Today marks the first anniversary of the abduction of Natalya Estemirova, the Russian human rights activist who was murdered by unknown assailants in July 2009. The murderers have still not been caught.
The website of the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus has published video footage (YouTube) of Moscow-backed Ramzan Kadyrov’s second-in-command, Adam Delimkhanov, issuing threats to human rights workers on Grozny TV, 11 days before the execution of Natalya Estemirova, and little over a month before the execution of Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Umar Dzhabrailov. In the video, Delimkhanov, speaking in Chechen, says:
There are certain people who call themselves ‘human rights defenders,’ who actually help these militant scum [sic], these criminal-militants, who work for them and do their dirty work, promote their politics,… they carry on various dialogues…, [sic]
But I know the mood among the security services, the society; I know what the simple folk are saying. They’re saying that the claims made by these people [human rights workers], and a certain Aushev and others, in other words, what they’re saying and doing, their evil deeds are no better than those of the militants hiding out in the forest.
These people [human rights activists] are confusing the people with their rhetoric, are deceiving them. But they won’t fool the people. They won’t succeed in this. Truth and justice will always prevail… Our soldiers here, commanders, our guys are always asking me, ‘what do these people (activists) want?’ and I tell them that they’re not worth a penny to me. [sic]
God willing, all those that support evil, we will hold responsible. Each one of them, be they Chechen or Ingush or whom have you, should know, that they will pay for their words…”
Writing about Ramzan Kadyrov’s Radio Liberty interview, published yesterday, in which he says of Natalya Estemirova, who was kidnapped and murdered less than a month ago, that she “never had any honor or sense of shame”, Zoya Svetova says:
Ramzan Kadyrov has thrown down the gauntlet to us.
Are we really not going to notice, and not react?
Meanwhile, an unlikely TV star has appeared in Chechnya.
Prague Watchdog has published a photo report on the vigil-cum-rally that was held in Moscow on July 23 to remember the murdered human rights activist Natalya Estemirova.
The New York Times/IHT writes that around 200 people took part, but that after the event, “riot police officers pushed about 15 people into a bus. It was unclear on Friday whether they had been released.”
LJ blogger kutuzov has a comment on the political background to Natalya Estemirova’s murder (my tr.):
In the aftermath of Natalya Estemirova’s murder, the figure of Ramzan Kadyrov has repeatedly come to the surface. He has, for example, been accused of the killing.
I don’t believe it, because, like any other human rights defender, she presented no danger to Ramzan at all. Kadyrov’s position is as solid as a granite rock. The human rights defenders are powerless to move him, he can hurl abuse at them, give them a reprimand (as he did to Natalya Estemirova), but why would he kill them?
Ramzan kills his enemies, and the rights defenders are not his enemies, any more than the journalists are. Let them write their commentaries, complain to Strasbourg, to him it’s like water off a duck’s back.
But for some of Ramzan’s subordinates even our human rights defenders can be enemies. That is easy to explain. Their position is not so secure, and Kadyrov, like the typical oriental despot he is, can always remove them from office and put them behind bars. Just like that, to be on the safe side, because they looked at him in the wrong way, didn’t sit or stand up when they were supposed to. And especially because they might have done things in the past that people like Estemirova might be able to dig up. A few years ago there was Anna Politkovskaya.
Stalin used to put the crooks and corrupt party officials in prison. Mussolini dealt with the Mafia. So Ramzan’s various henchmen and local operatives have reason to be afraid, and they could also have a motive for the killing. .
Another point is that in the case of Estemirova the responsibility still lies with Ramzan. He didn’t kill her himself, he didn’t order her killing, but he did nothing to prevent the ordering, the kidnapping and the murder.
He has not shrugged off this responsibility and has promised to conduct his own investigation. Let us just hope he conducts it rather more swiftly than our third-rate investigators, who don’t even know the basics of their craft.
Clearly, Ramzan Kadyrov’s position in the system of Russian government is an abnormal one for the 21st century. It is a classic form of vassaldom, of the medieval kind.
Ramzan has sworn a feudal oath to his masters and overlords in the Kremlin – he will remain loyal to them, put his armed forces at their disposal when they wage their wars (as in South Ossetia and Georgia last year), but the the overlord – Putin, and now Medvedev – will not interfere in the vassal’s internal affairs.
But there is no alternative to this situation, nor can there be one. It’s the old system of the Russian governor-general – only worse, and there are no more Yermolovs or even Paskeviches, they have all died out.
They tried with Dudayev/Yandarbiyev, with Maskhadov/Basayev. It’s enough.
So Ramzan is the best way to control Chechnya.
If we are going to be realistic we just have to accept this, and not construct fantastical theories – something I myself am guilty of doing at times.
Prague Watchdog has published an interview with Memorial chairman Oleg Orlov.