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Fearing Reprisals, Chechnya Whistle-Blower Keeps Family's Location Secret

  • Current Time TV

Ramazan Dzhalaldinov says that he will not return to Chechnya for the time being and that his wife and children are staying in a safe place provided by rights groups.

Ramazan Dzhalaldinov says that he will not return to Chechnya for the time being and that his wife and children are staying in a safe place provided by rights groups.

A man who says his home was torched after he complained to Russian President Vladimir Putin about official corruption in Chechnya is staying away from the tightly controlled region and keeping the location of his family secret for fear of further reprisals.

Speaking to RFE/RL by telephone from neighboring Daghestan on May 18, Ramazan Dzhalaldinov said that he will not return to Chechnya for the time being and that his wife and children are staying in a safe place provided by rights groups.

He added that he did not want to reveal his exact location either, and that for his own safety and that of his family "it would be better for everyone to keep it undisclosed."

Dzhalaldinov, 56, an ethnic Avar from the village of Kenkhi, posted a video on the Internet on April 14 in which he appealed to Putin to intervene and stop local government officials he claimed were extorting bribes from residents.

He also claimed that federal budget money allocated for rebuilding homes in Kenkhi that were destroyed during the second post-Soviet war against separatists in Chechnya, in 1999-2000, had never reached the residents.

Furthermore, he alleged that local residents had been forced to pay officials one-third of all other subsidies from Moscow.

Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov publicly denounced Dzhalaldinov's video statement, calling it "lies."

WATCH: Ramazan Dzhalaldinov tells RFE/RL's Current Time TV how his home in the village of Kenkhi was torched.

In a subsequent video that was posted on the website of the Daghestan-based newspaper Chernovik last week, Dzhalaldinov said that masked men torched his house in Kenkhi following his plea to Putin. He repeated that in the conversation with RFE/RL, saying the attackers wore military-style uniforms.

He also said that Kenkhi had been surrounded by Chechen police and federal security forces for several days and authorities had been questioning residents about his whereabouts.

He told RFE/RL that he had maintained constant contact with other Kenkhi residents by telephone, adding that he changed the SIM card in his phone frequently to avoid being tracked down.

Dzhalaldinov said that the authorities in Daghestan, such as regional parliament speaker Khizri Shikhsaidov, had met with him several times.

"When he met me without journalists on Sunday [May 15], Shikhsaidov tried to persuade me to go to [Chechnya's capital] Grozny, but I told him that I will not go there," Dzhalaldinov said.

He said that Daghestani officials were pressing him to reach an agreement with Chechen authorities to stop the standoff, but that he had appealed to Putin -- not to Kadyrov -- and wanted the federal authorities to address the allegations he made in the initial video. He said that he was expecting to discuss the situation with "investigators from Moscow" soon.

Human rights activists have accused Kadyrov of encouraging or condoning extrajudicial collective punishment -- including the torching of homes -- in the past. After he pledged to destroy the homes of men believed to have taken part in an attack on Grozny in December 2014, several houses were torched or razed.

Kadyrov has also been criticized for subjecting people who have challenged him or complained about his government to elaborate displays of public humiliation.

In one case, he used a face-to-face meeting shown on state television to reprimand a woman who complained publicly that her boss had forced her to hand over money from her monthly paycheck.

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