Streetwise Professor

July 16, 2009

Accessory Before, During, and After the Fact

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:36 pm

This article by Tom Parfitt in the Guardian on Ramzan Kadyrov and the murder of Natasha Estemirova brings to mind descriptions of Ivan the Terrible and his Oprichnina:

Kadyrov, a 32-year-old former rebel who came over to Russia’s side and took power in 2007, is notorious for controlling thousands of armed devotees known as the “kadyrovtsy”, who are now supposedly absorbed into official force structures. He brooks no dissent in his republic, and the kadyrovtsy have repeatedly been accused of torture, kidnappings and extra-judicial killings. It is true that the kadyrovtsy are fighting armed and ruthless Islamist militants who have committed terrorist attacks, but their efforts have often spilled into persecution of innocent civilians. One person who wrote about their excesses was the campaigning journalist  Anna Politkovskaya (who was assassinated in 2006). Another who investigated abuses was the human rights lawyer, Stanislav Markelov (shot twice in the back of the head in central Moscow in January). A third detractor, who told reporters that Kadyrov personally tortured him, was a former member of the president’s bodyguard, Umar Israilov (shot dead in Vienna in January). A fourth, and Kadyrov’s most vocal critic inside Chechnya, was Estemirova.

Like the oprichniki, the kadyrovsty run amok committing murder, robbery, and mayhem for the benefit of their autocratic, psychopathic boss–and no doubt benefit themselves in the process.

There is a difference, of course.  Ivan was a true autocrat, dependent on no one.  Indeed, the formation of the Oprichnina was part of an effort to eliminate his dependence on the boyars–indeed, to eliminate the boyars period.  Kadyrov, on the other hand, is the creation of Vladimir Putin.  I would say the creature of Putin, but there is some reason to doubt how much control Putin exercises over Kadyrov.

That said, it is certainly the case that with the entire resources of the Russian state–and its security apparatus–at his disposal, Putin could bring Kadyrov to heel–or the grave.  But he chooses not to.  Why?  Because he is willing to let Kadyrov and his neo-oprichniki run amok as long as they keep Chechen rebels under a modicum of control, no matter the human cost.  Vladimir Putin is therefore an accessory to every murder, rape, or other felony committed by Kadyrov and his minions.

Now, the defense is sure to be that the Chechen rebels are a vicious lot who must be destroyed.  They are indeed vicious, and should be destroyed.  But that does not justify any and all means.  The United States has waged a largely successful war against similarly brutal and murderous terrorists and thugs without engaging in anywhere near the kind of tactics that Kadyrov–and Putin–employ on a daily basis.  Rendition is troubling, but employed on a very select group of suspects; Putin and Kadyrov in effect subject every Chechen to the risk of the worst that rendition cold possibly offer.  If Gitmo is a moral stain on the US–and I don’t believe that it is for a moment–there are no words capable of describing how Chechnya degrades Russia.

And responsibility for that rests at the highest level of the Russian government.

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  1. Medvedev is “shocked” and will investigate like anyone has ever been brought brought to justice in these human rights activist’s murders. The Kremlin knew this woman’s life was in peril and had a duty to protect her. It is reported by her peers that Kadyrov had threatened her publicly. It was also reported that this made headlines in none of the Russian newspapers so complete is Putin’s media control.

    And notice how Putin’s little pilot fish head for deeper water when any irrefutable act of amoral depravity implicating the Kremlin surfaces like this.

    Comment by penny — July 16, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

  2. Little pilot fish calling.

    What links this to Putin or even Kadyrov? You know, that whole evidence thing that rule of law people like your good selves like to big up?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 16, 2009 @ 10:57 pm

  3. I have no desire to defend Putin in Chechnya, but he is certainly not the only or most ruthless leader to stomp on the Chechens. If one accepts the Russian pretense that Chechnya must remain part of Russia, which I do not, while at the same time many Chechens reject it then the options are limited. One can forcibly deport them from the Caucasus like Stalin. One can wage a war of annihilation like Yeltsin and Putin did earlier. Or one can establish a police state with the help of local collaborators like the Soviets did after 1957 and Putin has done with Kadyrov. Out of all these options for keeping Chechnya in Russia the last option is the least brutal. So as bad as the current situation is it is an improvement upon Putin’s earlier strategy of reducing Grozny and other cities to rubble. It would of course be best to just let the Chechens exercise real national self determination.

    Comment by J. Otto Pohl — July 17, 2009 @ 3:57 am


    You are a true psychopath, and a liar to boot. Kadyrov OPENLY threatened her life MANY times, and the Kremlin did NOTHING in response, clearly sanctioning his threats.

    Russia’s defenders are left with nothing but their psychotic drive to simply rewrite both the past and present just as the Soviets did. Didn’t work then, won’t work now. With each brutal killing, Russia is more and more exposed before the gaping eyes of the world. Last year Nabucco was a pipe dream, this year a reality. We’re wise to your lies. Your days are numbered. Deal with it, you freak.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 17, 2009 @ 5:09 am

  5. S/O:

    Read carefully. This post is about the Kadyrov’s reign of terror and Putin’s (and it should be said, Medvedev’s) support for it. There is abundant evidence for that. Ironically, much of it produced by Estemirova. And before that, Politkovskaya. Both dead. Do you have any doubt whatsoever that Kadyrov is waging a war of terror against the populace of Chechnya? That he is doing so with the blessing of the Russian government?

    With respect to Estemirova’s murder specifically, certainly at this early date, evidence sufficient to convict in a real court (note I don’t say a Russian one, because they aren’t real courts) is lacking. But the circumstantial case is there. Even you can see that, even if you won’t admit it. And the pattern is quite clear: if you are an enemy of Kadyrov, you die. And if you die, Putin will either ignore your death, or slander your name. Putin has remained conspicuously silent in the aftermath of Estemirov’s death. Perhaps that’s a blessing. At least he hasn’t insulted here. Perhaps he’s just waiting to do that until the questions become too tiresome, as was the case with Politkovskaya.

    The only response of Kadyrov and Medvedev is to recycle the lame claim that the Estemirova execution was performed by provocateurs wanting to discredit Russia. The evidence for that, S/O? Zilch. There are allegedly hordes of such provocateurs out there, daily committing mayhem to muddy the name of Russia, but the mighty Russian state can never identify, let alone capture, fairly try, and honestly convict even one.

    As for myself, I rely on Occam’s Razor, which puts the greatest suspicion on Kadyrov and his accomplice, Putin.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 17, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  6. And BTW, S/O, the purpose of the rule of law is to constrain the ability of the state (primarily) or private individuals to deprive you of your life, liberty, or property. My condemnation of Kadyrov or Putin has absolutely nothing to do with the rule of law. You might come to different conclusions, or advance different arguments or evidence, but the rule of law is a red herring here.

    Where it is not a red herring is in Chechnya, or in Russia, where extra-judicial murder and expropriation is a regular occurrence.

    I know your newfound reverence for the rule of law is a rhetorical trick–tu quoque, an attempt to discredit me and others by suggesting hypocrisy. Doesn’t cut it.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 17, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  7. What links this to Putin or even Kadyrov?

    Well, Mr Pilot Fish, this article might be helpful in connecting the dots to Kadyrov and there are more articles of his direct threats to her that you can Google yourself:

    Contrary to what most people think but well known in psych most people before committing an act of suicide or homicide do telegraph either verbally or by behavior their intent. It would be illogical to not make Kadyrov a prime suspect. There is certainly a moral duty to warn and protect placed upon all of us. I find it unlikely that Putin’s Kremlin was unaware of the threat to this woman’s life by their client thug so he is implicated in my opinion. He’s done nothing about any of these murders. That’s hardly a coincidence.

    Comment by penny — July 17, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  8. But for all Kadyrov’s sanctimonious rhetoric, circumstantial evidence points to the involvement at some level of the Chechen security agencies. As the Russian daily “Kommersant” pointed out, Estemirova’s body was found in Ingushetia, close to the main Grozny-Nazran highway.

    Even before the imposition of tightened restrictions in light of the ongoing joint operation against resistance fighters, no vehicle could cross the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia without being searched — unless the occupants were security personnel (or had forged documentation identifying them as such).

    Comment by Ray — July 17, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  9. J. Otto Pohl

    The Chechens voted to remain part of Russia.

    The last decade saw two different periods when Chechnya had considerable autonomy to the point of pretty much being independent. The havoc from within Chechnya during these perioids has made the separatist goal a less popular one in that Russian republic.

    Comment by Sissy — July 17, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

  10. “That said, it is certainly the case that with the entire resources of the Russian state–and its security apparatus–at his disposal, Putin could bring Kadyrov to heel–or the grave. But he chooses not to. Why?”

    Because he dosen’t want to have Chechnya in flames again.

    Kadyrov and the semi-retired insurgents around him would be back in the hills in a heartbeat, and Medvedev and Putin know it.

    You see, what you have here is Chechnya gaining independence, just at a slower rate and observing a few niceties with respect to Russia.

    And this isn’t hard to figure out.

    Comment by rkka — July 18, 2009 @ 8:08 am

  11. Maybe and maybe not.

    In the long run, it can continue to be a matter of Chechnya being given an amount of space, while remaining within the RF.

    No analogy is 100% exact. That said, take Bosnia as an example.

    Bosnian Muslim nationalists seeking a united Bosnia thru a more centralized structure runs counter to maintaining a unitary Bosnian state. Note how Dodik went from the image of someone considered as reasonable for the neolibs and neocons to a “nationalist.”

    It’s important to have a feel for the mood in a hot spot (potential and otherwise), in addition to knowing how to best work with such an area.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — July 18, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

  12. […] being behind the murder, and posts a translation of a Novaya Gazeta article. Streetwise Professor compares the terror of the Chechen militia, Kadyrovstsy, with the oprichnina during the reign ov Ivan the […]

    Pingback by Official Russia | Russia: Did Kadyrov kill Estemirova? — July 20, 2009 @ 5:55 am

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