The federal Investigative Committee said November 26 that they had launched an investigation into the murder of six women whose bodies were found that morning in and around the Chechen capital Grozny. Interfax reported that three of the bodies were found in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district, two others were found on the road to a defunct recreational camp near the Grozny district village of Gikalo and the sixth body was found on the Grozny-Chervlyonnaya road near the village of Petropavlovskaya. The Associated Press reported that five of the six women were Chechens.
According to the Associated Press, four of the women had been shot in both the head and chest, while two had been shot just in the head. Three were believed to be 25-30 years old. The news agency cited a Chechen Interior Ministry official who said that the women were killed with similar weapons but did not elaborate. The Moscow Times, citing Interfax, reported on November 28 that a Kalashnikov assault rifle had been used in several of the killings.
Interfax on November 27 cited Viktor Ledenev, chief investigator with the Investigative Committee’s Chechen branch, as saying that preliminary findings indicated the women may have been targeted because they were seen as leading “amoral lifestyles.”
Interfax reported on November 29 that the body of another murdered woman had been found a kilometer and a half outside of Enginoi, a village northwest of Grozny. Novaya Gazeta, however, reported on December 1 that the body of the seventh woman was found near the village of Valerik in Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district.
The Associated Press quoted police as saying that the woman, aged roughly 25, had been shot in the head, doused with a flammable liquid and torched. The news agency also reported that right groups believe the women may have been victims of honor killings—killings by relatives whom disapprove of their lifestyles or conduct.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta on November 29 quoted Chechnya’s human rights commissioner, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, as saying of the murders: “Unfortunately, some of our young women have forgotten the mountain woman’s code of behavior. The male relatives of these women feel they have been insulted and sometimes take the law into their own hands.” The newspaper noted that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had launched a “sweeping campaign for the moral education of youth.” Indeed, Kadyrov has more than once stressed the need for Chechen women to wear modest traditional clothing, including headscarves (North Caucasus Weekly, January 10; September 13, 2007).
Kadyrov, for his part, condemned the killings of the women as “outrageous,” telling a Cabinet meeting on November 28 that the murders could not be justified by any traditions, particularly since “neither the people nor Islam have such traditions,” the Regnum News Agency reported. Kadyrov said he had called for “strengthening prophylactic work” aimed at preventing such crimes and for work aimed at “spiritual and moral education.”
Movskovsky Komsomolets correspondent Vadim Rechkalov suggested in an article published in the newspaper’s November 29 edition that the perpetrators of these murders are considered by the public to be insufficiently moral and “are acting if not on the orders, then with the tacit approval of the Chechen authorities.” He also wrote that the murders might end up being pinned on a “Wahhabi” group whose members will be killed by security forces ostensibly trying to detain them. Rechkalov wrote that Chechen officials had no right to impugn the morals of the murdered women prior to an investigation, thereby casting a shadow on both them and their relatives. He also suggested such an approach would end up creating moral outcasts who could easily be recruited by terrorists.
Novaya Gazeta military columnist Vyacheslav Izmailov wrote in the newspaper’s December 1 issue that if the women were not killed by a group of “maniacs,” then they were most likely slain “out of revenge, on suspicion of violating some kind of moral and religious principles.”
Izmailov added: “In [Aslan] Maskhadov’s Ichkeria, for example, women accused of adultery were shot publicly in the center of Grozny and those executions were shown on television. … I know a case in which a candidate for president of Chechnya poured ketchup over his wife who was lying on the floor and then photographed her in order to show his relatives and friends how he dealt with her—emphasizing that he regarded women as slaves. At a residence for temporarily displaced people I spoke with a woman who was thrown out into the streets by relatives of her husband along with her six young children after her husband divorced her and did not want to pay alimony. She was willing to do any work to feed her children.”
Izmailov also suggested that the current Chechen authorities—meaning Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s administration—be asked “how they feel about women who are forced to sell themselves in order to feed their children.”
In addition, Izmailov wrote that his sources had told him that relatives of the slain women had launched their own investigation of the murders. “According to the investigation by local residents, the murders of the women may be connected to suspicions that they were linked to the illegal armed formations,” Izmailov wrote, referring to the separatist rebels.