In this Q&A, Crisis Group tapped the views of its Project Director and Analyst in Turkey, Nigar Göksel and Berkay Mandıracı, as well as its Russia and the North Caucasus Project Director, Ekaterina Sokirianskaia.
Originally published in The Guardian
Novaya Gazeta newspaper 1 April broke story on organised detentions, torture and killings of gay men by authorities in Chechnya in recent weeks, producing international outcry. At least three gay men reported killed in round-up and up to 200 suffered abuse, torture and illegal detention; dozens still being held in illegal detention facilities throughout republic. Republic President Kadyrov’s press secretary called report “absolute lie”, claiming gay people “do not exist in the republic”, if there were any “their family would handle the issue themselves by sending them to a place from where no one comes back”. Kadyrov complained to Putin about “media provocation”; during 19 April meeting, Putin reportedly called on Kadyrov to stop persecution. Novaya Gazeta appealed to authorities for protection and investigation into death threats it received over reports. Chechen authorities 25 March sent demolition equipment accompanied by armed police to Davydenko village, Achkhoy-Martan district, aimed at destroying houses after locals reportedly refused to pay authorities bribes; officials claimed buildings illegally constructed. Police reportedly beat villagers and fired into air; one woman suffered gunshot wound. Around twenty people detained, charges filed against three for attempts on policeman’s life. Chechen state TV 29 March broadcast meeting between Chechen parliament speaker and outspoken protester who was forced to rescind criticisms and apologise. Conflict-related violence in NC continued, including death of Makhachkala group leader Ilyas Khalilov and two other suspected fighters at police/Special Forces checkpoint 11 April; two police shot dead in Malgobek, Ingushetia 8 April. Russian investigators identified ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyz national as suicide bomber who killed fourteen and injured 60 in attack on St. Petersburg metro 3 April (see Kyrgyzstan).
Russia’s North Caucasus insurgency has gone relatively quiet, as Moscow crushed militants and many left to fight in Syria and Iraq. But longstanding grievances remain and the war may only have widened, as evidenced by the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt and the emergence of new groups swearing allegiance to the Islamic State in Russia itself.
For two decades, the North Caucasus conflict has been among Europe’s deadliest. Recently, victims were less, but risks associated with growing Islamic State (IS) influence in the insurgency are growing. To prevent a new rise in violence, Moscow must promote transparent governance as well as social and economic opportunities in its six North Caucasus republics.
A powerful propaganda machine promotes the “success story” of today’s Chechnya. But its peace is fragile; government repression is used to keep the people at bay while economic inequality, poor social infrastructure, lack of genuine reconciliation and almost full impunity for past abuses reflect the republic’s daily reality.
Stronger democratic institutions are crucial to easing violence in Russia’s North Caucasus, where Europe’s worst armed conflict claimed at least 1,225 victims in 2012 and 495 in the first six months of 2013.
Russia’s North Caucasus region is Europe’s deadliest conflict today, with some 574 deaths already this year, and the killing is unlikely to end soon.
[Local barons in Russia's republics often] consolidate their positions in ministries, place their friends and relations in important posts and use various corrupt practices to siphon off resources.
[The Kremlin hopes] to promote Kadyrov as a brand, as someone who turned the war-torn republic into a peaceful and affluent place, who is loyal to the Putin regime and who promotes conservative values.
They have a reputation for being pretty fearless fighters, which is why they move quite quickly up the hierarchy
Women in the Russian republic of Chechnya have never been under such pressure as they are today. Yet not much has been written about their role, their place in society, and their rights in Chechnya and in other North Caucasus conflicts.
Originally published in Новая Газета
Originally published in World Politics Review
Originally published in Novaya Gazeta