Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chechen dead still not buried 10 years after the start of the second Russian-Chechen war

By Valery Dzutsev

On June 13, the Caucasian Knot website unveiled information about a newly discovered mass grave in Chechnya. An estimated 20 people were killed in what appears to have been an extralegal execution during the first years of the second Russian-Chechen war that started in 1999. The mass grave site is located in Chervlyonnaya, a village in the Shelkovskoi district in northern Chechnya (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, June 13).

It is noteworthy that the locals reported the mass grave to the authorities only recently. According to Caucasian Knot, the locals themselves buried the gnawed remnants of the people they found around their village. The remnants could be identified only through DNA tests, but Chechnya does not have its own DNA identification facilities and it is not clear if the authorities will do the identification at all.

“No one can say how many such mass graves there are in Chechnya today,” an anonymous human rights activist told Caucasian Knot in an interview. According to the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammerberg, over 3,000 people disappeared in Chechnya between 2000 – 2009. According to Hammerberg, the Chechen authorities discovered 60 mass graves with the overall number of buried people above 3,000 (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, June 13).

Mass graves are one of the important indicators of crimes against humanity. The latest finding in Chechnya raises the issue of military crimes that were committed in this territory and have remained uninvestigated. This climate of impunity is not simply unjust and abhorrent, but also, from a very practical standpoint, promotes lawlessness and invites repetitions of the same crimes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Manezkha Redeux? Budanov Murder May Spark Nationalist Backlash

By Valery Dzutsev

On June 10, former Colonel Yuri Budanov was gunned down in Moscow. His murder is expected to galvanize Russian nationalists. Already flowers were reportedly taken to the scene of the murder, and nationalist activists are reportedly planning a flash-mob type of action similar to what happened in Moscow in late 2010 (http://echo.msk.ru/news/783342-echo.html). Moscow police detachments are patrolling the Manezhnaya square where Russian nationalist riots took place in December 2010 as fears grow there may be another round of uprisings (http://echo.msk.ru/news/783361-echo.html). A leader of Russian nationalists, Dmitry Dyomushkin, stated that the nationalists had “no doubts this murder could be tracked back to the Chechen republic” (http://www.rosbalt.ru/kavkaz/2011/06/10/857814.html).

In 2003, Budanov was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Chechen girl, Elza Kungaeva. In 2009, Budanov was released on parole. Colonel Budanov served as the head of a Russian military detachment during the second war in Chechnya. Budanov’s trial became the most notorious of few Russian military crimes in Chechnya that were investigated by the Russian state. Russian nationalists defended Budanov, regarding him as a hero, while the pro-Moscow government in Chechnya demanded harsh punishment for him. Ramzan Kadyrov’s close aide Adam Delimkhanov briefly commented on Budanov’s killing: “I think it is retribution” (http://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2011/06/10_a_3659061.shtml).

The anxiety of the government to prevent Russian nationalist backlash is reflected in attempts to portray the killing as “a provocation.” Nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky stated the murder was designed to undermine Russia as a viable partner for the EU, as a Russia-EU summit started in Nizhny Novgorod on June 10. Investigators assure the driver of the killers’ car was of “Slavic appearance”, i.e. the killers were not Chechens (http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2011/06/10/3659081.shtml). The indications are that Russian society is becoming extremely sensitive to crimes in Russia proper that involve North Caucasians, so any such event might spark serious clashes and unrest in Moscow.