Friday, July 17, 2009

What Do We Know About Ramzan Kadyrov?

Currently president of Chechnya at age 32, Ramzan Kadyrov is reputed to have been an unruly schoolboy. He looked up to his father, a Muslim imam, and at the age of 16 helped lead a group of separatist fighters against federal Soviet forces. (If you find Chechnya on the map, one wonders what would stop the Ukraine and Kazakhstan from just drawing a line across the narrow channel that divides them, permanently separating Chechnya from Russia.

As it turned out, Kadyrov completely reversed his position and sold out to Moscow, now running Chechnya with the Kremlin's authority. He is credited with rebuilding Grozny, the capital (largely destroyed in the Second Chechen War), taking the opportunity to construct one of the largest mosques in Europe. He's also a fan of boxing, and said that the Danish artist who drew an inflammatory political cartoon of the prophet Mohammed "should be buried alive." He also bragged to human rights activist Natalya Estemirova of having "blood from my hands to my elbows."

Estemirova had been working on gathering evidence of human rights violations since the Second Chechen War (1999). In 2000 she was elected as representative of Memorial, a human rights agency in Grozny. She met with Kadyrov over a year ago to discuss human rights violations and the meeting was less than satisfactory: he ordered her to cease her investigations.

Kadyrov seems to have taken care of his problem:
On Wednesday, the 50-year-old single mother[, widow,] and onetime schoolteacher was kidnapped, driven past numerous police checkpoints, shot in the head and dumped by a roadside [within nine hours].
He, of course, denies any involvement in this, but what kind of vehicle could get through those checkpoints? What kind of driver had the authority? She also worked "with the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and lawyer Stanislav Markelov — both of whom were slain in assassination-style killings." Huh.

Huh.

With the rest of the world looking at this string of inordinate coincidences, all of which seem to run along a very clear theme, Kadyrov shares that weird quality with other world dictators: he believes he is cleverer than anyone, can successfully get away with such a shoddy ruse, and that everyone else is too stupid to see through it.

He has also sworn to conduct two investigations into her death: one official, and "one unofficial, according to Chechen traditions." While he was running for office, he actually used reports issued by Memorial to feature his opponents in an ugly light. His alliance with that organization dissolved immediately upon taking office, of course. Anyone care to place any bets on what the results of his investigation(s) will be?

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