The Rut of Ramzan: Yashin presents report on Kadyrov

Mar 28 2016

Russian opposition leader Ilya Yashin presented a report to the Atlantic Council in the United States about Chechen firebrand Ramzan Kadyrov on March 24.

“People are afraid to talk about Kadyrov,” he said in his opening remarks. “Chechnya under Kadyrov is becoming a quasi-independent, quasi-Islamic state growing away from Russia.”

The tiny region in the Caucasus has come a long way since the two wars in the 1990s turned Groznyy into a living hell twice over. The city now glitters like Las Vegas, but behind the new buildings, life is still difficult. Kadyrov is awash in wealth and Chechnya is constricted by rampant corruption, most obviously manifested in the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation, which is a public fund that Chechens, as Yashin claims, are required to pay into as a legalized system of tribute to Kadyrov. The Chechen firebrand is famous for his huge wealth, which he does not hesitate to flaunt with expensive cars and watches and even to pay out sums of money to boxing legend Mike Tyson and soccer legend Maradona for appearances with him.

Kadyrov rules Chechnya with an iron fist and frequently threatens members of the Russian opposition with assassination, and he is widely believed to be behind the assassination of Boris Nemtsov.

Kadyrov is also a thorn in the Kremlin’s side despite Putin’s relationship with him. Nobody seems to know what will happen going forward, but prospects are bleak. Kadyrov is a dictator, but if he was to be ousted suddenly, the enormous risk could turn into violence and even war. President Putin has at times tried to keep a tighter leash on Kadyrov’s outspokenness, but Yashin summed up the rut frankly “Unless Russian society speaks up, I don’t think Kadyrov leaves.”

Some claim Kadyrov’s loyalists assassinated Boris Nemtsov on his orders in order to appease President Putin. The Kremlin claims that that is erroneous because “Putin was the last person interested in Nemtsov.” Indeed, Nemtsov’s time in the spotlight had dimmed considerably leading up to his assassination, but he was a major catalyst and the “backbone” of the opposition, Yashin described. And while Putin’s direct involvement in the killing is disputed even among the opposition, the Kremlin deserves to be given some indirect responsibility because they let Kadyrov become who he is today.

The Caucasus is a powder keg, Yashin explained, and if Putin removed Kadyrov from power, “it would explode.” “Putin feeds the monster rather than fighting it, but sooner or later the monster could get out of his cage.” A third Chechen way is unlikely since “very few Chechens want to fight Russia again”.

Kadyrov is active in intimidation of the Russian opposition outside Chechnya as well. Journalists, human rights activists, and NGOs are frequently targeted by Kadyrov’s goons and Kadyrov himself frequently posts open threats on social media with opposition figures’ heads in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle scope. Yashin himself was asked to cease using Facebook by the Kadyrovtsi.

KMO_146126_00011_1_t218_154152

Regardless of the hardship, Yashin vowed to continue his fight. “This is our duty regardless of danger. If we want to transform this country, we need to hit the weakest link in the chain, and that is Kadyrov.”

Kadyrov is an ambitious man and notoriously distrustful of western values, and he uses the Chechen diaspora to his advantage, and he presents a grim challenge to Russian national security as well as international security.

When asked about Kadyrov’s inclusion into the Magnitsky Act, Yashin claimed it was less important because he’s on multiple sanctions lists already. Instead Yashin called for an international investigation into Nemtsov’s murder, and he did not spare cold words for the Chechen leader himself. “Even if the opposition elects a president, I don’t believe in negotiation with Kadyrov. He is a murderer.”

Kadyrov is a liability for Putin as well as for Russia. Yashin claims that “Kadyrov shows that Putin the Emperor has no clothes”. Indeed, Kadyrov has been compared to an extreme version of Putin, without the covertness of repression and international image.

If an international investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov does conclude that Kadyrov had a hand, he could be a subject of discontent, but it’s going to take serious change for things to turn against him. He is not an adequate leader for Chechnya and if Russia is to improve its domestic security, there needs to be a change in the Kremlin’s attitude towards him.

by Kyle Menyhert,
columnist of Free Russia Foundation

“People are afraid to talk about Kadyrov,” he said in his opening remarks. “Chechnya under Kadyrov is becoming a quasi-independent, quasi-Islamic state growing away from Russia.”

The tiny region in the Caucasus has come a long way since the two wars in the 1990s turned Groznyy into a living hell twice over. The city now glitters like Las Vegas, but behind the new buildings, life is still difficult. Kadyrov is awash in wealth and Chechnya is constricted by rampant corruption, most obviously manifested in the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation, which is a public fund that Chechens, as Yashin claims, are required to pay into as a legalized system of tribute to Kadyrov. The Chechen firebrand is famous for his huge wealth, which he does not hesitate to flaunt with expensive cars and watches and even to pay out sums of money to boxing legend Mike Tyson and soccer legend Maradona for appearances with him.

Kadyrov rules Chechnya with an iron fist and frequently threatens members of the Russian opposition with assassination, and he is widely believed to be behind the assassination of Boris Nemtsov.

Kadyrov is also a thorn in the Kremlin’s side despite Putin’s relationship with him. Nobody seems to know what will happen going forward, but prospects are bleak. Kadyrov is a dictator, but if he was to be ousted suddenly, the enormous risk could turn into violence and even war. President Putin has at times tried to keep a tighter leash on Kadyrov’s outspokenness, but Yashin summed up the rut frankly “Unless Russian society speaks up, I don’t think Kadyrov leaves.”

Some claim Kadyrov’s loyalists assassinated Boris Nemtsov on his orders in order to appease President Putin. The Kremlin claims that that is erroneous because “Putin was the last person interested in Nemtsov.” Indeed, Nemtsov’s time in the spotlight had dimmed considerably leading up to his assassination, but he was a major catalyst and the “backbone” of the opposition, Yashin described. And while Putin’s direct involvement in the killing is disputed even among the opposition, the Kremlin deserves to be given some indirect responsibility because they let Kadyrov become who he is today.

The Caucasus is a powder keg, Yashin explained, and if Putin removed Kadyrov from power, “it would explode.” “Putin feeds the monster rather than fighting it, but sooner or later the monster could get out of his cage.” A third Chechen way is unlikely since “very few Chechens want to fight Russia again”.

Kadyrov is active in intimidation of the Russian opposition outside Chechnya as well. Journalists, human rights activists, and NGOs are frequently targeted by Kadyrov’s goons and Kadyrov himself frequently posts open threats on social media with opposition figures’ heads in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle scope. Yashin himself was asked to cease using Facebook by the Kadyrovtsi.

KMO_146126_00011_1_t218_154152

Regardless of the hardship, Yashin vowed to continue his fight. “This is our duty regardless of danger. If we want to transform this country, we need to hit the weakest link in the chain, and that is Kadyrov.”

Kadyrov is an ambitious man and notoriously distrustful of western values, and he uses the Chechen diaspora to his advantage, and he presents a grim challenge to Russian national security as well as international security.

When asked about Kadyrov’s inclusion into the Magnitsky Act, Yashin claimed it was less important because he’s on multiple sanctions lists already. Instead Yashin called for an international investigation into Nemtsov’s murder, and he did not spare cold words for the Chechen leader himself. “Even if the opposition elects a president, I don’t believe in negotiation with Kadyrov. He is a murderer.”

Kadyrov is a liability for Putin as well as for Russia. Yashin claims that “Kadyrov shows that Putin the Emperor has no clothes”. Indeed, Kadyrov has been compared to an extreme version of Putin, without the covertness of repression and international image.

If an international investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov does conclude that Kadyrov had a hand, he could be a subject of discontent, but it’s going to take serious change for things to turn against him. He is not an adequate leader for Chechnya and if Russia is to improve its domestic security, there needs to be a change in the Kremlin’s attitude towards him.

by Kyle Menyhert,
columnist of Free Russia Foundation

Call for Submissions – The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly vol. 3

Oct 26 2020

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlins Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More