As all eyes are focused on growing tensions between the Kremlin and NATO, Chechen authorities seem emboldened to be unrestrained in their use of lawless tactics in their war with dissent.
Yesterday, Chechen police broke into the apartment of 52-year-old Zarema Mussaeva in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region. They pushed and kicked her family members and lawyer who were in the apartment, which she shares with her husband Saidi Yangulbaev, a federal judge. The lawyer said Mussaeva fainted and officers “dragged her down the stairway, in her thin dress and slippers.” She noted that Mussaeva is insulin-dependent, but “her medication, [and] identity documents were left behind.”
Nizhny Novgorod police refused to intervene and Mussaeva’s abductors apparently took her to Chechnya.
The officers claimed Mussaeva was needed for questioning in a fraud investigation. But the real target of her abduction is her son, Ibraghim Yangulbaev, who lives abroad and whom Chechen authorities claim is a key person behind an anti-government Telegram channel, 1ADAT.
It’s not the first time Chechen authorities have targeted people allegedly affiliated with 1ADAT. In October 2021, the European Court of Human Rights found Russia responsible for the 2020 abduction and torture of 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkayev, who was a 1ADAT moderator. An appalling video, circulated on Russian social media, showed him stripped naked and forced to penetrate himself with a glass bottle. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown.
Last month, Chechen law enforcement searched the home of Mussaeva’s older son, Abubakar, and questioned him for several hours about Ibraghim, 1ADAT, and his own work as a lawyer at the Committee Against Torture (CAT), a leading Russian rights group that takes on cases of egregious human rights violations in the North Caucasus.
Around the same time, Chechen police arbitrarily detained dozens of relatives of other critics based abroad, held them for days, and subjected them to ill-treatment. Authorities designated Abubakar Yangulbaev as a witness in a vague “justification of terrorism” criminal case, prompting him to immediately resign from CAT because of the increasing risks for himself and the organization.
The Kremlin’s spokesperson, seeming to deny the Chechen police have taken Mussaeva, said the account of her abduction seemed “fictious.” For too long, Moscow has ignored abuses committed by law enforcement agencies under control of Chechnya’s leadership. Mussaeva’s life and health are in jeopardy. Moscow should immediately demand that Chechen authorities release her and ensure she can safely rejoin her family in Nizhny Novgorod region. Stopping these abusive, lawless tactics is Moscow’s responsibility.