RFE/RL: A Moscow journalist recently wrote that Ramzan Kadyrov has switched from the role of "destroyer" to the role of "creator," and that, as far as human rights are concerned, "all that remains for us is to cry about them." What's your reaction to this statement?
Anna Politkovskaya: I am even not going to comment on this, because it's total nonsense. I think that the new Kadyrov is the one who gives a ride in his car to Moscow ladies who long for more brutality. That is the only difference.
What does that mean, to "cry about human rights?" There is no need to sit and cry about human rights. One simply needs to meet not only with Kadyrov, but also with those people who have suffered as a result of Kadyrov's actions, and not just in a hypothetical way but directly -- people whose relatives died, who were tortured, and who were forced to flee. The majority of these people are truly admirable; I know many of them personally.
Right now I have two photographs on my desk. I am conducting an investigation about torture today in Kadyrov's prisons, today and yesterday. These are people who were abducted by the Kadyrovtsi [members of Kadyrov's personal militia] for completely inexplicable reasons and who died. They died as part of a PR campaign.
I plan to say that these people who were abducted, whose photographs are on my desk, these people -- one of them is Russian, the other is Chechen -- were made to look as though they were fighters who battled against the Kadyrovtsi in the village of Aleroi. It's a well-known story, one that was all over our TV screens, on the radio, in the newspapers, when Kadyrov gave an interview before TV cameras from state and other channels with bodies in the background. But in fact these were people whom they had seized, had 'disappeared' for some time, and were then killed.
RFE/RL: Some say such incidents are just a small percentage, that these are individual cases that are the price paid for improvements in the region. What is your view?
Politkovskaya: I want to say here that there were more abductions in the first half of this year than in the first half of last year... And those are figures just of those people whose relatives reported abductions and whose bodies were never found. I'd like to call attention to the fact that we talk about "individual cases" only because these people aren't our loved ones -- it's not my son, my brother, my husband. The photographs that I'm telling you about, these were bodies that had been horribly tortured. You can't reduce this to a small percentage -- it's an enormous percentage.
Kadyrov is a Stalin of our times. This is true for the Chechen people. Many of our colleagues have gone out of their way to make us believe that this is a small percentage, that absolute evil can triumph today so that in some hypothetical future this evil can become good. This is absolutely not true.
As for the admiration felt for Kadyrov, you know, the situation is as it was under Stalin. If you [hear someone] speaking officially, publicly, openly, there is admiration. As soon as you [hear someone] speak secretly, softly, confidentially, you're told: 'We hate him intensely.' This split is absolute in people's souls. This is a very dangerous thing.
The Future Of Ramzan Kadyrov
RFE/RL: Do you agree with journalists who say that the presidency of Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to the presidency of Vladimir Putin?
Ramzan Kadyrov, with his arm raised, celebrates his 30th birthday (ITAR-TASS)
Politkovskaya: I link Kadyrov's fate to the number of [people who want to take revenge on him], that's all. Of course, I don't wish death on anyone, but as far as this particular person is concerned, I think he should take serious care of his security.
Journalists who don't know this region say that he is reviving Chechen traditions. That is complete nonsense. He's destroying them. You know, I'm no supporter of the custom of the vendetta, but it did ensure some kind of stability in this region for many years. He has destroyed that too.
RFE/RL: Assuming Kadyrov is not killed, do you think he is likely to bring about early elections?
Politkovskaya: He is a puppet, nothing depends on him now. I don't think he's more powerful than anyone else. He's a coward armed to the teeth and surrounded by security guards. I don't think he will become president [of Chechnya]. That is my strong inner belief, perhaps an intuition. It's not something rational, and nor has it been confirmed by Alu Alkhanov... Alu Alkhanov himself is a very weak person. That is his particular problem and the main reason for Kadyrov’s increasingly draconian methods.
Personally I only have one dream for Kadyrov's birthday: I dream of him someday sitting in the dock, in a trial that meets the strictest legal standards, with all of his crimes listed and investigated.
By the way, no other newspaper writes anything about this, but criminal cases have been launched against the Kadyrovtsi and Kadyrov personally on the basis of three articles published by our newspaper. I myself am a witness in one of these cases. These cases are about abductions, including one criminal case about the abduction of two people carried out with the participation of Ramzan Akhmedovich Kadyrov.
Ramzan Kadyrov's personal residence in Gudermes (TASS)
'PLEASED, HAPPY, AND GRATEFUL':
RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service interviewed a number of Chechens in the republic, in Moscow and Amsterdam. An overwhelming majority had nothing but praise for their prime minister -- and hope that he might soon become president:
"All of us are pleased, happy, and grateful," one woman said. "And all of us know perfectly well who should be thanked for that -- of course, Ramzan Kadyrov, who followed the noble path of his father [assassinated Chechen President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov]."
"We should have such a birthday every six months. Because of his birthday, they are building roads, renting out apartments, patching up the holes. Today the airport is opening up! It would be hard to think up a greater joy for Chechens," a man in Chechnya said. "We have spent so much money on taxis in order to get to the airports in Sleptsovsk, Nazran, Nalchik. What has Ramzan done for us? We don't even know it all. Everything that God has given him, he has dedicated to the prosperity of the Chechen Republic. God help him. Let him have a birthday every six months. That's what I say."
"Why wouldn't people want him to become president? He's done a lot of work and provided a lot of help," another man said. "It's good that poor people have someone to help them. I think that poor people would want to see him as president."
Chechens further afield, however, had few warm words about Kadyrov. This woman spoke to RFE/RL from Amsterdam.
"I don't think he is an exceptional person," she said. "And I don't think that people are praising him because they have forgotten about their killed and tortured. I think that all this is being done to put an end to things, so that they would stop the killing. They think he can do this. They think that here he is tsar, judge, and God. So they are afraid. They are afraid to criticize him. The price of the airport that is being opened and the other buildings has been the blood of many people. What is built on blood cannot stand. History tells us how quickly people like him are forgotten -- so-called dictators after they are either chased out of power or killed. A lot of things will appear wrong, inadequate, disgusting when he is no more. I feel sorry for the people who live there. Most likely, they are praising him because they think they have no other choice."
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The fighting in Chechnya
has raged, with short breaks, since 1994. It has brought misery, death, and destruction to the North Caucasus republic and to Russia as a whole. View an annotated timeline
of the conflict.