings in the North Caucasus today is that they are apparently carried out only by Russian government forces. In fact, some analysts assert that the kidnappings of the earlier periods, ostensibly organized by Chechen militants between the first and the second war in Chechnya and at the beginning of the 2000s, may, in fact, have been tied to various Russian agencies (compromat.ru, April 7, 2002).
Whatever happened earlier, the organizations that monitor human rights in the North Caucasus suggest that practically all kidnappings today are connected to the government (svoboda.org, June 14, 2012). Even though government agencies try to avoid registering kidnappings, official statistics show that they constitute mass violations of human rights in the region, rather than isolated cases (rozysk.org, May 2014).
In some regions, such as Tatarstan, the government’s control over such information breaks down (russiatimes.wordpress.com, December 17, 2013). Sometimes the authorities are unable to conceal from the public kidnappings carried out by government agencies. An admission made several years ago by the head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was unusual, but was evidence of the true tragedy of the situation in the North Caucasus. “There is still the problem of kidnappings of people,” he said in February 2012. “I will tell you that we allowed the situation to slip from under our control. Last year, we had eight people kidnapped… Among these eight people, in five cases we see [evidence of involvement] of the security services, the government agencies,” Yevkurov said (RIA Novosti, February 18, 2012).
Most of the time, people kidnapped by government forces are found dead. This happened recently in Stavropol region, where people in Neftekumsky district protested the disappearance of a 27-year-old resident of the village of Tukui-Mekteb, Zamir Taibov. According to a relative, before his disappearance on June 13, Taibov left the village to talk to Federal Security Service (FSB) officers (rambler.ru, June 14).
His relatives reacted quickly to his disappearance by organizing a demonstration in the street to try to prevent him from being killed and portrayed as having been a militant who fired on the police. Members of the Neftekumsky district police arrived at the protest and told the people the corpse of a bearded man shot in the head had been found near the Stepnovsky checkpoint (Kavkaz Uzel, June 14). Relatives identified the dead man as Zamir Taibov and said he had been tortured (Kavkaz Uzel, June 15). Neither the FSB nor the police in Stavropol have explained how a person who was summoned to the FSB for a talk wound up dead. The speed with which the relatives of the victim acted forced the government agents to rid themselves of the corpse as quickly as possible. The fact that Taibov had earlier served in the police and left government service to start a private business did not protect him.
A recent official police report provides a classic example of kidnapping by the police. “At about 10:30 p.m., police officers attempted to check a Kia Sorento that was parked on the road connecting Buinaksk and Untsukul,” the report read. “However, the driver opened fire on the police and was killed by return fire. The police suffered no casualties” (chernovik.ru, June 10).
It turned out that the person killed in the incident, Khanmirza Ashurbekov, had been abducted by people in uniform in Makhachkala. On June 9, Ashurbekov’s wife appealed to the Pravozashchita human rights group to help her find her husband. “At 11:30 a.m. on June 9, I spoke to my husband, 38-year-old Khanmirza Ashurbekov, a resident of Makhachkala, for the last time,” she told the group. She said he should have come home fifteen minutes after their conversation, but failed to do so, and both of his telephones were switched off (vdagestan.com, June 10).
The authorities did not explain how Ashurbekov wound up 100 kilometers away from his home with a machine gun (Kavkaz Uzel, June 14). Pravozashchita eventually posted a video recording of Ashurbekov’s arrest in Makhachkala. The video shows a person resembling Ashurbekov being arrested, presumably by police officers, who force him into a white car and speed away. It is not hard to guess that the slain person was placed in the category of those the authorities call “radicals” (Pravozashchita Facebook Page, June 11).
Another resident of Makhachkala, Ramazan Magomedov, was luckier. Rights activists reported that he was kidnapped on June 13. Two days later, he turned up in the Sovietsky district police station in Makhachkala. A representative of Pravozashchita said she was informed about the kidnapping at 7 p.m. “I was told that four unidentified people, driving a car with the license plate number 973, approached the […] car of 28-year-old Ramazan Uvaisovich Magomedov. They dragged Magomedov out of his car and started beating him on the head with the butt of a gun, put a mask on him, forced him into a car and took him somewhere” (Kavkaz Uzel, June 13). In those cases in which relatives manage to track down someone who was detained, the detainee can be charged with illegal drug possession. But relatives consider such an outcome a blessing.
Kidnappings in the North Caucasus today are carried out by government agents, and nearly all such acts are directed against those considered to be Salafis. Such acts can be seen as pressure by the authorities on those who do not accept the policy of the federal center. These unlawful actions make the Salafis even more anti-Russian. As a consequence, the authorities themselves are increasing the number of followers of radical movements in the region and among other Muslims across Russia as a whole.