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On Sunday 28 March 2010, 27-year-old Mariam Sharipova set off from her home in the remote village of Balakhani, high in the mountains of Dagestan. Her family’s house sits under steep cliffs. There is a dirt track, mulberry and apricot trees, and a river filled with rubbish. A bit farther up the road is the village mosque. Beyond a tiny bazaar is the white-painted junior school where Mariam taught computer science.
Early that morning, Mariam and her mother took a minivan to Dagestan’s regional capital, Makhachkala. The four-hour journey passes through a landscape of sheer peaks and river valleys; eagles float in a hazy sky above spruce trees; there are butterflies, birdsong. The mountains eventually give way to green plains dotted with bungalows, and the shimmering Caspian Sea.
Her mother says she and Mariam parted in Makhachkala’s Irchi Kazak street. Mariam said she was dropping into the chemist’s to buy some henna. Ten minutes later, she called her mother’s mobile phone – she had bumped into a female friend, she said, and would make her own way back home. Her mother rang back half an hour later. The number was unavailable. Concerned, but not alarmed – her daughter was, after all, grown up – Mariam’s mother went back to Balakhani alone.
Mariam’s movements over the next few hours are unknown but, according to investigators, by next morning she had reached Moscow, 1,800km away. Around 7am, as the rush hour was getting under way, Mariam entered the metro. She travelled to Lubyanka station in central Moscow, a stroll from Red Square. And then, at 7.56am, she blew herself up in the second carriage, just as the doors were opening, killing herself and 26 others.
Certainly, the official account of events is puzzling and incomplete. Last month, investigators said they had discovered an apartment in Moscow where three male accomplices had prepared the women for their mission. They said all three had been shot dead by police after “putting up resistance”. As usual, they offered no details. Investigators also say that the two women travelled from Dagestan to Moscow by inter-city bus – a journey of 48 hours. Other witnesses insist, however, that Mariam was still in Dagestan early on 28 March. It is possible, of course, that she could have flown from Makhachkala to Moscow under an assumed name. So far, though, the investigation isn’t saying this.
In the week before her death, Mariam ordered a new dress, bought an expensive mop to do household chores and told relatives she had plans to cultivate the vegetable patch. She also advised Gulnara to buy an electric blanket to relieve her rheumatic leg. “I think both women were kidnapped – someone with a background in special services took them on a plane to Moscow,” Gulnara speculates, adding that when she phoned Mariam’s mother early on 28 March, she clearly heard Mariam’s voice in the background. “I know Mariam. She wasn’t ready for death.”
But could someone else have persuaded her to kill herself? Russian investigators claim Mariam was leading a secret double life, and was the bride of a top terrorist leader, Magomedali Vagabov. Vagabov is rumoured to be the rebel emir of Gubden, a couple of hours’ drive from Balakhani. When I travel there the next day, I discover that it is one of Dagestan’s more prosperous districts, its streets lined with handsome, yellow-brick houses. I had arranged to meet Magomed Shapi, head of one of the town’s most prominent families. The previous day, Shapi had given evidence to the human rights group Memorial about the disappearance and subsequent murder of his son, Magamod Ali. Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch, took his statement. “Salafis are being treated automatically as insurgents,” she said, “This is conducive to the marginalisation and radicalisation of the Salafi community.”
The police summoned Ali for an interview on 16 July 2007. When he turned up at the regional station, they assured him he was mistaken. On his way home, however, police ambushed his car and shot him in the leg. According to his father, the officers were about to plant weapons in the boot of his vehicle but abandoned the plan when a crowd gathered. Ali was taken to hospital, with witnesses confirming he was still alive. Officers, however, kicked doctors out of the room where he was being held; minutes later, he was dead. Photos show a stab wound in his neck. “He was picked up for his religious convictions. Not for any other reason,” his father says, walking me to where his son is buried in Gubden’s grassy cemetery.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has gotten a high-level welcome in the United Arab Emirates, 15 months after one of his chief rivals was killed in Dubai.
Kadyrov was pictured on the front page of the government daily Al Ittihad meeting the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Sunday. The daily said the visit would promote “cooperation and friendship between the two countries.”
Kadyrov has spearheaded Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s campaign to rebuild infrastructure devastated by two secessionist wars since 1994.
“There is a lot of potential money to be made in reconstruction” by U.A.E. companies, Shakeel said. “Officially the authorities will express dissatisfaction at someone being assassinated on their territory, but this won’t be a hindrance to acting on a more forward-looking basis.”
Kadyrov’s rival, Sulim Yamadayev, was gunned down in an elite seafront housing complex in Dubai on March 28 last year. The emirate’s police subsequently said they had “strong evidence” that a cousin of Kadyrov’s masterminded the killing and asked Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for him.
Kadyrov denounced the accusations against his cousin, State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov, as “provocative” and “totally unfounded.”
On April 12, a Dubai court sentenced an Iranian and a Tajik to life imprisonment for aiding and abetting the murder of Yamadayev. The Iranian was the trainer of racehorses owned by Kadyrov and kept in Dubai.
In a rare show of unanimity, human rights activists and a senior United Russia lawmaker Monday endorsed a critical report on the North Caucasus.
The report by the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly says the North Caucasus constitutes the most serious situation in the entire geographical area covered by the organization.
The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe combines all 48 European countries except Belarus.
The 318-member assembly will debate a resolution and policy recommendations on the report Tuesday.
The document accuses authorities in Chechnya of maintaining a climate of fear while government opponents and human rights activists have disappeared. It also points to worrying killings of journalists in Ingushetia and warns that rising extremist violence jeopardizes stability in Dagestan.
The three Muslim republics have seen a resurgence of violence over the past two years, and the report says perpetrators of human rights violations continue to enjoy impunity there.
Alison Gill, head of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office, said that even if the resolution were weakened, Kosachyov’s reaction was very positive.
“It is unprecedented that this report is endorsed by the Russian delegation,” she said by telephone from Strasbourg.
Gill said it was important to keep the assembly’s monitoring mandate and the draft resolution’s call for action to end impunity in the region.
Alexander Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights group said Kosachyov’s statement probably reflected a feeling of powerlessness. “He did what any bureaucrat would do when he sees that he cannot change the course of events — say something positive,” Cherkasov told The Moscow Times.
The report was prepared by Swiss lawmaker Dick Marty, the assembly’s rapporteur on human rights in the North Caucasus, after a trip to the region in March.
Memorial chairman Oleg Orlov will address the assembly Tuesday.
Another guest will be Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who will take the platform exactly one year after he survived an assassination attempt.
The Russian endorsement is all the more notable because much of the report discusses abductions and killings of opponents of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
It gives room to a theory proposed by Austrian investigators that the murder of Chechen refugee Umar Israilov in Vienna last year was ordered by Kadyrov or his immediate entourage.
When Marty visited Kadyrov in March, the Chechen president rejected all accusations “before we could even put the question to him,” the report says.
Occupants beat up peaceful civilians to death
Peaceful civilians have been assaulted in the village of Reti, Gali district, Abkhazia today. Russian occupants beat up three brothers Anjaparidze and killed one of them. The gang led by Raul Lolua beat up Gogita Anjaparidze to death. The man died after three hours torture, his brother Vepkhia Anjaparidze has been hospitalized to Agudzera clinic; he is in critical condition, connected to the respirator. The third brother has been taken to the Gali hospital with serious injuries too.
The occupants were forcing the brothers to take responsibility for the murder of the Reti governor, Dimitri Katsia. The occupants detained other members of the family and took them to the Gali militia office in order to hide the crime.
Abkahz occupants kill another Georgian in Gali
Abkhaz occupants have killed the second member of the family of Anjaparidze. They detained three brothers of the family forcing them to claim responsibility for the murder of the village Reti governor and killed one yesterday. Today, they tortured another brother in the Gali militia. The cousin of the violence victims, Vepkhia Anjaparidze is in the Agudzera hospital in critical state. He is unconscious connected to respirator.
The occupants kidnapped all other members of the family to hide the fact of violence.
More murder from the racist and fascist Russian backed separatists in Abkhazia.
One dead, 24 injured in blast at Russian military base
A similar incident occurred last year on November 13 at an arms depot in the city of Ulyanovsk, in Russia’s Volga region. Two people were killed and dozens injured in an explosion and subsequent fire at the depot.
Just 10 days later a new explosion occurred at the same depot, when military servicemen were loading burnt ammunition into trucks. Eight servicemen were killed and two were injured in the blast.
Is the Russian Army Bullying Its Soldiers to Death?
Investigators have classified Suslov’s death as a suicide, placing him among the scores of Russian servicemen who kill themselves in any given year. Many of these soldiers, relatives and rights activists say, are driven to suicide by a pernicious tradition of brutal hazing in the Russian military known as dedovshchina — a banned but widespread practice that includes the physical and psychological abuse of recruits by older officers.
Soldiers’ rights advocates also believe some of those suicides aren’t suicides at all. They see something more sinister in Suslov’s death and maintain that his senior officers may have beaten him to death during a savage hazing session and then staged his suicide. The tactic, they allege, is a common way to cover up conscripts’ violent deaths at the hands of fellow servicemen.
According to the latest figures released by the Russian Defense Ministry, a total of 149 Russian servicemen committed suicide from January to November last year. The figures suggest a decline from previous years, which saw more than 200 suicides annually. But Veronika Marchenko, head of A Mother’s Right, a Moscow-based NGO, estimates that the majority of these deaths are directly related to brutality in the ranks. “One-third are cases where people are driven to suicide, while one-third are criminal acts disguised as suicides,” says Marchenko, whose organization handles thousands of complaints from families of Russian soldiers who died during their service.
Russians have become so familiar with stories of military suicides that Suslov’s death might have warranted little more than a brief mention in the press had it not been for the disturbing video posted on YouTube on June 2 showing his body in an open casket. In the video, Suslov’s shirt is opened to reveal a line of enormous stitches running from his neck to his abdomen, evoking images of the leather laces on an antique basketball. His mother hovers over his body while the mother of a solider who allegedly committed suicide in 2003 gives a harrowing narration of the apparent injuries to Suslov’s body. The woman, Alma Bukharbayeva, claims her son Marat was murdered during his mandatory service in Bikin and that his organs were removed and sold on the black market in China. The crude stitches and various bruises and abrasions on Suslov’s body, she alleges in the video, indicate his organs may also have been removed to be sold for transplant surgeries.
Russia gets a new, Islamic Lenin:
The museum glorifies Kadyrov, a former rebel the Kremlin installed as Chechnya’s president after driving separatists from power in the second of two devastating wars in the province.
“It is important that … our compatriots know their heroes and always remember who fought for our freedom. Akhmad is first and foremost,” said the director of the recently opened museum, Abdul-Vakhab Akhmadov.
Kadyrov, installed by President Vladimir Putin in 2000 and much-loved by Russian leaders, was replaced by his firebrand son Ramzan Kadyrov when he grew old enough to take office, three years after his father’s death.
Chechnya’s streets are lined with posters and tributes to both Kadyrovs, and rights workers have described the state’s devotion to Akhmad as fostering a personality cult.
Built of Spanish and Iranian marble and crowned by a half-ton chandelier of 790 lamps and 20 kilograms of pure gold, the complex is reminiscent of museums dedicated to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and U.S. rock legend Elvis Presley.
Within its foreboding brown granite walls, the late Kadyrov’s sheepskin grey hat, prayer beads and a university diploma are set carefully in glass cases beside black-and-white baby photos of the leader, who was 53 when he died.
“This building, in my opinion, represents the most beautiful dreams Kadyrov had — he always wanted to see his dreams come true, which were to see a happy Chechen people,” said Musa Labazanov, the museum’s deputy director.
The Kremlin saw Kadyrov as essential to regaining control over Chechnya and has given his son Ramzan broad leeway to maintain a grip on a province that now faces a raging Islamist insurgency, along with neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia.
Murder in Vienna Leads Investigators to Chechen President
The murder, committed in broad daylight, triggered a wave of outrage and attracted international attention. And now it could very well harm Europe’s relationship with Russia.
More than one-and-a-half years after the murder, the Vienna Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism has reached the end of its investigation. It believes that an ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, was behind the killing. In their dossier, the investigators identify “Kadyrov, Ramzan” as one of the “instigators,” and the investigators conclude that Kadyrov knew about and accepted the killing. The allegations suggest that a man who owes his position of power to Moscow’s support may have ordered a contract killing in the middle of Europe.
The investigators cast a wide net. In addition to looking into the actual crime, they included a complaint filed against Kadyrov by the Society for Threatened Peoples, as well as torture allegations Israilov had made against Kadyrov before the European Court of Human Rights. Legal experts like Manfred Nowak, the director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in Vienna, are calling for consequences. It is “time to issue an international arrest warrent” against Kadyrov, says Nowak. “We have enough evidence of Kadyrov’s direct involvement in serious human rights violations, including torture.”
Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the power struggle in the Caucasus republic has been ongoing. Ramzan Kadyrov, 33, has been president of Chechnya since 2007; his father, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004, held the same office. Putin even decorated the younger Kadyrov with the country’s highest order when he presented him with the “Hero of the Russian Federation” award for “courage and heroism shown in the discharge of duties.”
For years, various human rights organizations have denounced this “hero” for his alleged brutality. They hold him responsible for the disappearances of people in Chechnya and the executions of many of his opponents. His alleged victims have included one his sharpest critics, the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in 2006, and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, who was abducted and killed last July. Four months later, Sulim Yamadayev, a former Chechen rebel commander, was shot and killed in Dubai.
Trial Opens in Killing of Kadyrov’s Rival [in Moscow]
Yamadayev was killed in downtown Moscow in an apparent contract hit in September 2008, and his elder brother Sulim was gunned down in Dubai in March 2009. A third Yamadayev brother, Isa, was attacked by his own bodyguard, Khavazhi Yusupov, in July but survived. Yusupov has told investigators that Kadyrov personally ordered the killings of Ruslan and Sulim Yamadayev and offered $1 million to kill Isa.
Yusupov was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison in June. An Iranian and a Tajik were convicted in Sulim’s killing and sentenced to 25 years in a Dubai prison in April, while Dubai police have accused a cousin of Kadyrov, Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov, of masterminding the attack. Delimkhanov has denied involvement, and Russian prosecutors have refused to extradite him to Dubai.
Kadyrov tried to catch his enemies with the help of international arrest warrants. Moscow also pressed for the extradition of supposed terrorists, including Israilov, who was accused of murdering two agents and four members of the presidential guard while fleeing Chechnya. But arrest warrants originating in Russia have often proved to be manipulated. Western countries routinely turned down Moscow’s extradition requests, and the Austrians also refused to hand over Israilov.
To overcome these obstacles, Kadyrov chose a different approach to rounding up refractory expatriates. Western intelligence officials confirm that Kadyrov launched a “major campaign to bring them back to Chechnya.”
Lists of wanted Chechen expatriates were posted on the Internet. According to Vienna’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the strongman of Grozny set up a “military intelligence service for a foreign country.” Its purpose was to locate those applying for asylum abroad. Kadyrov had apparently set his sights on one man, in particular: Israilov, a “risk factor for Kadyrov and his thugs,” as the Austrian investigators write.