The epidemic of kidnappings in Chechnya has not abated with the arrival of a new year. According to the Grozny office of Memorial, 11 residents of the republic were killed, eight disappeared and another 32 were detained by “various power structures” during the first week of January alone. In the human rights group’s view, most of those detained during so-called special operations carried out across the republic had nothing to do with the ongoing fighting between security forces and separatist rebels, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on January 9. Kavkazky Uzel on January 10 quoted a Chechen law-enforcement source as saying that seven people had been abducted over the weekend of January 8-9. In Grozny, the website reported, armed persons in masks and camouflage uniforms and driving cars without license plates kidnapped two young men, while four people, including a woman and a police officer, were kidnapped in the Shali district. A resident of the Nadrechny district village of Znamenskoe reported to local police that three unknown men in camouflage had broken into his home, threatened his wife, an entrepreneur, with weapons, and abducted her.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Ibragim Khamuradov, a solo dancer with Chechnya’s Vainakh dance company, remains a mystery. Interfax on January 8 quoted the dance company’s management as saying that Khamuradov had been kidnapped near a market in Grozny’s Oktayabrsky district by a group of armed assailants wearing camouflage who also seized the keys of his new car.
Itar-Tass reported on January 9 that Khamuradov’s kidnapping has put the ensemble’s international tour (scheduled for February and to include Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries) in doubt. Vainakh, whose popularity at home rivals that of Chechnya’s Terek football club, has already received international recognition. In 1998, it was awarded the grand prize at an international competition in Turkey, and February of the following year it was the winner among 25 groups from various countries at a folk dance ensemble competition held in Agrigento, Sicily.