President Putin has told the governor of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, that he should run for another term in the September regional elections. “With your personal participation, immediate and at times direct, Chechnya became one of the safest regions in the Russian Federation,” Putin said, wishing Kadyrov luck with re-election.
Not that Kadyrov needs any luck. With the Kremlin’s blessing, Kadyrov’s re-election is largely a foregone conclusion; the climate of fear in Chechnya does not allow for a free or fair election.
This development is not surprising. For more than a decade, under Kadyrov’s rule and with the Kremlin’s support, all forms of dissent in Chechnya have been ruthlessly eradicated. Egregious cases of torture, public humiliation, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings by local law enforcement and security agencies under Kadyrov’s de facto control have never been effectively investigated. Moscow efficiently covers up for the crimes perpetrated by Chechen authorities.
That said, Putin’s description of Chechnya as being “one of the safest” places in the country is particularly cynical.
There were devastating reports just last week of Chechen police kidnapping a young woman fleeing family violence, and forcibly bringing her home. Authorities paraded her on local TV. In April, Chechen security agents, working with local police in a town in northern Russia, abducted a key witness in a high-profile torture investigation within sight of his lawyer. Two days later, the man turned up in jail in Chechnya, refusing the services of his trusted lawyer. In February, Chechen police detained two young bloggers, who had fled persecution to another region of Russia. Both are now in jail in Chechnya on bogus terrorism charges and allege police tortured them. In September, an outrageous video circulated on social media that showed a 19-year-old man being forced to penetrate himself anally with a glass bottle in retaliation for “spread[ing] lies” online about the Chechen government. He remains forcibly disappeared, his plight a stark warning to all Chechens.
This is only a recent sample of a litany of brazen abuse. By fostering a climate of impunity, Moscow is ultimately responsible for this lawlessness and brutality. By telling Kadyrov to stay on for another term in office, Russia’s president is sending residents of Chechnya yet another signal that he has no plans for their future to include justice or the rule of law.