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Chechen Teen Who Appeared In Humiliation Video Was Kidnapped, Russian Paper Says

(illustrative photo)
(illustrative photo)

A teenage Chechen activist who appeared in a recent video in which he appears to have been tortured and humiliated was reportedly kidnapped by people with connections to the authorities in Chechnya.

The independent Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta said that 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkayev was kidnapped on September 5 while outside Chechnya and by the following day was being held at the base of the Terek special-operations unit in the Chechen capital, Grozny, according to information gleaned from Tepsurkayev's cellphone signal.

Late on September 7, a social-media video appeared in which a naked person -- who identifies himself as Tepsurkayev and says he was an administrator with the opposition 1ADAT Telegram channel -- stands on his knees and says, "I am punishing myself."

He then apologizes and sits down on a glass bottle.

The video has been watched tens of thousands of times and has caused a public sensation across the North Caucasus republic.

In a second video posted on September 9 to a pro-government Instagram channel, Tepsurkayev explains that he made the first video because of a dispute he'd had with the 1ADAT management and because he regretted the statements he'd made about Chechen police and other authorities.

The Memorial human rights group called on the authorities in Moscow to establish Tepsurkayev's whereabouts and to investigate allegations that he was kidnapped and tortured.

The 1ADAT channel is highly critical of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been widely accused of human rights abuses, including torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings both in Russia and abroad. It publishes information about people who it believes have been kidnapped and are being held by the authorities.

A source at 1ADAT who asked not to be identified told RFE/RL that Tepsurkayev was not an administrator at the channel but was an activist with a Chechen opposition group and sometimes moderated chats for 1ADAT. The source said the channel only learned Tepsurkayev's real name from the video.

Chechen vlogger Tumso Abdurkhmanov commented that the Tepsurkayev video was "extraordinary even for Kadyrov's Chechnya."

A spokeswoman for the office of the Chechen human rights ombudsman told RFE/RL that the office was aware of the video but had not looked into it because there has been no request from the victim or his relatives.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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