Studying the situation of residents of Chechnya who have become forced migrants since the start of hostilities in 1994, we are becoming increasingly convinced that in every region of Russia IDPs from Chechnya, especially ethnic Chechens, find themselves outside the law and are subjected to cruel discrimination on the part of the authorities and the society.
For sure, there are no laws in the Russian Federation containing discriminatory norms that would put minorities into some special situation. However, in Russia laws have never been observed strictly. There also exist rules and departmental regulations which restrict the law, like rules for residence registration specific to different regions and applying to different groups of population, in particular, to people from the North Caucasus. Apart from the rules, there are also real life practices, which limit the application of the rules and are often based on oral directions given from above – to deny registration, deny jobs, deny admission to educational institutions, etc.
The number of residents of Chechnya who can be counted among internally displaced persons is now, according to expert estimates by NGOs, between 300,000 and 1,000,000 people. Also rated among this group can be all citizens who have involuntarily left the CR in the period since 1991 and till today and failed to find a permanent housing and job and receive full medical and social protection. A significant portion of them have so far failed to integrate themselves into local life on the territory of Russia. (On the situation of Chechens in the Volgograd Region, which has the second largest Chechen diaspora in Russia, see Appendix 10).
Situation of the Forced Migrants
There are no organizations in Russia which would provide internally displaced persons with housing, jobs or financial support. Since 1999, a forced migrant status has been the only thing that gives IDPs a hope to get a minimum support from the state and also serves as some guarantee that his social rights could be fulfilled.
In 1991-2005, i.e. in the period before and during the war in Chechnya, approximately 150,000 of its residents were granted a forced migrant status. At that, only 12,000 people have received this status since 1995 and as migration officials admit, “the overwhelming majority of them are individuals who are not from the titular ethnic group,” i.e. are not Chechens.
In recent years we have seen an active process of forced migrants been struck off the registers without provision of housing to them. This is seen from the Table below (figures from FMS of Russia):
Struck off the Registers
The Number of Forced Migrants at the Year’s End
The number of forced migrants is declining steadily and by mid-2006 it already dropped to 152,000.
The volume of funds allocated annually to help forced migrants settle down, was in 2005 halved over 2002. The total number of socially unprotected families who are registered as those in need of housing is 48,000. With the current levels of funding, FMS of Russia is able to provide housing to 1.5 to 2.5 thousand families a year. So, it would take 20 to 35 years for the state to fulfill its commitments.
Subsidies that are allocated for forced migrants to buy housing are negligible. For instance, in Udmurtia, the disbursed amounts of 16 to 20 thousand rubles can buy virtually nothing even in remote villages. In the Volgograd Region, a family of three to four people gets 80 to 100 thousand rubles, while the price of one square meter of housing in the region is between 8 and 10 thousand rubles and in the city of Volgograd is hits 17 thousand and more. Therefore, with the allocated money such family can buy only ten square meters of housing outside the region’s capital or five square meters in Volgograd.
The difference in compensations for lost housing and property paid to those residing in the Chechen Republic and those who decided to never return there has become an additional traumatizing factor for IDPs. Resolution of the Government of the RF No.510 of April 30, 1997 set the minimum amount of payments in compensation for lost housing at 120,000 rubles, which amounted before the 1998 default in Russia to approximately 20,000 US dollars. Today it is impossible to buy housing for a family with that sum of money, which does not exceed 4 to 5 thousand dollars.
According to Resolution of the Government of the RF No.404 of July 4, 2003, the amount of payment made in the Chechen Republic in compensation for completely destroyed housing stands at 300,000 rubles.
Since the majority of those who have left Chechnya, never to return, are ethnic Russians, the issue is raised of discrimination of ethnic Russian citizens versus Chechens, which drives a wedge between the people who were once neighbors and creates conditions for a new confrontation. And it is forgotten in the process that between 1997 and 2003 no compensations at all were paid in Chechnya.
Paragraph 10 of Resolution No.404 instructs several ministries to develop in two-months’ time amendments to Resolution No.510 regarding the amount of compensations for lost housing and property, as well as the terms and conditions for their payment.
People were waiting for those changes with high hopes for two years, rather than two months. Instead, on August 4, 2005, in Paragraph 19 of Resolution No.489 the cabinet repealed among many other its decisions Paragraph 10 of Resolution No.404. No explanations were offered in this regard.
Besides, payments under Resolution No.510 are made very slowly. Since 1997, only 39,000 families have received the compensation. Of course, this results in the situation when thousands of families of former residents of the Chechen Republic, irrespective of their ethnic origin, are left without shelter across Russia.
It is impossible to buy housing with the miserable sum of that compensation. This fact was acknowledged by the RF Supreme Court. According to its decision of October 31, 2002, the provision was deleted from the text of Resolution of the Government of the RF No.510, whereby citizens upon receipt of the compensation for housing lost in Chechnya, forfeited the right to receive any other kind of state help in settling down. However, having preserved the right of citizens to receive assistance, the state has not taken any additional obligations. Moreover, the authorities are taking every measure to make those forced migrants from the Chechen Republic who have received the compensation to return to Chechnya.
Situation of IDPs in Temporary Accommodation Centers
The total number of Chechen IDPs who were resettled into temporary accommodation centers (TACs) located outside the North Caucasus is approximately 1,000 people. In 2005, their situation worsened dramatically.
Those migrants whose five-year term since the date of receipt of a forced migrant status has expired are denied extension of this status by local Directorates of the Federal Migration Service (FMSDs). In the Tambov and Novgorod TACs migrants who received compensations for lost housing and property, have also been stripped of their forced migrant status. The Tambov Region Migration Administration issued Regulation No.114 of June 6, 2005, whereby all the individuals without a forced migrant status were to be struck off from the Form No.7 Register. After that the TAC administration filed claims with the court demanding eviction of IDPs.
As of today, all the people without a forced migrant status have been evicted from the Tambov TAC. Only two families have stayed, who have a court’s decision to suspend the execution. No ethnic Chechens without a forced migrant status have been left among the dwellers of the TAC. It should be noted that none of those evicted have returned to Chechnya: they are renting apartments and work, as a rule, as salespeople in the markets, struggling to survive.
In the Tver Region, similar decisions were taken by the court in regard of nine families, or 42 people, from Serebryaniki TAC. In April this year, their eviction was carried out by armed OMON troops.
Many of those evicted have refused temporary housing offers by the Migration Administration. For instance, the family of Nina Galkina, who has three sons, was offered a 15-square-meter room in a communal apartment; she refused to move in.
An elderly disabled man Valery Shayapov refused to move into a room he was offered because he learned that the owner of this room was serving a term for murder and she had heirs who are minors. Since his eviction from the TAC, for two months now Shayapov has been staying in a railway station building for the night.
On April 20, 2006, Kulsum Shavkhalova and her daughter, Petimat, went on a hunger-strike in protest over the court decision to evict them from the TAC. Shavkhalova with her two daughters and three grand-daughters lived in Serebryaniki for six years. Members of the Shavkhalova family are reluctant to return to Chechnya, where their relatives were killed before their eyes. A year ago, the Shavkhalova family was stripped of registration at the TAC. The migration service officials keep refusing to take documents for compensation from Shavkhalova and her daughter Petimat Khatayeva, since they do not have a residence permit. They are counseled to register at someone’s place in the Tver Region, but the family does not have money to rent housing and besides, Chechens are denied registration here and local people are extremely hostile towards them. Shavkhalova and her daughter went on a hunger-strike out of despair. Eleven-year-old Farida, Kulsum Shavkhalova’s grand-daughter, who suffers from tuberculosis, refused to eat, too, – out of solidarity with the grandma.
A few days after they went on a hunger-strike, observer from the Novaya Gazeta newspaper Vyacheslav Izmailov, who came to Serebryaniki, convinced the women to stop the hunger-strike. He had negotiations with the new head of FMSD for the Tver Region Vadim Ivanov to have a temporary registration certificate re-issued to Shavkhalova’s family and their documents for compensation registered.
However, the intervention of the prominent journalist has helped only to postpone the eviction. Members of Shavkhalova’s family have never been registered at Serebryaniki and their documents for compensation have been turned down. All the TAC dwellers are worriedly waiting for the ripples caused by the newspaper article to calm down and the pressure on them to resume.
The evicted dwellers are advised to return to Chechnya, where they have nowhere to live, since their homes are in ruins. Today there are no rooms even at TAPs, as the campaign to shut them down is in full swing.
Families who venture to return home have hard times receiving money from FMSD to pay for their travel. Aisa Khamzatovich Ependiyev’s large family, which has four small children, was given by FMSD 5,000 rubles to buy tickets to Grozny only after they turned to Civic Assistance Committee.
Currently, only ten families have been left at Serebryaniki TAC.
Registration with the Interior Ministry Offices
The problem of getting registered anywhere outside the Chechen Republic is very acute for Chechens. A landlord has to be strongly motivated and have a good knowledge of the laws and stamina to get the police agencies register a Chechen family at his place of residence. Besides, this process is very time-consuming. Often police officers, who are obliged to regularly visit homes where Chechens reside, threaten the owners of rented housing with trouble. This leads to the situation where in most cases landlords refuse registration to Chechens and prefer either to turn down the inconvenient tenants or allow them to rent housing, but without registration.
Even when landlords give their consent, which is quite rare, a struggle to get registered can go on for months, if not years.
The Mukhadiyev brothers, who live in the town of Elektrogorsk, the Moscow Region, had been seeking registration for over three years (their story was detailed in Reports “On the Situation of Residents of Chechnya in the Russian Federation, June 2003 – May 2004” and “On the Situation of Residents of Chechnya in the Russian Federation, June 2004 – June 2005,” Memorial Human Rights Center, R.Valent Publishers, 2004, 2005).
The head of the local passport office presented no grounds which would warrant denial of registration. Besides, the apartment where the Mukhadiyevs lived was regularly visited on inspection by a police detail; police officers were acting very rude, they kicked the door, gave threats and fined them because of the absence of registration every time they came.
The owner of the apartment and the Mukhadiyevs’ neighbors wrote letters to Civic Assistance Committee, expressing their anger over the police’ actions. However, the correspondence between the Committee and the law-enforcement agencies has yielded no results.
On February 23, 2005, members of the Human Rights Council at the RF President Svetlana Gannushkina and Oleg Orlov met the prosecutor of the Pavlov-Posad District Kirsanov and only with great difficulty managed to persuade him to take measures to enforce the law in regard of the Mukhadiyevs. They were registered for six months. In autumn 2005, they were again denied registration and this time it had to be sought with the leadership of FMS of Russia.
In denying registration to Chechens, officials from passport offices often invent requirements which are absent from the residence registration rules. For instance, a resident of Grozny Said-Magomed Shaptukayev, who is living in Moscow after a kidney transplant operation, has failed to get registered at his friends’ place. Officials at the passport office said he needed to prove his kinship to the apartment’s owner and get an approval for registration from the Directorate of the Housing Policy Department. The requirements were utterly absurd and unlawful, but only a superior agency, to which human rights activists turned, was able to prove it to the passport office staff.
A forced migrant from Chechnya Tamara Alautdinova Marziyeva, a mother of four, two of whom are disabled, was denied registration in Moszhilservis (“Moscow Housing Service”) on the grounds that the living space at the place of residence was not large enough. The denial is conflict with Article 6.1 of the RF Law “On Forced Migrants,” which reads that a forced migrant may live with his relatives or other individuals, provided he has their consent, irrespective of the size of the living space they occupy.
In Moscow registration of Chechens, when it is done, is accompanied with a humiliating procedure, which includes getting a permit for registration from the head of the local police precinct, special check of the criminal record, compulsory fingerprinting, and making full face and profile “mugshots.” And if a registration certificate is ultimately isssued, a file is created on virtually every Chechen, like on a potential criminal.
While getting registered for families who have support of local friends and are constantly monitored by prominent human rights organizations is such a burdensome process, those who fail to get in touch with human rights activists and persuade the landlords to show persistence have no chance to get registered.
In mid-July 2006, the Akhmatkhanov family, which lived in Moscow for many years because of the need of continuous follow-up care at the Moscow Eye Clinic for a daughter with an eye injury, was subjected to harassment by a precinct police officer. And, as a matter of fact, the officer who bothered the family and the apartment owner supervised the area that was different from where the Akhmatkhanovs live. Apparently, he had some personal interest in the apartment which the inhabitants inherited after the death of its owner. Such apartments, vacated after the death of lonely people without heirs, are often granted to officers from the Interior Ministry. The officer was calling in the owners, was intimidating them and demanding to terminate the rent agreement. He was substantiating his demands with a statement: “We do need any Chechens in our precincts!”
The head of the police precinct has not called his subordinate to order.
Restrictions of Rights Because of the Absence of Registration
The absence of registration creates numerous problems for migrants from Chechnya.
They are denied access to free medical services, although virtually all of them do need them. The consequences of stress and hard living conditions experienced during the hostilities are causing serious illnesses in children and adults. The law guarantees provision of urgent medical help, however, it is often accompanied by humiliation of human dignity, particularly, when assistance is provided to women who are giving birth – records are made in their medical documents about the absence of place of residence.
People are denied opportunity to get a job with a duly executed employment contract, which worsens the already poor financial situation of families.
With the introduction of Law No.122, receipt of state allowances and pensions becomes impossible in the absence of registration. Getting children enrolled in kindergartens and sometimes in schools also becomes more difficult.
Access to medical services is a vital issue. In some regions one cannot even buy a medical insurance policy without a registration – such are, for instance, the rules for compulsory medical insurance applied in the Volgograd Region and endorsed by the Direction No.542 of June 26, 2001 of the head of regional administration.
Many applications to human rights organizations are prompted by situations where provision of medical services to children is discontinued because their parents failed to get registered or extend their registration.
Toyit Akhmetovna Elmurzayeva’s large family has five children. Her husband was assigned to serve at MVD of Chechnya, however, the family cannot return there as their housing is destroyed. Her three older children attend Moscow School No.1057 and are registered at Children’s Clinic No.78, which services cover the area where the school is located. The children have been denied the opportunity to get services at that clinic because the registration term expired. Because of it, Dzhambulat and Aslambek Elmurzayev could not get health certificates they needed to participate in sporting competitions. Elmurzayeva cannot obtain the registration, since the apartment’s owner is ill and is not able to prepare the documents.
The Akhmatkhanovs are another large family from Chechnya residing in Moscow. Because of the absence of registration not all the children in the family have access to medical services. The mother, Aset Magomedovna Akhmatkhanova, is raising the children alone. Two her younger daughters, Liana and Khava, were registered at Children’s Clinic No.119. When the registration was made, her younger children were not entered into the mother’s certificate because of the insufficient size of the living space. The Akhmatkhanov sisters were denied medical services because of it.
Even appeals by human rights organizations to the Healthcare Department with requests to register children from large families at clinics in the absence of residence registration by no means always yield positive results.
Another important issue is access to pre-school institutions. Directors of Moscow schools and kindergartens continue to deny enrollment to children of unregistered parents, despite the fact that as early as in December 2000, the municipal court found the relevant provision in the registration rules to be in conflict with the law.
Medent Sayid-Aliyevna Sharshuyeva from the Chechen Republic, who temporarily lives in Moscow together with her husband and son, cannot get her son, Deni Beziyev (born 2002), to get enrolled in a kindergarten in Yasenevo District in Moscow. The head of Kindergarten No.1070 requests a residence registration certificate as a prerequisite for the child’s admission. Sharshuyeva cannot prepare the registration documents, since the apartment where she lives has not yet been transferred into ownership of an heir after the death of the landlord.
Zina Magomedovna Dugzayeva from Chechnya is temporarily residing in Moscow together with her two children. After her daughter Amina was enrolled in Kindergarten No.874, she signed on the insistence of the kindergarten’s administration a contract to the effect that the child is enrolled until the expiry date of her residence registration. In January 2006, the registration expired and a threat emerged of Amina been expelled from the kindergarten. At the time, Zina Dugzayeva was not able to extend registration at her previous address of residence.
Meanwhile, the opportunity to send her older child to a kindergarten is essential for Dugzayeva, since she herself suffers from a serious form of bronchial asthma, and, moreover, she has a one-year old baby to care for. In response to an appeal by Civic Assistance Committee, the Education Department sent a letter reading that the problem cannot be solved without registration. Only after the chairwoman of the reception office of Civic Assistance Yelena Burtina personally approached the Department’s official who wrote the response, they managed to persuade the official to help Dugzayeva’s daughter stay in the kindergarten without presenting a residence registration certificate.
Since January 1, 2005, other components of social protection in Russia have also deteriorated. For the first time payments were discontinued of child allowances to large Chechen families at places of their actual residence. The new Federal Law No.122 of August 22, 2004, shouldered, starting from 2005, these payments on the budgets of local authorities, which are unwilling to take the burden of upkeeping “temporary” residents. For instance, the Moscow Department for Social Protection of the Population decided, as an exception, to pay monthly child allowances to the large families of T.A. Elmurzayeva (five children in the family) and Kh.Kh. Khasbulatova (three children) during the term of their temporary residence registrations only after the appeals by a human rights organization. Positive decisions are by no means always taken in such situations.
Under the new law, pensioners, disabled persons and children from large families have been stripped of their right to free pass by municipal transport, which, given their low incomes and expensive fares, has dealt a huge blow to the budgets of many families. For instance, Petimat Serodzhiyeva Tsomayeva, a refugee from Chechnya, who lives in the Moscow Region, got a job in Moscow as an advertising distributor. She has to take a commuter train every day to her work. Before the introduction of the law on monetary compensation she enjoyed free pass on suburban trains as a person disabled from childhood. Now the travel costs consume a third of her daily wages. She is not issued a social security card of a permanent resident of the Moscow Region, which grants the right to free pass, since she has a temporary registration. Schoolgirls from a large family Leila and Laura Umarova have also been refused social security cards by the Moscow Department for Social Protection, as they are not permanent residents.
Problems with pensions have also become very acute. Pension benefits without a registration certificate are granted only to those people from Chechnya who were registered as pensioners outside the Republic before December 1997. All the remaining residents of Chechnya, including those who left it after hostilities were resumed in autumn 1999, can get registered as pensioners outside the republic only if they have a residence registration and a pensioner’s file. However, most residents of the republic, leaving it in a situation of hostilities, were not able to take their pensioner’s files with them. Coupled with a secret ban on registering Chechens, this circumstance denies virtually all pensioners and disabled persons from Chechnya who live outside the republic an opportunity to receive even a minimum pension.
Illegal Detentions and Harassment
Various forms of harassing Chechens – illegal detentions, frame-ups, etc. – are widely used by law-enforcement agencies as “prevention” means in combating terrorism.
One of such cases on March 26, 2006, was reported by the already-well known to us Mukhadiyev brothers from the town of Elektrogorsk outside Moscow.
They told us that on the previous night, on Friday, officers from a passport service were conducting an ID check at a construction site of the Lenin Cultural Center in Elektrogorsk. All the workers were taken by bus to the Pavlov-Posad UVD (Directorate of the Interior Ministry). After the ID check, almost all illegal workers, the majority of whom were people from the Central Asian states, were released.
Four persons were detained: Ingush Magomed Tarchkhoyev and Dzhabrayil Veliyev, and Chechens Ali Mustakhadzhiyev and Khalid Azmatkiriyev.
Only on the night of March 26, the chairwoman of Civic Assistance Committee Svetlana Gannushkina managed to get a phone connection to a duty officer at the Internal Security Department (USB) for the Moscow Region, who made inquiries in Pavlov-Posad and said that no criminal charges were being pressed against the four detainees. They were charged with disorderly conduct: supposedly, they had been swearing in the police station. This could hardly be true, since it would seem strange if the intimidated people were to swear during the detention, using Russian swear words. It cannot be ruled out that a call from the USB prevented the police from committing more serious illegal actions, like planting drugs or weapons on the detainees. On Sunday, they were to be tried for hooliganism by a justice of the peace.
In accordance with Article 94 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RF, “If a judge’s decree to put the suspect in custody or extend his detention as a measure of restraint does not arrive within 48 hours since the moment of his detention, such suspect shall be immediately released.”
On the Sunday morning, Svetlana Gannushkina again started to make calls to officers on duty at the Chief Directorate of the Interior Ministry (GUVD) and the police Internal Security Department (USB) for the Moscow Region. It emerged that that the trial did not take place because of the absence of a judge. The duty officers were insisting that in such a situation the detention may be extended. After some debates on interpretation of the Code of Civil Procedure we got a promise that by the night of Sunday, i.e. upon the expiration of 48 hours since their detention the four detainees would be released.
And indeed, exactly upon the expiration of 48 hours, however, since the drafting of the protocol, rather than the moment of detention, late at night, the construction workers were released. For 48 hours they were not only given food, but even the food their foreman brought to them was turned down by the police.
Two days later Akhmet Mukhadiyev called Gannushkina again and said that both Ali Mustakhadzhiyev and Khalid Azmatkiriyev had been sacked. The foreman said FSB officers threatened the boss to shut down his entire business if he employs Chechens.
Practical experience shows that turning to this organization with any inquiries does not make any sense at all. It is impossible to get any response or explanation from them. Full denial is the only reaction one gets from the leadership of local departments of FSB to any telephone calls with a request to explain the demands of their officers.
It should be noted that pressure on employers on the part of police agencies and security services is exerted on a regular basis – they are discouraged or directly prohibited from employing Chechens. In November 2005, in Moscow, 16 drivers were sacked simultaneously from Taxi Company No.20. They were Chechen drivers, to whom the management frankly said that such was a demand by FSB. Subsequently, FSB officials denied their involvement in that dismissal; however, no one of the Chechens, including permanent residents of Moscow, has been reinstated in his job.
Any Chechen becomes the first suspect when any violation of public order occurs.
For instance, on Saturday, July 15, 2006, at around 12:00 p.m., a shoot-out between criminal gangs occurred in the Krylatskoye District of Moscow.
This led to Chechens and Dagestanis been detained throughout the neighborhood; according to witnesses, there were some 70 men in total. Four of them spoke by telephone to a lawyer with the Migration Rights Network. The detained men were kept without food and water for over 24 hours. After the lawyer arrived, they were released with no charges presented. They real perpetrators have been hardly found, given such an approach towards investigations.
On March 17, 2006, in the city of Tver, officers from the Federal Security Service Directorate (UFSB) for the Tver Region detained Adlan Mazuyev (born 1984), Murad Magomedov (born 1982) and Murad Khadzhiyev (born 1981). All three are residents of the village of Samashki, Achkhoi-Martan District, where they were immediately convoyed. On March 20, they were brought to the Achkhoi-Martan ROVD.
In 2003, one of them, Adlan Mazuyev, was detained on suspicion of involvement with illegal armed groups. Following the interrogations, he was released. To avoid any misunderstandings in the future, his parents took an official paper from the head of the criminal police office of the Achkhoi-Martan ROVD Captain Vinogradov, certifying that Adlan Mazuyev was not in the databases of the ROVD and FSB and was not involved in anything illegal. Vinogradov also gave them advice to send Adlan to their senior son in the city of Tver, as peaceful times were not to come soon to Chechnya.
Upon his release, Adlan immediately went to Tver to his brother, Aslan Mazuyev, who after graduation from an institute lived and worked in that city. Aslan got his brother a job of a freight forwarding agent in a private business and registered him at his home.
The second detainee, Murad Magomedov, came to Tver to join an institute; however, he failed his exams and decided to stay, having got a job as a security guard at a construction depot.
Murad Khadzhiyev, the third detainee, had been living in Tver since 2005, working for a construction company. In 1996, Murad sustained a shell fragment wound to the head during an artillery bombardment. His left eye was removed and a shell fragment in his head was left in his head which the doctors failed to take away.
On March 17, 2006, Adlan Mazuyev and Murad Magomedov were driving in a car together with their friends. They were stopped by State Traffic Safety Inspectorate (GIBDD) officers for an ID check. After checking their documents, the officers spoke to someone on a radio set. A snatch squad arrived in a few minutes; they detained the Chechens and drove them away in an unknown direction. Two companions of Mazuyev and Magomedov were released a few hours later.
On the night of the same day Aslan got a call from UFSB and was told that his brother was detained, however, no information was given about where he was held. Only after Aslan turned to the Tver Prosecutor’s Office with an application, he was summoned to UFSB and told that his brother, Adlan Mazuyev, was sent, upon his detention, to the Achkhoi-Martan ROVD in connection with a request that had come from there.
Adlan was again charged with involvement with illegal armed groups. The paper issued by Captain Vinogradov in 2003 has not helped him.
The young men have moved as far away as possible from Chechnya, hoping for a quiet life in a Russian province, however, nowhere on the territory of Russia can Chechens escape harassment and trumped-up charges of involvement with terrorist activities.
All three are now being charged with involvement with illegal armed groups.
Reprisals against Chechens by law-enforcement agencies are often taking place just because there are many officers in their ranks who have been hardened in their assignments in Chechnya. An illustrative incident was described by SOVA Information and Analysis Center.
On June 17, 2006, in the city of Tver, at a university hostel, three Chechens, who were students of the Tver State University (TGU), were beaten up – Lema Kabzayev, Yakhia Aushev and Aslan Tausov.
Five men broke into the hostel’s room and fired point-blank at two Chechens with a rubber bullet pistol (shooting with this weapon is allowed from a distance of not less than 3 meters). Then the students were pushed to the floor and kicked. One of the attackers was shouting in the process, “I used to kill you there and will do so here!” There was an officer from the Tver Special Rapid Reaction Unit (SOBR), a Chechnya war veteran, among the attackers.
An ambulance van took the victims to a hospital, however, the doctors, upon learning that one of the attackers was a police officer, at first denied hospitalization for the Chechens. Only after some persuading were the patients taken to the neurosurgery department of the Fourth Municipal Hospital. All the victims were diagnosed with brain concussion. L. Kabzayev had his nose broken and ligaments torn in his left arm; Ya. Aushev had two ribs broken; and A. Tausov had his kidney crushed and his nose broken.
Officers at the Zavolzhsky District OVD (Interior Ministry Department) kept refusing to take applications from the victims. The applications were registered only after the parents of the students threatened a court action.
According to the victims, on June 19, 2006, they were visited in hospital by police officers, who came to get their accounts of the incident. A police officer hinted to the victims that he did not believe them, since “things do not just happen.” The policemen also claimed that one of the Chechens had had a knife on him.
The attackers were taken to a police station; however, they were immediately released. The Press Office of the Regional UVD (Directorate of the Interior Ministry) said that a trivial scuffle took place at the hostel. The police report of the incident refers to “improper behavior” of four university students from Chechnya, who, according to one version, were spitting at a baby pram, or, were tossing cigarette stubs from the balcony, according to another.
The Region Prosecutor Viktor Kryuchkov instructed the internal security department to conduct an investigation. Head of the UVD Aleksandr Kulikov also took the investigation of the incident under his personal control. However, no criminal case was opened into the incident.
The leader of the Chechen community of the Tver Region Abdul Turtuzov is also like officers from law-enforcement agencies of the opinion that the scuffle at the hostel was just a quarrel: “Chechen university students have suffered in this scuffle. But I want to note that the Chechen diaspora does not see any signs of inter-ethnic conflict in the fight between them and a law-enforcement officer. It was just a quarrel, which appeared out of nowhere.”
This statement can be easily explained: the leader of the Chechen diaspora tries to maintain the fragile balance. As early as before 1994, quite a lot of Chechen families lived in rural areas of the Tver Region. During the hostilities, these families gave shelter to their suffering relatives. Small compact settlements of Chechens that have thus emerged in the region are constantly harassed, about which we have more than once reported in the previous publications in this series (see “The Internally Displaced Persons from Chechnya in the Russian Federation,” June 2002 – May 2003,” Memorial Human Rights Center, 2003, R.Valent Publishers).
Yet another testimony to the fact that there is not a corner in Russia for a Chechen, where he could feel safe is the story of abduction of Lema Bitiyevich Dzhabrailov in the Republic of Komi.
On July 7, 2006, at three in the morning, SOBR officers burst into the house in the village of Anyb, the Ust-Kulom District of the Komi Republic, where Dzhabrailov lived together with his family. As usual, the officers did not introduce themselves and did not present any warrants, just informing the family that they were conducting a detention in response to a request from the Chechnya Commandant's Office.
In July 2004, officers from Russian security services abducted and subsequently killed Lema’s elder brother, Mussa Dzhabrailov, who was suspected of participation in illegal armed groups. After the death of his brother, L.B. Dzhabrailov decided to flee the Chechen Republic together with his family.
Lema Dzhabrailov is known to have taken no part in either the first or the second Chechen campaign, was never a member of any armed group, never committed any crimes and does not intend to do it in the future.
As of now, Dzhabrailov’s relatives have no information as to the place where the abductee is held or the charges pressed against him. They are afraid that Lema could be subjected to torture to force self-incrimination out of him.
There is no information about Lema Dzhabrailov’s whereabouts or fate.
We know from long ago and first-hand the story of the Chitayev family. Back in 2000, they were charged with participation in illegal armed groups, on the grounds that soldier’s overcoats were found in the basement of their house. There was nothing surprising in that, since the Chitayev brothers had served as conscripts in the armed forces. The real reason for their detention, throwing them into the Chernokozovo SIZO, which is notorious for its harsh treatment of persons under investigation, and the torture they were subjected to was their simple desire to get back what was looted during the special operation. Fortunately, thanks to the stir about the incident in the media, intervention of human rights activists, and, most importantly, the attention by representatives of OSCE, the Chitayevs stayed alive and were released.
After the release they went different ways. Arbi Chitayev went abroad.
His brother Adam, despite the fact that it was him who spoke out in the press about what was happening in Chernokozovo, decided to stay in Russia.
Adam went to a small Siberian town of Ust-Ilimsk, where till autumn 2005 he was engaged in his peaceful profession – teaching the English language.
In September 2005, it emerged that his case was not closed and the charges of participation in armed bandit groups and abduction of people were never dropped. All the official media reported capture in Ust-Ilimsk of a dangerous member of an IAG, who was on the federal wanted list. Of course, the report about the capture of a humble teacher who was passed off as a bandit served as an important feed to boost the public opinion. However, that was only a part of the story: the Chitayevs filed with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg a complaint against the RF charging it with violation of their rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. After that complaint was communicated to the RF Government, there was an immediate response from the authorities, as it had been before in many cases that we have detailed.
Immediately after the arrest of Adam Chitayev, an article by Anna Politkovskaya appeared in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. An attempt to break Chitayev and make him withdraw the complaint from the European Court failed. The accusation was too absurd and the case was too high-profile. One month later, Chitayev returned to Ust-Ilimsk.
(For more details of the Chitayevs case see Appendix 11.)
Well-known is the story of Zaurbek Talkhigov, the only person convicted in the investigation into the tragedy at the Dubrovka Theater Center. Talkhigov came there responding to a call from the State Duma Deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who asked Moscow Chechens to come to replace hostages. Under constant supervision of FSB officers Zaurbek was negotiating over the telephone with the leader of the terrorists and talked him into releasing several foreigners. However, the paradoxical logic of security services prompted them to arrest him as an accomplice in the crime who allegedly passed to the terrorists the information they required and sentence him to eight years in prison (for more details see Report “On the Situation of Residents of Chechnya in the Russian Federation, June 2004 – June 2005,” M., 2005).
Zaurbek Talkhigov filed a complaint with the European Court. After his complaint was communicated to Russia in June 2005, the penal colony administration filed an application requesting a more restrictive custody for him. On August 11, 2005, in Syktyvkar, a court hearing was held to consider that application.
Talkhigov was charged with regular – 23 counts in total – violations of the custody rules. They included:
– Zaurbek addressed a guard on a first-name basis (which is traditional for Chechens);
– he refused to eat with a dirty wooden spoon which the guard said to him had been deliberately brought from a barrack for tuberculosis patients and broke it;
– he did not obey the “lights out” command, since he had not finished his prayer;
– he showed up to formation in a new uniform without stripes, which she got one minute before the call to formation and without a needle and thread to sew them on, etc.
For all these “sins” Zaurbek had already received and underwent the imposed disciplinary punishments.
The court decided to transfer Talkhigov for a two-year period from colony to prison.
After Zaurbek was brought in February 2006, to Prison ÞÍ 78/Ò in the town of Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk Region, he was subjected to beatings.
In June this year, prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya was going to visit him in prison. On June 13, 2006, Talkhigov was told at the prison administration office that in interviews to members of the press he should refrain from mentioning about the beatings he had been subjected to in February. Zaurbek said that although the beating has stopped and no physical pressure was being exerted on him at the moment he did not deem it necessary to conceal what had happened to him in February.
On June 16, some new worrisome information emerged: Talkhigov’s skin abruptly turned yellow, which prompted the prison doctor to speak of the need to hospitalize him. It must be said that Zaurbek is constantly taking medicines for pain in the stomach, from which he has been suffering for quite a long time.
On the 12th day of illness it emerged that the yellowness of the whites of the eyes and the skin, which Zaurbek had developed on June 16, were the first symptoms of a serious liver disease.
Of course, we do not have sufficient grounds to claim that his new sudden illness had to do with medicinal substances he was taking, supplied from the prison pharmacy, and with the warning he had received from the administration, however, the succession of events cannot fail to raise serious concerns.
At the same time, Anna Politkovskaya received a response to her request to visit Zaurbek in prison. She was refused on the grounds that, according to the information the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) had, Talkhigov intended to file a complaint with the European Court; therefore any publication about him could be seen as pressure on the court. The FPS believed that pending a final decision by the European Court any interaction of Talkhigov with the mass media was out of the question.
Such a legal stance of the FPS, which is subordinated to the Ministry of Justice, does not need any comment.
As we have already noted in the previous report, bringing the matter before the European Court causes many troubles to the applicant, which makes this mechanism of international legal protection not only not efficient enough, but even dangerous for the applicant.
As before, we come up against situations where towards the end of their prison terms new charges are pressed on former residents of Chechnya for real or invented crimes.
On April 26, 2006, Aishat Abdrakhimovna Nalgiyeva (born 1940), who has a disability of the second category and is currently residing in Ingushetia, turned to Civic Assistance Committee. Her only son, Adam Ibragimovich Nalgiyev (born 1971), was sentenced to 3.5 years in custody for a theft he had committed and sent to serve his term to penal colony “ÎÄ” No.1/2 in the town of Pokrov, the Vladimir Region.
His prison term was due to expire on March 16, 2007. And on April 24, 2006, when relatives came to visit Adam Nalgiyev in the colony they found that he was not there. They turned to the colony administration and were informed by its officials that they did not have any information as to his whereabouts.
Only in the end of June, after the Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin sent a letter to the Federal Penitentiary Service, they managed to establish that the prisoner had been transferred to another, more restrictive, correctional facility; no reasons were explained for that transfer. For two months the mother did not know anything about what was happening to her son.
Unfortunately, this episode is by no means an isolated incident. It took lawyers affiliated with the Migration Rights Network more than a month and a half to establish the whereabouts of prisoner Tsuroyev, who was sent to the RF Supreme Court for cassation hearing in his case. Tsuroyev suffers from open tuberculosis and, according to his wife, he was in very bad physical condition. Perhaps, the place of his custody in Moscow was kept secret to win time to give him at least some medical treatment.
Reports by Memorial HRC have cited numerous cases of trumped-up criminal cases on charges of purchase, possession and sale of drugs or weapons that were planted on Chechens.
On April 6, 2005, the President of the Chechen Republic Alu Alkhanov told INTERFAX news agency that he intended to turn to the Russian law-enforcement agencies with a request to review criminal cases against residents of Chechnya based on such charges.
“The case is now in the courts where rogue policemen and security officers, guided by high-ranking officials, were engaged in planting drugs and ammunition on law-abiding citizens and sending them to prison on trumped-up charges,” reminded Alu Alkhanov during a meeting with journalists in Grozny.
Therefore, as President of Chechnya said, he “believes it necessary to request a thorough revision of the cases involving Chechens who were detained and subsequently sentenced on such charges in the cities and towns Russia.”
Needless to say, such revision was never done and dozens of innocent young Chechens continue to languish in captivity, serving their terms on trumped-up charges.
Anti-Chechen Sentiments among Local Residents
Animosity towards Chechens who settled down in central Russia has become a permanent feature. From time to time it turns into pogroms and massive inter-ethnic clashes.
On August 18, 2005, in the village of Yandyki, the Liman District, the Astrakhan Region, a massive scuffle broke out between Chechens and Kalmyks, in which around 300 persons participated. The conflict started after on August 16, 2005, Nikolay Boldarev, a 24-year-old Kalmyk, was killed in a night bar. On August 18, about 300 Kalmyk villages rallied together after his funeral and went through the village, beating Chechens and setting their homes on fire. As a result, dozens of people were beaten up, five persons hospitalized and eight houses burnt down.
On August 19, a gathering of local residents took place in the village of Yandyki, with approximately five hundred people in attendance, mostly Russians and Kalmyks. The gathering resulted in an initiative group been set up, consisting of nine persons. Initially the gathering presented the local authorities with an ultimatum: if before October 2005 Chechens were not evicted from the village, pogroms and beatings of Chechens would be continued.
A compromise was struck later through negotiations. On September 2, another gathering of the villagers was attended by representatives of the Government of Chechnya and non-governmental organizations of Kalmykia. Three Chechens were included into an initiative group for settlement of the conflict. The group adopted a joint statement which urged the authorities to intensify efforts to identify the perpetrators of the killing and massive pogroms from both sides. Members of the initiative group agreed to organize joint squads to maintain public order in the village. Homeless fire victims were temporarily housed in a hostel in the district capital of Liman until their houses could be rebuilt.
The investigation led to 13 people been taken into custody on suspicion of staging riots, including 12 Chechens who started the fight and just one Kalmyk, who instigated the pogroms.
On February 20, 2006, a trial was held of Anatoly Bagiyev, a Kalmyk, who was found guilty of staging mass riots and sentenced to seven years in custody.
On March 1, 2006, a trial was held in the city of Astrakhan of the 12 Chechens who started the fight. A concrete person guilty of the murder of Boldarev was not identified. According to local residents, the victim might at all have been killed by the policemen who were trying to separate the fighting men. The 12 defendants were sentenced to serve 2.5 to 5 years in minimum-security correctional facility. Not a single Kalmyk was held responsible for the scuffle in which their fellow villager was killed.
On March 7, 2006, the Web site Khronometr Astrakhan posted a report about a statement made by the Press Secretary of the regional prosecutor’s office Anna Konyaeva. She said that several more men involved in mass rioting in Yandyki were to be brought before the court shortly. One of them was Sergey Bagiyev, the brother of the convicted Anatoly Bagiyev. He was charged with participation in the pogroms and arson of the homes of Chechens.
In addition, a trial will be held of the former head of the Liman ROVD Vasily Gorokhov. He lived on the main street of the village, near the Chechen houses that were set on fire, but did not take any attempt to stop the rioting. Vasily Gorokhov, as well as the head of the criminal police Aleksandr Bimbeyev were charged with negligence and a criminal case was opened against them.
In Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, mass fights between local and Chechen university students are taking place on a regular basis. A detailed description of the events that took place on September 20-23, 2005, in the city of Nalchik, is given in Roza Satuyeva’s article published on October 11, 2005, in the newspaper Chechenskoye Obshchestvo [Chechen Society].
“Starting from September 20, 2005, groups of young people aged 14 to 20 and armed with baseball bats have been driving around the city by five to seven cars with no license plates. They were hunting down and beating Chechens. Similar groups on foot have been rioting in public places, houses and yards where Chechens live. Since the time it started people from Chechnya have stopped going outside, having found themselves under “house arrest.”
On September 23, 2005, near the university building a mass fight took place, with participation of approximately 200 people. One hour after the battle, local students rallied outside the building of the Kabardino-Balkaria State University (KBGU), demanding that all Chechens be driven out of the university and the city. After the rally, armed groups of young men were hunting down and beating up Chechens in public places and throwing stones at cars with license plates carrying the 95 figure (i.e. Region 95, the CR).
Dozens of Chechens sustained injuries of varying severity. Chechen children did not go to school during the riots and university students did not attend classes. Many young people were forced to leave Kabardino-Balkaria for personal safety reasons.
According to university students, on September 23, even before the fight started, a bus arrived at the campus with police officers, who not only did not try to prevent a scuffle, but on the contrary were encouraging their fellow countrymen and prodding them to take active action.
When a crowd of more than a hundred people encircled Chechen students and started beating them, officers from contract security of the Chechen Republic MVD, who happened to be in transit across the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, arrived at the scene. They fired several shots in the air, which stopped the crowd.
The boys seized upon that opportunity and ran inside the nearest police station hoping for help from public officers. However, there both they and the Chechen police officers were beaten by policemen, after which they were illegally detained.
Representatives of the official authorities of Chechnya and the working group of the Department for Upholding the Constitutional Rights of Citizens Residing in the CR came to Nalchik to settle the conflict. Members of the group voiced the opinion that the conflict was basically of inter-ethnic origin and happened with the direct connivance and because of the failure to act on the part of law-enforcement agencies of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic.
Despite the participation in negotiations of official representatives of the Chechen side, only Chechens have been punished. Nine Chechens were apprehended for rioting, including four contract security guards attached to Nurenergo energy company, four students and one resident of Nalchik, who has a permanent residence registration in the city.
A criminal case was opened into the incident under Article “Hooliganism,” which has been pursued by an investigation team from the South Federal District Prosecutor’s Office, led by special investigator Yury Panchenko.