Despite the sharp differences and disagreements Kim Zigfield and I have had over Russia and its nature, I have to give credit where credit is due. I highly recommend reading La Russophobe’s translation of Igor Korolkov’s article “Spare Organs” published in Novaya Gazeta. The original Russian version can be found here.
It’s a chilling tale of the impact of quasi-autonomous police organs that carry out extra-judicial reprisals grew out of the chaos of the 1990s. Now it seems that these “organs” are beyond control and even containment. Originally created in the early in mid-1990s to protect “state security,” these “gangs,” as Korolkov calls them, could literally embody blowback against the very state, law, and security, and order they were supposedly to “secure.” One leaves this article wondering what role these extra-judicial organizations area already playing in Russia in regard to the 2008 Presidential election.
Heavy stuff indeed.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Since I’m already on the topic of Chechnya, I urge readers to check out C. J. Chivers’ piece in the NY Times on the torture of Malika Soltayeva, a Chechen woman who is suspected of adultery. It seems that Kadyrov’s Chechnya is turning out to be no different than the late Shamil Basaev’s would have been. Here is an excerpt:
Ms. Soltayeva’s own experience, much of which was captured on video, was an accumulation of terror, pain and loss.
She was seized March 19, and mocked throughout a torture session that lasted nearly two hours. “Call for Sergei!” one of the policemen said, using the name of her assumed lover as he beat her. “Sergei! Help!”
Next they told her to dress, and drove her to her husband’s courtyard and made her dance before her neighbors. “Look how ugly you are,” another policeman said.
When she staggered away, several of them kicked her with their heavy black boots. Two days later she miscarried, and has been largely out of public view since.
The episode, which took place five months ago, was not investigated, even though videos showing the torture were passed along on cellphones throughout Argun and other Chechen towns. The videos circulated widely enough that accurate details of her abuse were known by roughly half of the Chechens interviewed by The New York Times.
“It is just outrageous lawlessness,” Ms. Soltayeva said in an interview in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital.
As is common in crumbling marriages, the details of Ms. Soltayeva’s family life and behavior are in dispute. Her former husband’s family says she had an affair with a Russian serviceman she met at a store where she worked as a cashier. She says that she did not, and that she was faithful to her husband even though he beat her.
Her whereabouts in the weeks leading up to her beating are also a source of contention.
Ms. Soltayeva said she was away from home because she had been abducted by masked men who eventually released her, a phenomenon in Chechnya that is common enough that her own family says they believe her. Her husband’s family, and the police, say that she left Chechnya to try to live with her Russian lover, and that she returned when it did not work out.
Natalya Estemirova, a staff member at the Grozny office of Memorial, a private human rights group, said she tried to bring the case to the Chechen authorities, but they threatened Ms. Soltayeva with criminal charges for falsely claiming to have been kidnapped. They showed no interest in the police violence, she said.
Allegations of state-sponsored horrors, and claims that Russian and Chechen officials have allowed servicemen to commit crimes with impunity, have been a regular accompaniment to the Chechen wars.
Human rights groups have documented mass graves, extralegal executions, widespread use and tolerance of torture, illegal detention, rape, robbery and kidnapping.
The Chivers’ article includes other, more violent examples of the kadyrovtsy’s methods.
By Sean — 13 years ago
The elections for parliament in Azerbaijan are now over. Now the difficult part of tallying the votes begins. The prospective sides are taking their predictable positions. Officials from the governing Yeni Azerbaijan Party insist that the elections were fair and square, while the opposition parties claim that nothing of the sort occurred. All of this proves that the counting process will surely be a lengthy process.
All of the twists and turns of the run up to and aftermath of the elections can confuse an interested watcher. So to provide some navigation through the storm, here are a few places where one can find news of the Azerbaijan elections in English:
I’ve already mentioned Radio Free Europe’s special coverage as a valuable source for news. In addition, I also recommend EurasiaNet.org’s special section on the Azeri elections. Their page has a lot of good resources including a breakdown of the political parties, facts about Azerbaijan and Azeri politics, as well as in-depth news coverage and analysis.
More news about the elections will undoubtedly be covered by the various Russian/CIS news sites on the right of this blog.
By Sean — 12 years ago
Dmitri Minaev, who runs the Russia history blog De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis, submitted the following article about the strange incident involving a human rights group called Froda and their run in with the FSB in Novorossiysk. The article is a compilation to two posts Minaev did on the story. I’ve demarcated the break between the posts below.
I should note that this incident was followed by a raid on Institute of War and Peace Reporting by North Ossetian police in Vladkavkaz. There is no direct connection whatsoever between the two incidents except to say, as Valery Dzutsev, IWPR’s North Caucasus coordinator, put it to the Moscow Times, “The problems with the authorities began a month after the NGO law went into effect last April.”
You can draw your own conclusions.
In the meantime, I present Dmitri Minaev’s article on the incident in Novorossiysk.—Sean
Attack on Civil Rights?
By Dmitri Minaev
I found this shocking news by serendipity, it could have passed by totally unnoticed:
Nine members of Froda, a group that campaigns for ethnic minority rights, were found guilty of holding an illegal meeting and fined after they had tea with two German students visiting a friend in the southern city of Novorossiysk. … “We were told that, under the new law, any meeting of two or more people with the purpose of discussing publicly important issues had to be sanctioned by the local administration three days in advance,” Mrs. Karastelyova said.
More details in The Telegraph. Frankly, the story is so weird even for Russia, that I would like to find more information before posting this bit, but the same weirdness of the event gives me creeps so huge that I just can’t put it aside.
It seems to be a very strange organization, this Froda. They don’t have a web-site. They are not mentioned anywhere in the Internet, with two exceptions: the article from The Telegraph (reproduced in a number of other newspapers) and the 2004 report on human rights practices in Russia. The more I read, the more I suspect that there is something wrong with the whole story. Or, at least, I hope there is.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. The story was not fake. The newspaper Noviye Izvestiya writes (article in Russian) that on January 23, a group of human rights activists from Novorossiysk and students of local universities were meeting their guests from Germany in a local children’s art school. The German businessmen visited an exhibition of children’s drawings and they went to a room where a table was set for them all. An interpreter and an operator of a local TV channel were also present. The visitors planned to discuss the idea to spread tolerance towards ethnical minorities with posters and friendly football matches. At this moment, a group of 15 men dressed in the police uniform came in. The group was led by an FSB lieutenant colonel Dmitri Fedorenko. The group also included Anatoly Nilov, head of the culture department of Novorossiysk administration. They checked the documents of everyone present in the room. When asked what were the legal pretexts, they did not give an answer. Some time later, one of the policemen said that they should have notified the city administration of the planned meeting. The participants referred to the Constitution, but major Ovcharenko said that the meeting was not sanctioned by the authorities and falls under the law on demonstrations, rallies and picketing. The Germans consulted the embassy and decided to leave Russia, even though they had all documents and visas.
The authorities say that it was a usual raid of the immigration service and that the visit to the art school was not planned in advance, that it happened by chance.
Anyway, some days ago the human rights activists were officially accused of holding the meeting without notifying the authorities in advance. The participants and the principal of the school (Marina Dubrovina, Vladimir Serdyuk, Vadim Karastelev and Tamara Karasteleva) were found guilty and fined 500 to 1000 rubles. Tamara Karasteleva (or Karastelyova), on of the activists’ leaders, explained that the people were just sharing impressions, making acquaintance and watching photographs, but the judge Vera Abshtyr said that it must be done at home, not at a school. The activists intend to appeal.
On February 12, the Novorossiysk Human Rights Committee issued a press-release. It says that one more participant of the meeting, Vladimir Pyankov, was fined 1000 rubles.
BTW, I couldn’t find the name Froda in any of these articles. The Karastelevs couple are known as the leaders of the School of Peace foundation (the web-site was working two days ago but it is down now. For what reason and for how long, I do not know), an organization that promoted tolerance towards ethnic minorities and protects the rights of children from ethnic minorities. They are known for the activity in protection of human rights of Meskhetian Turks, who were removed by Stalin to Uzbekistan, fled from pogroms to Russia in 1989, but were given a cold shoulder here and forced to emigrate to USA. This activity of the School of Peace became the hidden reason for the closure of the organization in 2003.