Vladimir Putin, War Criminal

Leila Pliyeva holding photos of her son Alikshan Pliyev

The Washington Post reports:

Aliskhan Pliyev was talking on his cell phone with his girlfriend one autumn afternoon when two dozen masked men in uniforms stormed into his family’s house, grabbed him and began to hustle him away.

The 30-year-old construction worker’s three sisters screamed, demanding to know where the intruders were taking him. “None of your business!” a man in a black mask shouted, before Pliyev was driven off in a convoy of cars and vans escorted by an armored personnel carrier. He hasn’t been seen since.

Officials here in the Russian region of Ingushetia say they don’t know anything about Pliyev’s abduction, one of scores in recent months that have caused fresh outrage and grief in a region already scarred by over 15 years of fighting.

But the young man’s kidnapping in the outskirts of Ingushetia’s largest city bears the hallmarks of what rights activists call Russia’s “policy of state terror,” a shadow war against violent Muslim separatists in the North Caucasus, a strategic crossroads of Europe and Asia.

A central tactic in the war, activists say, is forced disappearances – the brazen snatching of young people from their homes or off the street, often by gangs of masked men who move freely, even in areas heavily patrolled by Russian military and police. The pace of forced disappearances has doubled in the past year, following a spike in militant attacks on police and authorities, including suicide bombings, ambushes and assassinations.

The lucky ones are brutally interrogated and released. Some turn up dead, their bodies bearing the marks of torture. Other families face the anguish of never knowing the fate of a father, brother or son.

But critics say the kidnappings have aggravated rather than reduced tensions along Russia’s southern border.

Some analysts warn that, after five years of relative calm, anger over the latest rash of kidnappings could inspire a fresh wave of terror attacks in Russia, a country that supplies the world with much of its oil and gas and has one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals.

Khamatkhan Makhloyev, 62, a retired Soviet construction manager, says more than 20 masked soldiers in unmarked uniforms burst into his family’s red brick home in the quiet Ingush village of Sleptsovskaya at 4 a.m. in late October.

They stormed straight to a third-floor bedroom, savagely beat one son, Ibragim, and dragged off his elder brother, Maskhud, a 27-year-old factory worker. Maskhud hasn’t been seen since.

Sitting somberly in his dining room last month, the elder Makhloyev said he was certain Maskhud was not a militant and bitterly accused security agencies of acting like “wild animals.” His appeals to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ingushetia’s regional president Yunus-bek Yevkurov, he said, have been in vain.

The authorities “are strengthening the militants” through their brutal tactics, he said. “They don’t kill dogs in this way.” His wife Aminat, 55, a frail woman with dark circles under her eyes, sobbed beside him, silently fingering x-rays of Ibragim’s broken bones.

It’s not clear why intruders grabbed Maskhud, one of six children. But his father said the raiders seized family heirlooms, a kinzhal knife and a lambswool astrakhan hat, symbols in the Caucasus of the 19th-century guerrillas who fought the imperial Russian army.

Later, standing in the dark courtyard of his home, the elder Makhloyev looked around and shook his head. “I hoped someday to have weddings here, and not just funerals,” he said.

Russian officials have repeatedly rejected charges that security forces engage in systematic rights abuses. Instead, authorities blame militants for abductions and murders, calling them “provocations” intended to turn citizens against Moscow.

A day after the July kidnapping and slaying of rights activist Natalya Estemirova in Grozny, the capital of neighboring Chechnya, President Dmitry Medvedev called accusations that security forces were involved “primitive” and “unacceptable.”

“It’s a deliberate provocation,” he said.

Alison Gill of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch said Medvedev’s remarks “set a limit on the investigation” into Estemirova’s forced disappearance, exempting authorities from scrutiny.

Rights groups say Muslim separatists attack civilians in the Caucasus, often on religious grounds. There have been assaults on fortune tellers, prostitutes and merchants selling alcohol, while a rebel Web site has threatened school principals and teachers with death if they ban headscarves or seat girls next to boys in classrooms.

But activists also accuse the government of forced disappearances, illegal detentions, extra-judicial killings and house burnings. In a report last month, the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial called for an end to “the massive and systematic human rights violations by the security agencies.”

In recent months kidnappers have increasingly targeted activists like Estemirova, in what rights groups fear is part of a plan to intimidate them into silence. In Ingushetia and Chechnya, where thousands of people have disappeared during post-Soviet Russia’s two wars against separatists, dozens of people who once monitored rights violations have stopped working or fled.

“All rights activists are uneasy,” said one Ingush activist, who spoke on condition he not be identified because he feared for his life. He was planning to leave for France, he said, after security officials approached him and warned him he might be killed.

He said one officer told him: “We are with the special services, we are not simple cops. Think about that.”

Lidia Yusupova, a Chechen human rights lawyer and 2009 candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, told The Associated Press she may have been a target of the same shadowy men who abducted and killed Estemirova.

Two suspicious men staked out her apartment in Grozny and questioned neighbors the day before Estemirova was killed, her friends told her. She wasn’t home at the time.

“It could not be just a coincidence,” she said in an interview in the cramped offices of a Chechen rights group in central Moscow. “Maybe they had an order to take away some well-known rights activist.”

Some are abducted, activists say, after their names surface during brutal interrogations. Often, kidnappers target the relatives of known or suspected militants.

In some cases, the disappeared seem to have the wrong friends, attend the wrong mosque or otherwise raise suspicions, for example, by having a wolf call ring tone on their cell phone. In the Caucasus, the wolf is a symbol of resistance to Russian rule.

Alikshan Pliyev’s mother, Leila Pliyeva, a white-haired medical technician at a government health clinic, said she was baffled by her son’s abduction. He could not be a religious militant, she said, because unlike most other youths here he never attended mosque.

As in the case with most disappearances, police and government officials told her they had no idea what happened to her son. But she said she is sure government forces were responsible. “It can only be the special services,” she said sadly.

Her son could be among the lucky ones who are eventually freed, she says, sounding as though she is trying to persuade herself.

“I have hope,” Pliyeva said, as tears welled in her eyes. “But do you see how it is with us?”

4 responses to “Vladimir Putin, War Criminal

  1. Government brutality gives rise to insurgency in North Caucasus

    http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Government+brutality+gives+rise+insurgency+North+Caucasus/2419595/story.html

    There are times and places when rebellion can be judged justifiable and even the radicalization of a community by Islamic extremism entirely understandable.

    That is the case of Russia’s seven southern provinces in the region called the North Caucasus, where Moscow has attempted to deal with the restive Muslim populations by handing over control to bought-and-paid-for gangster clan leaders.

    One result of this institutionalized thuggery is the systematic, imagination-taxing abuse of the more than six million people who live in this region.

    There is an ongoing murderous campaign of abductions, police death squad killings, torture, the razing of villages in reprisal for rebel attacks, and the holding hostage of the families of people suspected of involvement in the insurrection.

    That, of course, is just the record of Moscow’s brutal proconsuls in the area that comprises Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Adygea and Kabardino-Balkaria.

    The responses from the local insurgents have been an increasingly violent and intense campaign of bombings, assassinations and guerrilla assaults against the so-called authorities.

    Provincial governors have been assassinated or badly wounded in the attempt.

    Officials responsible for security forces are a prized target of the insurgents and the police forces are culled by the day.

    Very typical was an incident on Wednesday when a suicide bomber drove an SUV laden with explosives at a police compound in Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala as 150 officers lined up for a morning roll call.

    Police on the compound gate managed to block the way with a truck.

    The bomb killed seven policemen and wounded a couple of dozen more, but the toll could have been much worse.

    Violence in the North Caucasus has been on a steady increase for a decade since Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president and decided the way to contain the separatist war in Chechnya was to give a free hand to a local warlord clan led by Akhmat-hajji Kadyrov and his son Ramzan.

    Akhmat Kadyrov, an Islamic scholar, fought with the separatist rebels in the early 1990s, but then switched sides, joined the Russian government forces and was made president of the Chechen Republic in 2003.

    After he was assassinated in 2004, leadership passed to his son.

    If anything, Ramzan has been even more brutally efficient than his father in pursuing Moscow’s outsourced war.

    The list of allegations or murder and torture attributed to Ramzan Kadyrov personally is long.

    It includes not only Chechen dissidents who have been killed or disappeared at home, but some who have been assassinated in places such as Dubai, Istanbul and Vienna.

    With Moscow seeing the off-loading of the Chechen problem as a great success, the same recipe has been employed in the other North Caucasus states. While Putin — now prime minister, but still the real power in Moscow — thus avoids having to answer to the mothers of dead Russian soldiers, living conditions in the region get worse by the day.

    Many seasoned observers are now questioning whether Moscow has any effective control over the North Caucasus and even Russians have taken to calling the region the “internal abroad.”

    Throughout the region there are calamitous economic problems, deadly clan and ethnic feuds, gross unemployment — it’s 80 per cent in Dagestan — and rampant corruption that is exceptional even by the heady standards of Russia.

    Since the only response from the authorities has been repression and Moscow-sanctioned death squads, it is hardly surprising that many people have turned to armed resistance.

    At the start the armed response was mostly in I ngushetia, Dagestan and–most famously–Chechnya.

    These groups were largely independent of each other.

    But in recent years the insurgent groups across the North Caucasus have begun to form a linked command, though not yet a unified fighting force.

    It is inevitable that a rebel movement of this type needs a common ideology.

    In this case, it is Wahhabi Islam of the puritanical school propounded by the al-Qaida radical clerics.

    The ruling cliques are quick to equate Wahhabism with terrorism — an easy and credible assumption these days.

    But there is good reason to think the Wahhabist insurgents are more a response to the government’s murderous repression than a natural growth among the people of North Caucasus.

    • @But in recent years the insurgent groups across the North Caucasus have begun to form a linked command, though not yet a unified fighting force.

      In theory they are unified now as the Caucasian Emirate forces.

      But in practice it’s true, they are working quite separately in each republic’s jamaats of several autonomous local groups, divided even further into tiny partisan bands and urban guerrilla cells. (Only the Chechens and Ingushes are cooperating closely on regular basis, but they’re basically two tribes of one nation.)

  2. Russia has bloody mess in Kavkaz (Chechnia and other republics). It becomes worse. Proud people live there (Chechnia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, etc.) they no longer need Russian empire. Moscow tries to play by 19 century “Russian empire style” rules but it does not work. They can’t even replicate 19th century tactics cause they are “Chekists” – stupid and corrupt, rotten worst of the worst KGB guys.

    In 2008 there was an accident at Nuclear power station near St Petersburg (yes there is Nuclear station in about 40 km from St Petersburh city centre). This station is in the same model as Chernobil station by the way. There was panic in St Petersburg. People bought all anticeptics in aptecas, etc. etc. There was media blackout of this accident in Russia and it’ still not widely known, even worldwide. Well, don’t worry yet, it looks like there was not major accident there.

    But I want to draw your attention to the fact that when I googled this accident, one of the first and best informed websites which showed me detailed report of this situation was the website of Chechen separatists “www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/” (terrorists, freedom fighters – you choose). Now I think what a terrible future awaits Russia with all this mess in Kavkaz, with so many people who hate Russia and with all those Russian nuclear facilites built by stupid Soviet planners.

    What do you think about it? Can La Russophobe write more about it? Thanks in advance!

    • KC claimed many thing, including taking responsibility for the sinking of Kursk allegedly by a Dagestani suicide saboteur (which was of course rather an usual Russian military SNAFU accident).

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