The republic of Ingushetia has overtaken Chechnya in the number of murders reported this year, and both republics have seen high numbers of kidnappings and other crimes linked to the smoldering conflicts there, according to the Russian human rights group Memorial.
Memorial's Dmitry Grushkin said that 61 violent deaths have been reported in Ingushetia since the start of the year, comprising 19 civilians, 16 law enforcement officers, two officials, and 24 militants. In Chechnya, the death toll reached 55, comprising 12 civilians, 17 law enforcement officers, 16 militants, and 10 unidentified victims.
Memorial reported seven kidnappings in Ingushetia, a decrease from 2007, while 28 kidnappings were reported in Chechnya since the beginning of the year, a similar number to the same time the previous year. Grushkin noted that at least 10 victims remain missing in both republics, and some of the released abductees reported being raped.
Grushkin told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service
that the kidnapping victims are generally "the relatives of fighters or people who in some way -- directly or indirectly -- are connected to illegal armed formations. As a rule, after people are released, they refuse to talk, so it is impossible to say for certain whether it is a case of blackmail or not."
He also noted another disturbing trend: 16 cases of arson in Chechnya over three months this summer.
"These acts were carried out by unknown people in camouflage," Grushkin told RFE/RL. "We can't say who it was exactly but it is a fact nonetheless that all 16 houses belonged to the relatives of fighters. That we can say for sure."