Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Chechens Said Ready to Stage Mass Protests in Grozny and Moscow, Republic Ombudsman Warns

Paul Goble

Vienna, December 30 – Relatives of more than 5,000 Chechens who have been kidnapped or gone missing are furious at the failure of Russian military prosecutors and civilian investigators to address this problem and are prepared to stage “mass protest actions both in Chechnya and in Moscow,” the republic’s human rights ombudsman warns.
In an appeal to Russian Federation procurator general Yuri Chaika, Nurdi Nukhazhiyev says that the anger of these people is growing despite the efforts of human rights activists and that Sergey Sharshavykh, the head of the North Caucasus investigation committee, must be removed (
Because both Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and the North Caucasus investigation committee earlier had asserted that each had done everything it could to resolve these cases, Nukhazhiyev’s declaration suggests that popular unhappiness may be on the rise and that the Chechen ombudsman, who has not been very active, now feels he has no choice but to speak out.
But that is not the only possibility, and in a commentary published today, observer Yury Gladysh reviews several of them, noting that human rights groups have warned that “sooner or later” the Chechens would demand that the federal authorities address this problem (
That the Chechens have done so now, Gladysh continues, is at least in part attributable to “the demagogic declarations of the Russian powers that be who have called on Georgia to account for its supposed ‘act of aggression’ against South Ossetia,” a demand that “any normal person” would easily extend to a demand for Moscow to account for its actions in1994 and 2000.
But the larger part of the explanation for Nukhazhiyev’s statement, Gladysh argues, lies elsewhere: “At the present time,” he argues, “the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov apparently is sufficiently strengthened that the Chechen powers that be feel they can dictate conditions to Moscow.”
That possibility is suggested, the observer continues, by Kadyrov’s recent statement in which he outlined to Moscow not only how it should “impose order” in the Caucasus but also how it should by using force “once and for all resolve the problems of Georgia and Ukraine.”
And demanding that Moscow take responsibility for investigating the cases of the kidnapped and disappeared clearly helps to promote Kadyrov’s standing among many Chechens, even if it causes difficulties for the Russian powers that be both in the North Caucasus and more generally.
Gladysh is likely correct in his reading of the reasons behind Nukhazhiyev’s statement, but there is another possible explanation that should at least be noted. Many in Moscow were outraged by Kadyrov’s comments about Georgia and Ukraine and even sought to suggest that his words had been misconstrued.
Consequently, it is at least possible, if not entirely likely, that Nukhazhiyev’s appeal may be part of a larger effort to provide the justification for a Moscow move against Kadyrov. After all, suggesting that the Chechen leader may not be able to keep order at home and even more at Moscow could certainly be a cause for seeking his removal or at least clipping his wings.
In that event, the Chechen ombudsman’s call for the removal of a Russian official in the North Caucasus may not be the most important aspect of his letter to Chaika. Instead, that may have been the price of delivering the more serious message that Kadyrov for all his bravado can’t control his own people any more.

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