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A human rights group’s office was burned down in Grozny after Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov blamed the group for supporting terrorists when they condemned his collective punishment of relatives, and a federal and local media campaign was launched against them.
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The office of the Joint Mobile Group of Russian human rights defenders in Grozny, Chechnya was set on fire following an intensive hate campaign instigated by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov in federal and local state media, Igor Kalyapin head of the group reported on his Facebook page.
No one was hurt as the group had already evacuated some of their members out of Chechnya when threatened the previous night, and the few who remained obtained police protection.
Lamberd, a photography club in Grozny, had photos of the blaze, but said they were not allowed to get too close.
Novaya Gazeta published a video of the fire and said armed, masked men in a silver Lada Priora with the license plate “888” had been tailing the human rights activists.
The fire follows a denunciation of the group and Kalyapin by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, as well as a federal and local state media campaign and and an attack on the group members at a press conference where they condemned orders issued by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to
burn down the houses of relatives of terrorists killed in a gun battle
with police December 4 in Grozny.
On December 10, President Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram and Tumbler pages about the terrorist attack on Grozny, in which 14 policemen and at least 10 militants were killed:
Several days ago during the liquidation of the bandit group, 14 of my combat comrades were killed. I perceive this as the death of people very close to me, like the death of my BROTHERS.
Earlier I announced that relatives should be responsible for the criminal actions of their sons, if they did not stop them themselves and did not call the police. A certain Kalyapin came to the defense of the bandits and their relatives. In Chechnya, the Kalyapins and others have not taken one step to help the families of the soldiers killed, they don’t take an interest in whether they left orphans, whether they have a roof over their heads. The competent organs have information that the money of Western intelligence services from Akhmad Umarov was transferred to the bandits by a man with the last name of Kalyapin. We should check whether this is the same Kalyapin.
If it is confirmed, then we will demand a response. I will not allow anyone, under any mask, the help the bandits. I don’t care what kind of identification he has in his pocket or from which embassy he receives awards. I have taken it upon myself to ensure security and I do this, although the entire West and all of its accomplices turn the house upside down!
Akhmed Umarov is the brother of terrorist leader Doku Umarov, killed by Russian forces earlier this year. Kadyrov has accused him of orchestrating the December 4 attack on Grozny. Chechen state TV continued to broadcast the news of Kadyrov’s blaming of Kalyapin throughout the day.
Igor Kalyapin said on his Facebook that at 12:51 today December 13, three men, one of who was holding a pistol, came to their office, spoke with the neighbors, then left. Then at 18:00, Babinets came to the office and found that a note had been left that these men had visited. They made the decision to move to a back-up apartment.
Meanwhile, three people came to the entrance of the building, one who had come earlier, and a middle-aged woman with some documents and a middle-aged man. They got into the Priora at about 19:44 and left. When they went to their other apartment, they saw they were being followed. They tried to shake the tail. They then saw that 5 masked men with kerchiefs over their faces were in the car. They met with the Al Jazeera reporters at 21:20 — and were told their office was on fire.
At a press conference held by human rights activists on December 12, Kadyrov supporters in the audience
threw eggs at Kalyapin and other human rights defenders and shouted at them that they were doing nothing about
policemen killed in counter-terrorism operations.
The head of the Chechen parliament also denounced Kalyapin and his group.
The group got a threat that after a planned rally against terrorism in Grozny, their office would be attacked, Kalyapin said in a chronology of the attacks on his organization.
Yesterday in Grozny, 50,000 people turned out to the state-sponsored demonstration against terrorism, where speakers made calls to expel human rights defenders from Chechnya, TASS reported. Russia’s TV1 broadcast the rally and TASS published a screenshot with the sign against Kalyapin.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Human Rights Council said he had spoke with Chechen officials and said, “If anything happens to the human rights activists, this will be a great stupidity,” TASS reported.
Kalyapin quoted Babinets on his Facebook page:
“Neither we, or our leader Igor Kalyapin have never accidentally, or deliberately, said anything that would have justified the actions of terrorists or cast a shadow on the memory of those police who on the night of December 4-5 came to the defense of Grozny against a terrorist attack. But we have always said that criminals should answer for crimes, and not those whom the authorities find it easier to reach.
In this case, somebody in Chechnya, who is bothered by the work of our lawyers, wanted to exploit the situation to direct the anger, pain and fury of people who have lost their relatives against us. That is, to banally settle scroes, and get rid of an organization that is uncomfortable for the authorities, they exploited the situation. That is why for the last several days, there has been hysterics whipped up against us, and floods of libel and absurd charges have been made against us.”
Kalyapin, a member of the Committee Against Torture in Nizhny Novgorod, said that lawyers from his group were supposed to appear in court in a kidnapping case and expected to continue working despite the fire and the media campaign against him:
“All the responsibility for the security of our lawyers is entirely on the officials in the Chechen Republic who organized the campaign of libel and persecution against us, and also various ‘civic activists’ who reported deliberately false information about the Committee Against Torture and the Joint Mobile Group in the Chechen Republic to the press. Without a doubt, we will have to investigate those who disseminated among people stricken with grief, who lost their relatives during the terrorist attack, such libel and disinformation.”
When a reader directed Kalyapin to a video on the talk show Tochka Opora [Bulwark] condemning his group, he replied
“Yes, I saw that broadcast. By the way, Kheda Saratova knows perfectly well that we have pout 109 policemen behind bars for exceeding their official authority, won 16 cases in the European Court, and knows perfectly well that I, as a member of the SPCh [Joint Mobile Group] have conducted investigation at Chelyabinsk Colony No. 6 and she is the one who has repeatedly appealed to me for help (recently a few days ago). So she is lying completely deliberately.
Saratova says in the broadcast, “Kalyapin is one of the people who came to the war to earn grants…before we thought he was a hero.”
“When I went to the war, I didn’t even know the word ‘grant.’ [Stanislav] Dmitrievsky and I traveled on funds that four of us had pooled together. And Kheda knows all that perfectly well. It is precisely these broadcasts that led to our office being burned down.”
Babinets re-posted on his Facebook yesterday houses of relatives of the terrorists killed in Grozny.
Ibraaim Daghestani originally posted the pictures of two houses burned down in
Katyr-Yurt. He said one house was where relatives of Emir Khamzat (Aslan
Byutukayev) lived; he was said to command the attack in Grozny in a video
released by members of the Caucasus Emirate. A reader said that Khamzat’s
relatives said no one was in the house, as the relatives had left for Europe.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick