Der Spiegel exposes and Condemns Russian Barbarism

Mr. Medvedev takes Aim

Mr. Medvedev takes Aim

Under the photograph shown above and the headline “The Triumph of Fear,” Der Speigel reports on the Kremlin’s barbaric homicidal rampage against civil society, using the strongest terms a major newspapers possibly can (truly, one  photograph with an automatic rifle is worth a thousand words):

Yet another Russian human rights activist has been silenced in yet another brutal attack. This week unknown gunmen shot anti-corruption activist Albert Pchelintsev in the mouth with rubber bullets, in front of his apartment in the Moscow suburb of Khimki. The 38 year old was seriously wounded in the lower face and jaw but survived the attack.

Pchelintsev is the chairman of a regional movement against corruption. During the past year he helped open a community office where citizens could report and document cases of corruption. As a result of this and other work, the activist had recently been threatened: If he didn’t stop his work, he would not be able to speak out again, he was warned.

This is the third attack on Russian human rights activists to come to international attention over the past two weeks. In the middle of July, journalist and activist Natalya Estemirova, who was working in Chechnya, was abducted and shot. Shortly afterwards the body of Andrei Kulagin, from the organization Justice, was found in a sand quarry near the city of Petrozavodsk, in northern Russia. Kulagin was an advocate for the humane treatment of prisoners and his disappearance in mid-May was sudden.

Estemirova’s murder, in particular, drew a lot of international attention — mainly because the member of prominent human rights group, Memorial had been documenting abductions and murders in the former Chechnyan war zone. These days the region is considered something of a legal black hole — it is controlled by Chechnyan President Ramzan Kadyrov, a protégé of former Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Human Rights Leader To Be Sued

Shortly before her death Estemirova, who also knew murdered Chechnyan journalist Anna Politkovskaya, had reported online about the execution of an alleged rebel by Chechnyan militia. The Kadyrov’s administration’s human rights officer had then contacted Memorial’s Grozny office to express unhappiness with this latest filing by Estemirova. They also indicated that she would do well to make an urgent change to her way of working.

Four days later the 50-year-old was forced into a vehicle, driven over the border into the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, about 100 kilometers (63 miles) from the Chechen capital Grozny, and killed with shots to the head and chest. Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial, immediately laid the blame for Estemirova’s death at Kadyrov’s door. Kadyrov replied, saying he would personally oversee the investigation, noting that “we will also search for the criminals using other, traditional methods.” Kadyrov has since said he will sue Orlov for saying that he was behind Estemirova’s killing; his spokeperson said a lawyer is preparing a lawsuit so that Kadyrov can “defend his dignity.”

Reacting to Estemirova’s death, her colleagues closed Memorial’s office in Grozny. Orlov said that they needed to have some time to think about whether, and how, they would carry on. He added that the organization would continue to look into the cases it was already working on because they didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch. Orlov also admitted feeling terrible about the fact that Estemirova had not been able to be brought to safety in time. “At the very least we could have made public the threats she received shortly before her death,” Orlov said. “That was our mistake.”

Presidential Sympathy for Murdered Activist

As usual, after the murder or abduction of Russian human rights activists, there was plenty of international reaction — from Brussels to Washington. What was different this time is that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was in Munich holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, actually appeared disturbed by the incident. He described the work that Estemirova was doing as valuable and gave assurances that the murderers would be found and punished. Medvedev also sent a message of sympathy to the Memorial office in Grozny.

In contrast, former Russian President Putin, who happened to be in Germany at the time Politkovskaya was murdered, remarked that Politkovskaya’s death had done Russia far more harm than any of her published works ever had.

Ever since he took office, Medvedev has been taking a more liberal tone than his predecessor. He has said more than once that he wants to strengthen the Russian legal system and fight corruption. After human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and young journalist Anastasia Barburova were shot dead on a central Moscow street in January, Medvedev met with the editor in chief of the highly regarded, Kremlin-critical newspaper Novaya Gazeta where the pair, and also Estemirova, worked. A little later he gave the newspaper his first lengthy interview as president.

Outside of such meaningful gestures, Medvedev has actually also made some genuine advances in this area: He has established a human rights council and liberalized laws pertaining to non-governmental organizations, clearing a lot of bureaucratic difficulties out of the way at the same time.

Amnesty International: Human Rights Getting Worse

Nevertheless, these recent murders and kidnappings indicate that the human rights situation in Russia hasn’t really improved. In fact, it seems to have deteriorated. “You get the impression that there are more of these incidents happening, and that they are happening more regularly,” Simon Cosgrove of the Russian office of international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, said. The government doesn’t protect the activists and it doesn’t investigate the murders. “The Russian government has not taken any effective steps to improve the human rights situation,” Cosgrove said. “Medvedev says a lot of things that we like — but we would also like to see him follow up his words with deeds.”

In May, Amnesty International released a study, “Rule without Law: Human Rights Violations in the Northern Caucasus,” which said that freedom of the press and freedom of opinion were restricted in the region. Minorities, such as the gay and lesbian community, were oppressed and ethnic minorities were being harassed by right-wing extremists. And rather than being independent, the justice system — which was perilous and untrustworthy anyway — was simply an adjunct of state power. Arbitrary killings, torture and “disappearances” were everday occurrences.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaction? The report was “biased” and Amnesty International was clearly an “anti-Russian organization.”

26 responses to “Der Spiegel exposes and Condemns Russian Barbarism

  1. I see Medvedev recently really likes to pose with Ramzan. (Here Ramzan thinking: “Dude, you’re holding this rifle like a girl. – this is how to hold a rifle.)

    So much for the theories/hopes how he (“the liberal leader”) would do something about the “Kadyrov problem”.

  2. @Under the photograph shown above and the headline “The Triumph of Fear,”

    (from 2006)

  3. Look at the picture. If Medvedev just moves the gun a little to his left and pulls the trigger – boom, Politkovskaya’s killer is dead! I bet this thought also crossed his mind.

    • You must be joking, why would he kill Moscow’s only means of control in Chechnya?

      You really are a hoot.

    • Here is a very incisive observation by Dimitry Simes:

      My impression is that you have to start with an assumption that the separatists in Chechnya have won. The whole Chechen government is run by former rebel commanders. There is not a single exception. Anyone who was loyal to Moscow during the first Russian-Chechen war was removed from the Chechen government. Senior federal officials who play a role in Chechnya tried to restrain Chechen President Kadyrov, and they always failed.

      So what we see is that Moscow, who made an unsavory deal with Chechen rebel commanders, essentially allowed them to run Chechnya as they wish, as long as they remain loyal to Moscow.

  4. > one photograph with an automatic rifle is worth a thousand words

    Totally agree! The picture of Medvedev with a rifle is the most damning anti-Russian evidence that the Western media has dug up in years. I wonder how many thousands of words pictures of the former Alaska governor and US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin aiming her rifle at the viewer are worth:

    Or her election poster with a rifle on her shoulder, as if saying to her opponents: “Hers’ looking at you, kid!”

    Images of Vice President Dick Cheney shooting little birds and his friends in the face with a gun are also quite telling:


    You’re missing the fact that Medvedev is standing next to Ramzan Kadyrov, murderer of Natalia Estemirova, named hero of Russia. Can you show us a photo like that of Cheney? Can you even name an American human rights crusader murdered under similar circumstances in America?

    Moreover, surely you are not suggesting Mr. Medvedev is holding a hunting rifle, are you?

    Your ignorance is quite breathtaking, as is your blind ideological bias. And take a look at Obama’s poll numbers! Look in a mirror!

    • @Totally agree! The picture of Medvedev with a rifle

      You are totally missing the point here.

      The picture of Medvedev with a rifle and Kadyrov.

      Medvedev was expected as many to be the man who would do something about Kadyrov. Preferrably his removal.

      Instead he’s posing with him while awkardly holding a gun, invites him to horse shows doubling as a summit for national CIS leaders (also came Kokoity), and grins like a village idiot when Ramzan says something “funny”:

      Did you read Der Spiegel article which chose this picture as an illustration?

      Kadyrov’s being contract murders is “unacceptable to the authorities”. “I know you are helping people”, Medvedev tells him in a televised meeting, while holding his hand that according to Kadyrov is “elbow-deep in blood”:

      One analst who predicted this and was not fooled by the Putin-Medvedev “good cop-bad cop” game:

  5. In general, hateful uneducated redneck American politicians are so much more humane and civilised that the barbaric Russian law professors like Medvedev:

    Despite strong scientific, ethical and public opposition to aerial hunting, Governor Palin has: Proposed paying a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf. Approved a $400,000 state-funded propaganda campaign to promote aerial hunting. Introduced legislation to make it even easier to use aircraft to hunt wolves and bears.
    Sarah Palin To Be Given Huge Engraved Assault Rifle. The gift is an assault rifle custom-engraved with the image of a moose

    U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney, while participating in a quail hunt on a ranch in Kennedy County, Texas on February 11, 2006… “… Cheney swung on a bird and fired, striking Whittington in the face, neck and chest.” The news of the shooting wasn’t released to the press for 21 hours. A top Republican close to the White House said to Time magazine, “This is either a cover-up story or an incompetence story.” .. at lunch they drank beer, “there may (have been) a beer or two”. Cheney has acknowledged that he had one beer four or five hours prior to the shooting. … later at the house Cheney had a cocktail.

    On February 14, 2006, Whittington suffered a non-fatal “silent” heart attack and atrial fibrillation due to at least one lead-shot pellet lodged in or near his heart… At a press conference Whittington said: “My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with. We hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves.”…

    Yes, only in American can a politician shoot an innocent man in the face, neck and chest, giving him a heart attack; then have a pleasurable cocktail in the evening – and have his victim apologise for causing his assailant inconvenience and inviting him to do more indiscriminant drunk shooting in the future.

    • Tom Lehrer,

      There were TWO helicopter crashes in Russia that KILLED Russian high-ranking officials who were hunting ENDANGERED species from the air.

      You can’t beat this stuff.

      @Yes, only in American can a politician shoot an innocent man in the face, neck and chest, giving him a heart attack; then have a pleasurable cocktail in the evening

      You have a lot to learn about Ramzan Kadyrov.

      • I stand corrected: only in American and Chechnya…

        A very wise comparison of Cheney to Kadyrov: the two scariest politicians in the modern world.

        • @A very wise comparison of Cheney to Kadyrov: the two scariest politicians in the modern world.

          Really? Is Cheney also torturing people personally, or telling in interviews that he’s going to “keep killing as as long as he lives”? Are Kim the evil midget of Korea, General al-Bashir of Sudan, the Burma “Myanmar” junta, Robert Mugabe, Ahmadinejad, and so on, counting only those currently at power, less “scary” than him?

          • > Really? Is Cheney also torturing people personally?

            No, no! How many people can you torture personally? The only thing that Cheney does for personal fun is get drunk, shoot people in the face with a rifle and then have his victims apologize to him.

            Personal torturing is highly inefficient. Cheney simply didn’t have time to do it all. Just as it took the greatly systematic Aryan German minds to organize the extermination of Jews on a mass scale, it took a greatly systematic Aryan mind of Cheney to organize waterboarding and torture of Guantanamo prisoners held for many years without trial on a mass scale.

            • Abu Graib & Guantanamo were wrong yes, but nothing compared to what goes on in Russian prisons. Waterboarding is unplesant to say the least, but its pretty mild compared to electrocution, rape, beatings, and summary executions that occur in Russian prisons and especially in the detention centres in Chechnya and other north Caucasus republics that are run by Russian Federal Security Services and the Russian army.

              Take for example the fact that Russian citizens detained at Guantanamo want to stay there rather than be returned to Russia where they would face REAL torture.

              Try reading Amnesty International’s “This man made hell” about the Russian prison system. Published in 1997, but as several other reports say, its only gotten worse since then.


              Or some of these articles:

              July 13, 2008
              The Vladimir Central prison stands in the medieval city of Vladimir, east of Moscow. It’s one of Russia’s seven main prisons, a collection of stolid brick structures built more than 200 years ago.
              Inside its thick walls, not much has changed in the past two centuries.
              A guard unlocks a heavy metal door to a cramped, wood-floored cell. Inside, four prisoners with shaved heads say they have no complaints about their treatment, although they speak under the guard’s watchful eye.
              Former inmates speak of overcrowding and raging disease. But they say there’s something far more disturbing going on in Russia’s penal system.
              Accounts are spreading about extreme abuse by prison authorities. Human rights groups say the treatment of inmates at some jails is aimed at destroying people psychologically. It’s so bad, they say, that it’s comparable to conditions in the Soviet Gulag.
              Vladimir Gladkov spent 15 years behind bars. Some of that time was spent in Vladimir Central and some of it in a place that’s much worse — one of Russia’s so-called torture prisons. He says that in the Kopeisk prison in the Ural Mountains, guards systematically abuse prisoners.
              “They would force us from our cells, order us to spread our legs and put our hands against the wall, and then beat us with batons until we had to help drag each other back to our cells,” Gladkov says.
              Another former Kopeisk inmate, Yuri Skogarev, says those who tried to complain to the authorities were singled out for worse punishment.
              “Guards would take me out, handcuff me to a shower, then beat and kick me until I lost consciousness,” he says. “Later, I’d wake up back in my cell.”
              Skogarev says much of the abuse was committed by prisoners forced to beat their fellow inmates. After four prisoners were killed at the Kopeisk prison in May, the authorities accused them of attacking prison guards. Human rights groups say the battered corpses indicated the prisoners were probably beaten to death for having protested their treatment.
              In a video that rights groups say shows prison torture, what appear to be guards wearing facemasks force cowering inmates to strip outside. Then they beat them with rubber truncheons. Inmates often mutilate themselves to escape such beatings, sometimes by swallowing pieces of sharp wire.
              Human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov says there are dozens of torture prisons across Russia, where over the past eight years conditions have become so bad that some prisoners are driven to suicide.
              “They’re told they’re not human,” Ponomaryov says. “They’re punished for trying to defend their dignity. The old Soviet term for that was turning people into ‘Gulag camp dust.'”
              Ponomaryov shows a page-long letter carefully handwritten in what looks like brown ink. It’s the blood of an inmate who had no pen. The writer pleads for help, saying he fears for his life.
              The authorities deny the existence of torture prisons, saying all penal institutions are regularly inspected by government officials and all complaints investigated. But Ponomaryov says torture prisons exist to spread fear — and compliance — among the general prison population. He says that style of enforcement is the product of Russia’s new authoritarianism.
              “Torture prisons are places where totalitarianism rules,” he says. “That’s why it’s so important to stop it, because if it takes root, that kind of system will spread to other parts of society.”
              Russia’s prison population is soaring, second only to that of the United States. “God help you,” a former inmate says, “if you end up in a Russian jail.”


              The Risk of Torture and Ill-Treatment in Russia
              At the time these Russian citizens were sent back from Guantanamo, the US government was clearly aware that evidence of the risk of torture in Russia was abundant. The US State Department’s own human rights report for 2003, the most recent volume at the time of their refoulement, said about Russia, “There were credible reports that law enforcement personnel frequently engaged in torture, violence, and other brutal or humiliating treatment and often did so with impunity.”18 In June 2002, the United Nations Committee against Torture, the body responsible for monitoring state party compliance with the Convention against Torture, had voiced its strong concern at the “[n]umerous and consistent allegations of widespread torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees committed by [Russia’s] law enforcement personnel, commonly with a view to obtaining confessions.”19 The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Russia in December 2001 and published its report about the continuing problem of torture on June 30, 2003, citing a “disturbing number of allegations of physical ill-treatment” by police.20

              In addition to governmental and intergovernmental sources of information about torture in Russia, international human rights groups have also written extensively about the widespread torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects in police custody in Russia.21 As Human Rights Watch reported in 1999, torture and ill-treatment of detainees generally occurs at the time of and immediately after arrest, often through police beatings, near-asphyxiations, and the application of electroshock in the pursuit of confessions or testimony incriminating others. Aside from a very few high-profile cases in which officers have been punished for such mistreatment, the Russian police carry out torture with almost complete impunity. Provincial and federal prosecutors close their eyes to evidence of abuse. The courts commonly accept forced confessions at face value, and use them as a basis for convictions. Despite overwhelming evidence that torture has become an integral part of police practice, the Russian government and law enforcement agencies generally—with some notable exceptions—deny that torture or ill-treatment is a problem, and are not taking any measures to end these abusive practices.22

              Russia extensively used torture against Muslim detainees, especially Chechens accused of “terrorism,” before September 11. But the advent of the international “war on terror” appears to have hardened the Russian government’s treatment of such suspects. The Russian human rights organization Memorial stated in February 2006, “We have extensive evidence to suggest that under the pretext of fighting ‘Islamic extremism’ and ‘international terrorism,’ a large-scale campaign of persecution of Muslim followers of so-called ‘unconventional’ Islamic sects has been launched in Russia.”23 Memorial estimates that torture was used in more than 40 percent of the cases involving Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist organization with an international presence that has been banned in Russia.24

              Given the massive evidence about torture in Russia, it is virtually impossible to imagine that US officials were not cognizant of the risk that the Guantanamo detainees would be tortured, or that they did not understand the extent of the risk.

              Two of the Russian detainees told Human Rights Watch that US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay were clearly aware that they would face torture and mistreatment back home. Indeed, interrogators used the threat of return as a pressure tactic in interrogations: “The Americans … frightened us with return to Russia, [and] said that in Russia, we will be tortured,”25 Airat Vakhitov told Human Rights Watch. “There was constant blackmail,” Ravil Gumarov told Human Rights Watch. “They kept saying, ‘We’ll send you to Russia,’ that ‘They’ll string you up there’ and that kind of thing.”26

              Rasul Kudaev told interviewers from Reprieve, the British human rights organization,

              They said, “If you don’t tell us the truth, we’ll send you to Afghanistan, and if after Afghanistan anything is left of you, you will be sent to Russia where you will be tortured, you will have no fingers left.”27

              Certainly the detainees themselves knew what probably awaited them if they were sent home. Most of them had had some dealings with Russian law enforcement before they went to Afghanistan, and a few of them had been seriously mistreated. According to the mother of Ruslan Odizhev, for example, her son went to Afghanistan in part because he had been extensively tortured by Russian FSB (security service) officers in 2000 and did not think he could continue to live in Russia without danger to his physical well-being.28 Airat Vakhitov said he was beaten in 1999 while in detention for two months on suspicion of participating in illegal armed formations in Chechnya (he was never charged). After that experience he decided to leave the country. “I knew my life wouldn’t work out in Russia,” he told Human Rights Watch.29

              The detainees themselves say they repeatedly asked US officials and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross at Guantanamo Bay not to be returned to Russia. “We all asked not to be returned to Russia because we were afraid of torture,” Airat Vakhitov told Human Rights Watch.30 Ravil Gumarov told Human Rights Watch, “We were asking to be sent to a third country, we didn’t want to go to Russia. We said it to the Red Cross too, that we wanted to go to a third country, any Islamic country. And we were saying it to the Americans, that we weren’t about to go back to Russia.” According to the detainees, both the US officials and the Red Cross said they could not influence the decision. “They said, ‘That’s all being decided at higher levels, we don’t know anything.’… The Red Cross said, ‘We can’t do anything.’ Their hands were tied.”31 Shamil Khazhiev told Human Rights Watch, “All of us asked the Red Cross over and over again not to be sent back to Russia. I didn’t bother asking the Americans because it seemed useless.”32

              Alexandra Zernova, a human rights activist working with Reprieve, interviewed six of the seven detainees33 in early October 2005. She affirmed that all of them had told her they had not wanted to be sent back to Russia, and had told US officials so.34

              According to the detainees, representatives of the Russian government who visited the detainees at Guantanamo told them they would certainly be sent back to Russia. Airat Vakhitov said a senior investigator for the Procuracy General, Yuri Tkachev, visited him at Guantanamo and said, “We’re going to return you to Russia anyway. It’s going to be much worse for you there. We’re going to show you.”35 In contrast, however, Ravil Gumarov claimed that Tkachev told him he’d be better off in Russia, saying, “In America you’ll be in [prison] for life, in Russia we’ll give you a few years.”36

              Vakhitov told Human Rights Watch that he continued trying to avoid being sent back to Russia right up until the last minute:

              I asked the Red Cross for the last time just before our return to the homeland. I asked, “Are there any alternatives?” and they said no, and it would be better if we didn’t say that we didn’t want to go… [On February 28, 2004, the day the detainees were repatriated] I refused to go to the airport, and they [the Americans] brought in a stretcher to take me out. But when I saw the stretcher, I agreed to go on my own.37


              • @The Story of Seven Men Betrayed by Russia’s Diplomatic Assurances to the United States

                It’s the report from 2007. At least one of them was since then was killed “while resisting”. The rest are either in prison (dead or alive), or in hiding/fled the country:

                He died Wednesday in an apartment building in Nalchik, according to statements by the FSB, the principal successor to the Soviet KGB. Nalchik, a city of about 275,000 people, is the capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, a member republic of the Russian federation, located in the North Caucasus along the Georgian border, west of Chechnya. The FSB said Odizhev died with another suspected militant in a gun battle, and that explosives were found with his corpse.

                The news of Odizhev’s death raised questions about the handling of his release, and the potential repatriation of other Guantanamo detainees, which the United States has said it hopes to do.

                Three of the Russian men released with Odizhev have since been arrested, and the other three have apparently fled from Russia because of police harassment or torture, according to Human Rights Watch, the private American organization, which has investigated their cases.

            • Wow, Tom Lehrer. You’re such a tool.

              @No, no! How many people can you torture personally?

              Speaking of Ramzan? How many damn you want. Or if you don’t want to get dirty, you may just watch.

              Slain Exile Detailed Cruelty of the Ruler of Chechnya


              Umar S. Israilov saw the men who had come to kill him. They confronted him in the neighborhood where he lived in hiding in Vienna. He must have sensed their intentions, because he ran.

              For more than two years, Mr. Israilov, a Chechen in exile, had formally accused Russia’s government of allowing a macabre pattern of crimes in Chechnya. Even by the dark norms of violence in the Caucasus, his accusations were extraordinary.

              A rebel fighter turned bodyguard of Ramzan A. Kadyrov, Chechnya’s current president, Mr. Israilov had access to the inner ring of Chechen power. Mr. Kadyrov’s career has been sponsored by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who as president lifted him from obscurity with unwavering Kremlin support.

              In written legal complaints, Mr. Israilov described many brutal acts by Mr. Kadyrov and his subordinates, including executions of illegally detained men. One executed man, Mr. Israilov said, had been beaten with a shovel handle by Mr. Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov, now a member of Russia’s Parliament. Another prisoner, the defector said, was sodomized by a prominent police officer and at Mr. Kadyrov’s order put to death.

              Mr. Israilov said he and others had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov, who amused himself by personally giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet.


              The Torture Chamber

              The town of Tsentoroi was once a rebels’ redoubt. By 2003 it had become an informal seat of power for rebels who changed sides.

              Mr. Israilov was driven there, he said, and confined with other detainees in cells outside a weight-lifting center. According to victims and human rights groups, the weight room was one of several torture chambers run by pro-Kremlin Chechens.

              That day, Mr. Israilov recalled, officers from the F.S.B., Russia’s domestic intelligence service, beat him and tried to force him to confess to killing at least 17 people. Mr. Israilov said he refused as Mr. Kadyrov watched.

              Mr. Kadyrov finally took over. “Ramzan slapped me in the face once; then his guards beat me,” he said. “Ramzan said, ‘Stop it,’ and asked me questions. Then he began beating me again.”

              According to Mr. Israilov, he was beaten a few times a week for three months, often after being tied to fitness machines. His torturers wanted information about other rebels, he said.

              On one occasion, he said, Mr. Delimkhanov, the Kadyrov associate now in Russia’s lower house of Parliament, beat him with a shovel handle just before Mr. Kadyrov twice fired a pistol near his feet. On another occasion, Mr. Israilov said, he was connected to wires and Mr. Kadyrov administered electric shocks. “ ‘That’s the thing,’ ” he recalled Mr. Kadyrov saying with a laugh. “ ‘That’s the thing.’ ”

              He was also poked in the leg by unknown men with a heated metal rod, he said, and struck in the lip by a fragment of a ricocheting bullet fired by another unknown man. (Scars on Mr. Israilov’s lip and leg were visible.)

              Others faced worse. On his third week in captivity, Mr. Israilov said, a cellmate, Shamil Gerikhanov, was sodomized with a shovel handle by a guard commander.

              One night he listened, he said, as Aidamir Gushayev, who had organized a rebel cell’s finances, was interrogated by Mr. Kadyrov. The future president demanded money and grew frustrated. Mr. Israilov heard a gunshot. For a moment, Mr. Israilov recalled, there was silence, and then there were bursts of automatic fire. “It sounded like each bodyguard fired an entire magazine,” he said.

              Mr. Kadyrov snarled, “ ‘Gazavat,’ ” he said. The word is Chechen for holy war. It was also the guards’ slang, Mr. Israilov said, for an area where victims were buried in unmarked graves.

              Two Conversions

              When Mr. Israilov was captured, the insurgency had already lost Grozny, but it remained strong. To defeat it, Russia and Mr. Kadyrov fought militarily. Simultaneously, Mr. Kadyrov mounted a campaign of inducements, amnesty offers, threats and violence against rebels’ families to persuade separatists to change sides.

              In the summer of 2003, Mr. Israilov said, the guards led him in shackles to a sauna, where Mr. Kadyrov made an offer: join the presidential security service and live. The alternative, Mr. Israilov said, was clear. He accepted.

              Mr. Kadyrov gave him a pistol, according to the court complaint, and Umar Israilov began work in the “kadyrovtsie” — the Kadyrovs’ troops.


              For about 10 months, Mr. Israilov said, he worked at Tsentoroi. During this time he saw at least 20 illegally detained people tortured, he said, with Mr. Kadyrov participating in several sessions. Many victims were the relatives of the boyeviki, the insurgents.

              The sessions Mr. Israilov described aligned with a shift in Russia’s counterinsurgency effort — away from mass detentions and neighborhood sweeps by the Russian Army, to actions by Chechen units against rebels’ families, a form of pinpoint collective punishment.

              “Ramzan himself said that the best way to get boyeviki out of the forest was to do it through relatives,” Mr. Israilov said. “It was basically his slogan.”

              One day, Mr. Israilov said, he watched the commander who had sodomized his cellmate, Shamil Gerikhanov, plead with Mr. Kadyrov to order the victim killed. “Take him and finish him,” Mr. Kadyrov said. Mr. Gerikhanov was driven away and never seen again, Mr. Israilov said; the rapist, whose first name was Alanbek, was promoted to be a police commander in Grozny.

              In early 2004, Mr. Israilov was transferred to his home village to lead a police squad, according to his court file.

              Mr. Kadyrov’s stature in Chechnya was rising. His father was assassinated in May, and Mr. Putin, then president, offered him condolences in a meeting broadcast on state television — a clear endorsement of his role as Moscow’s Chechen strongman.

  6. What’s wrong with my post above? Why does it get deleted?


    Posts with too many links get put into our cue for review. It has been published.

  7. To be bi-partisan, pictures of the Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis aiming a tank machine gun at the viewer is also quite interesting:

    Or the Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry with a rifle:

    • @To be bi-partisan, pictures of the Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis aiming a tank machine gun at the viewer is also quite interesting:

      More than “quite” interesting, as he lost his election over this idiotic photo.

      And now take a look at Russia:

      “On Dec. 31, the day after his appointment, Putin reinforced his tough-guy image by swooping into Chechnya and awarded government-inscribed hunting knives to Russian soldiers. But before the election, he’ll aim to show that he’s more than a war leader. ”

      Mind you, a hunting knife is not a combat weapon at all in modern warfare. It can be only used to slaughter prisoners or mutilitate the dead (cutting-off ears for “souvenirs” and such). Everyone knew and understood this perfectly well.


    more and more russian bloggers in Southern russia report,that large russian army-convoys move to the georgian border!!! do you think,that this is only a propaganda-show or is an invasion of Georgia still possible? thanks

  9. to Phobophobe: Your reference to Simes shows that you are as biased as this so called expert is, no matter where that idiot comes from.

  10. Robert,

    There were TWO helicopter crashes in Russia that KILLED Russian high-ranking officials who were hunting ENDANGERED species from the air.

    At least two in 2009 alone – in January in Altai, and in May in Irkutsk.

    By the way, why would one engage in a conversation with taunting trolls like Tom Lehrer is beyond me… Every response is a lifeline!

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