Medvedev: 'Political murders' aim to destabilize Caucasus

15th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

His comments came three days after the head of a Russian aid organization and her husband were abducted in Chechenya and later found murdered, stuffed in the boot of a car.

Moscow -- President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday described a spate of recent murders of rights activists and others in the Russian Caucasus as "political" crimes aimed at further destabilizing the turbulent region.

"A whole series of political murders and attempted murders are aimed at destabilizing the situation in the Caucasus," Medvedev said after holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Black Sea residence in Sochi.

"I mean the murders of our rights defenders, I mean the attempted murder on the new president of Ingushetia -- who actively strove to stabilize the situation -- and a series of other political murders."

His comments came three days after the head of a Russian aid organization and her husband were abducted in Chechenya and later found murdered, stuffed in the boot of a car.

They also came a day after the leader of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, said he was resuming his duties in the volatile province though he was still recovering from a June 22 bomb attack in which he sustained serious injuries.

Echoing a thesis frequently put forward by the Kremlin in recent years, Medvedev said unspecified armed groups in the Caucasus had been "activated" and were receiving support from "foreign sources" that he did not name.

Medvedev also called on the Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, "do everything in his power to find and unmask" those responsible for the latest killings in the region.

On July 15, one of Chechnya's best known rights activists, Natalya Estemirova, was also abducted from her home and shot, with her body discovered in a neighboring province.

The murders of the rights activists, which sparked international outrage, followed a bout of increasing lawlessness and violence by rebel groups in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus.

Various attacks this week alone in the Russian Caucasus left 22 people dead, including seven women who were shot dead in a sauna, and marked a sharp uptick in attacks on civilians, as opposed to officials or law enforcement personnel.

"The situation is out of any kind of control and every day it is getting worse," said Grigory Shvedov, editor of, an agency that tracks violence in the North Caucasus.

"The lack of control is unbelievable."

Clashes between Russian federal security forces and Islamist fighters have multiplied throughout the region since the Kremlin lifted decade-long, anti-terror regime in Chechnya on April 16, Shvedov said.

"In the language of statistics, after the counter-terrorism regime was lifted, we have seen an enormous increase in violence," he added.

Caucasus expert Alexei Malashenko said the latest murders undercut Kremlin claims that stability had returned to a territory torn apart by two separatist wars since the Soviet collapse in 1991.

"The security operation is not working. The Islamist opposition appear much stronger than they had seemed. The counter-terrorism regime, which was ended, did not give any concrete results," Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center said.

Chechen strongman "Kadyrov is controlling the situation worse than before and Moscow doesn't know what to do," he told AFP.

"I think what is happening know is a demonstration by the (Islamic) opposition that they are very strong," he added. "The situation is in fact a latent civil war."


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