A Russian newspaper has reported that the Kremlin’s main human rights advocate may have been deliberately deceived as part of her investigation into police raids in Chechnya that allegedly killed more than two dozen men.
Novaya Gazeta reported on January 27 that Tatyana Moskalkova held a meeting in Chechnya in September 2017, as part of her investigation into the raids.
Two men she met with were identified to her as being among those who had reportedly been killed in the raids, the paper said, in what appeared to be an effort by local authorities to undermine the reports about the raids.
In fact, Novaya Gazeta said, the two men she met with were the siblings of two men who had allegedly been killed.
The paper said it compared social media and other photographs with official lists provided to Moskalkova’s office during the meeting to establish the two men were not who they said they were.
Moskalkova was investigating the police actions that took place in December 2016 and January 2017. Novaya Gazeta earlier reported that as many as 27 people were killed on January 26, 2017, as part of the raids.
In a statement issued after the newspaper’s latest report was published, Moskalkova’s office said it was investigating the report, which it called “very serious.”
“The commissioner contacted Novaya Gazeta and requested available materials,” Interfax quoted her office as saying.
There was no immediate response to the report by the Kremlin, which in the past has avoided commenting on reports of rights abuses in Chechnya.
According to earlier press reports, Chechen law enforcement personnel conducted raids across the North Caucasus region in the wake of the killing of a police officer. Detainees were never formally arrested and no paperwork was filled out on them before they were summarily executed, Novaya Gazeta said.
The newspaper also said that an unnamed official within the Interior Ministry provided a list of victims.
The raids appeared to be separate from actions Chechen authorities took around the same time that targeted dozens of gay men in the region.
Chechnya is ruled by Ramzan Kadyrov, who was tapped by the Kremlin in 2007 to run the war-torn region. Outright military conflict, and even small-scale skirmishes, have all but ended. But Kadyrov’s administration has been regularly accused of rampant human rights abuses, including abductions and extrajudicial killings.