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New Wave Of Reprisals In The Offing In Chechnya?

Deputy Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov (right) says he has carte blanche from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (left).
Deputy Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov (right) says he has carte blanche from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (left).
In a video clip posted on the Internet, Chechen First Deputy Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov warns officials in the town of Urus-Martan southwest of Grozny that he has carte blanche from Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov to plant incriminating evidence on, arrest, imprison, or execute without trial anyone who either "looks remotely like an Islamic militant," or who expresses the slightest criticism of the republic's authorities.

Speaking in Chechen, Alaudinov also expresses outrage that some of the town's population demonstratively refuse to pray in the local mosque alongside members of Kadyrov's security forces. He warns those who do so that they risk unspecified harsh reprisals.

It is true that the Chechen leadership has good reason to suspect the loyalty of, and to harbor a grudge against, the population of Urus-Martan. The eponymous district in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains has emerged this year as a main center of insurgent activity following the killing in January of Khusayn and Muslim Gakayev, the brothers who commanded a crack battalion of fighters based in the southeastern district of Vedeno.

Security personnel have conducted at least two fruitless search operations in Urus-Martan to track down insurgents who killed one serviceman and injured three Interior Ministry personnel in a shoot-out in July, and planted an improvised explosive device earlier this month that killed one police officer and injured a second.

But the wrath and suspicion of the security forces are not confined to that one district. On the contrary, they extend across the entire republic.

Alaudinov's threats are characteristic of the methods used by the Chechen police and security forces, and by Kadyrov personally, over the past decade to stamp out support for the Islamic insurgency and dissent for the personality cult surrounding Kadyrov and his idiosyncratic revision of Chechen history and Sufi Islam. That gratuitous violence is believed to be one of the key factors behind the massive increase this year in the number of Chechens seeking political asylum in the West.

The methods employed against suspected dissenters by Kadyrov's henchmen have been chronicled in detail by those fortunate enough to emerge alive from Kadyrov's network of secret prisons.

Umar Israilov, a former member of Kadyrov's bodyguard who managed to emigrate to the West, described to "The New York Times" how Kadyrov subjected him to electric shocks. Israilov was gunned down on the street in Vienna in January 2009, just weeks after his revelations were published.

The U.S. State Department too has registered reports of the use by security forces in the North Caucasus of "indiscriminate force resulting in numerous deaths." In its most recent (2012) report, it noted: "Government personnel, rebels, and criminal elements continued to engage in abductions in the North Caucasus. Human rights groups alleged that security forces under the command of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov played a significant role in abductions, either on their own initiative or in joint operations with federal forces, including abductions of family members of rebel commanders and fighters."

Accordingly, Kadyrov was included in the so-called Magnitsky List made public in April of 18 Russian officials barred from entering the United States. But even though Kadyrov's involvement in human rights abuses has been documented on video clips and in the testimony of his victims, the European Parliament failed to include his name in a resolution adopted on December 11 calling for a prohibition on visits to European Union member states by Russian officials suspected of human rights violations.

In a recent address to European Parliament hearings on the North Caucasus, World Chechen Congress President Deni Teps argued that the European community should not remain indifferent to developments in the North Caucasus that pose a direct threat to the security of the South Caucasus, and by extension to European interests there.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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