MOSCOW – All Chechens have come to fear the word “kidnapping”. Anyone who dares to denounce Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s anointed leader of the Russian Chechen Republic, dreads the heavy footsteps of armed men at their doorstep.
The latest wave of raids on critics and bloggers began last week. Men and women were uprooted and disappeared without a trace. In many cases, the only “crime” committed by those illegally taken and detained was related to human rights defenders or regime critics.
Abubakar Yangulbaev, an attorney for the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, told the Daily Beast he had been “worried sick” on Christmas Eve as he struggled to get in touch with more than 30 members of his staff. own family.
“I constantly checked the Telegram channels, seeing terrible news that all Yanbungalayevs had been kidnapped, as well as many Musayevs from my mother’s side of the family,” he said.
On Christmas Day, the scale of the horror had been confirmed. “My dear aunts, my uncles, my cousins have disappeared; I learned from Telegram channels that the kidnappers had taken cell phones from them, so I published an article with a photo of my family members on Saturday and officially appealed to the investigation committee, ”Yangulbaev said. , 29, to the Daily Beast in an interview on Monday. .
The next morning he was also taken away.
Oleg Khabibrakhmanov, public investigator into human rights violations on the committee where Yangulbaev works, told the Daily Beast on Tuesday:; they arrested Yangulbaev and took him to the Pyatigorsk police station. So far, our lawyer, who is right outside the door of the police station, has not been allowed to see his client. Our biggest fear is that they will move Yangulbaev to Chechnya, where we constantly see the police violating authority. “
The Russian Committee for the Prevention of Torture, an NGO, said the current list of “missing” people includes more than 50 names, including that of Yangulbaev’s family. “Our lawyers and observers raided houses and police stations in the Grozny and Urus-Martan area with the names of those abducted,” Magomed Alamov, a human rights defender on the committee told The Daily Beast. “Only one police station said that there were none of these people among those arrested, others fired our lawyer without any response. “
Yangulbaev said he left Chechnya after being tortured with electricity with his younger brother. He has his own personal memories of what “kidnapping” means.
“I was kidnapped by six men in civilian clothes with my younger brother, a student at the Chechen State University, and my father, a Supreme Court judge, in 2015,” he said. “They wanted me to say that my father was corrupt and that my brother was part of ISIS; they let me go with my father after 10 am but kept my brother for several weeks in a police basement.
Yangulbaev says he has managed to move six of his family members out of Chechnya, but there are still many more relatives on the territory of the republic who live in fear of becoming hostages. “I suspect that the Chechen authorities are punishing my relatives for my work as a human rights defender and they might also suspect that I have something to do with the Telegram channel criticizing Kadyrov,” he said. “This is not true, I do not work for the opposition, I am a lawyer at the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.”
Kadyrov, known as “Putin’s soldier”, gave a press conference this weekend, denying that this latest round of kidnappings had even taken place. According to the state-run TASS news agency, he claimed the reports were fake news from “European bloggers, who openly support terrorism.”
“If there is anything, we’ll be happy to watch.” But there is a fact: a Chechen never forgives, when someone abuses the dignity of his family, of his family members, especially women. They should understand that if they abuse the dignity of my family, mother, sisters, wife, I swear, I will go to any court, to court but I will never leave that alone . They should understand this.
In other words, while denying the kidnappings a priori, the Chechen leader also confirmed that the traditional vendetta was still at play in modern Russia – and not only that, revenge against family members could even be committed by public figures. officials.
“Russian law does not allow collective accountability but Kadyrov does, so anyone who criticizes Kadyrov cannot be safe in the republic,” Alamov told the Daily Beast. “Kadyrov’s men attack not only the paternal side of Yangulbaev’s relatives, but also the maternal side, which is even by traditional Chechen rules absolutely insane.”
During his annual press conference last week, President Putin denounced this kind of excess of state, even though it was allowed to prosper under his rule. “I think this settling of scores is not only unacceptable, it only harms our country,” he said. “They need to understand that the state will fight this kind of crime. We will continue to do everything in our power.
After being the target of terrorist attacks for years, Sergei Shunin of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture said he hoped Kadyrov had finally gone too far, even in Moscow’s eyes.
“Our offices were set on fire, our colleagues were attacked and now we are hearing about the largest number of relatives taken from one family,” said Sergei Shunin. “If the governor of Chechnya denies the fact of the kidnappings, we will appeal to President Putin. “