Entries in Chechnya (3)


Czech Republic Ambassador: Don’t Confuse Us with Chechnya

iStockphoto(NEW YORK) -- The Czech Republic and Chechnya are nearly 2,000 miles apart, but that didn’t stop people from mixing up their geography.

The Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers, are of Chechen ethnicity. When the similar sounding Czech Republic, a country in Central Europe, began getting buzz online, the country’s ambassador to the United States stepped in to clear up the social media confusion.

 “As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect,” Ambassador Petr Gandalovič wrote in a statement, after first offering his condolences to the victims of the bombings.

“The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities – the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation,” he explained.

Chechens are an ethnic group hailing from the southern edge of the Russian border, known as the North Caucasus region, whose history has been marked by its violent struggles for independence. Chechnya, a republic, is bordered by Georgia.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Celebrities Partied with Accused Torturer in Chechnya

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(GROZNY, Chechnya) -- Two-time Oscar winning actor Hilary Swank and action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme may have played some nefarious characters in their time, but according to human rights groups, it was a real-life villain who happily welcomed the two celebrities to a big bash in Chechnya this week.

Both Swank and Van Damme, along with violinist Vanessa Mae, jetted off to the Chechen capital of Grozny Wednesday to attend a celebration that coincided with the 35th birthday of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, the man accused of ordering the abductions and deaths of rebel figures and having personally -- and enthusiastically -- participated in torture.

Van Damme appeared on stage where he performed some martial arts moves before giving a speech in which he yelled, "I love you, Mr. Kadyrov," according to a BBC report.

Swank was seen smiling at other performances as she sat in the audience in a report by Euronews.

"Really, truly, for me this was a great honor to learn more about you and your country and what you're building," Swank said when she took the stage. "And happy birthday, Mr. President."

The festival featured a massive fireworks show, highly orchestrated acrobatic performances and none other than Kadyrov himself showing off some traditional dance moves.

Mae reportedly received $500,000 for her performance and when Kadyrov was asked where the money came from, he laughed and said "Allah gives it to us." It was unclear if Swank and Van Damme were paid for their attendance.

Kadyrov, appointed president of the Chechen republic in February 2007 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been the target of rights groups for years for allegedly directing intimidation, torture and murder of Chechen rebels and opposition figures in a brutal campaign to suppress the violent insurgency in Chechnya headed by Islamic terrorist Doku Umarov.

Ahead of the festivities -- which Kadyrov said were not for his birthday but an annual celebration for the city -- the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) sent a letter to Swank and Van Damme along with several other stars reportedly asked to attend the event, including Shakira, Eva Mendes and Kevin Costner.

"Chechnya continues to constitute a situation where serious violations of human rights are continuously committed by the Chechen authorities... Mr. Kadyrov's policy promotes the state of constant fear among the population and political opponents," the letter says. "Attending such an event on invitation of Mr. Kadyrov would disregard the seriousness of the situation with regards to his authoritarian ruling and the violation of fundamental human rights in the Chechen Republic. Therefore, we urge you not to attend the aforementioned event."

Shakira, Mendes and Costner did not reportedly appear at the event, and Shakira tweeted that she had never been booked to perform there at all. Representatives for Van Damme and Swank did not return requests for comment on this report.

While he was prime minister of Chechnya in 2006, Kadyrov was accused by Human Rights Watch of running secret detention and torture facilities "throughout Chechnya".

In 2008, he made "explicit threats" to burn down the houses belonging to families whose sons joined the Chechen insurgency, according to a U.S. State Department report on human rights abuses. Soon after, an "arson campaign" began in Chechnya.

The same year, Austrian lawyers working on behalf of the ECCHR filed a complaint against Kadyrov on charges of widespread torture. Key to their case was the eyewitness testimony of Umar Israilov, a former bodyguard of Kadyrov's who said that not only did he watch Kadyrov torturing others, but said he was personally subjected to electric shock at Kadyrov's hands. Kadyrov laughed while torturing him, Israilov said according to the ECCHR.

After escaping to Austria and going to the ECCHR, Israilov told the group he and his family had been threatened by a man claiming to have been sent by Kadyrov. In January 2009, Israilov was shot dead in the streets of Vienna, after which Austrian police said "circumstantial evidence" linked Kadyrov to the killings. Kadyrov denied all responsibility for the crime.

Just a few months after Israilov's murder, police in the United Arab Emirates said they believed a close associate of Kadyrov's to be involved in the murder of a former Chechen general who had fallen out with Kadyrov, according to The New York Times.

"We remain gravely concerned... about the extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances committed with impunity by the forces of Chechen President Kadyrov and others," Michael H. Posner, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor said during a visit to Washington, D.C., in March.

Most recently, Chechen media loyal to the rebel insurgency, Turkish press and the families of the victims have linked Kadyrov and Russian intelligence to the killings of three rebel Chechen militants in Istanbul last month, alleging one of the men involved in the assassinations was a close associate of Kadyrov's. A spokesperson at the Russian embassy in the U.S. told ABC News after the murders that the allegation the Russian government was involved was "pure speculation".

In addition to alleged political crimes, in 2009 Kadyrov defended the murder of seven women, saying they deserved to die in the honor killings for their "loose morals," according to Russian press.

"If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed," Kadyrov told reporters at the time.

Officials in the Russian embassy in the U.S. and officials based in Grozny did not immediately return requests for comment on this report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chechen Parliament Attacked; Several Injured

Photo Courtesy - Viskhan Magomadov/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- UPDATE: An attack on the parliament building in Chechnya Tuesday morning killed at least four militants and three policemen, according to Russian news reports.  Twenty-one others were injured, including four militiamen, six police officers and 11 civilians.

Four militants invaded the building in southern Russia, reportedly gaining entry to the building by following a car carrying deputies.   According to Russian news agencies, one of the militants blew himself up in a suicide bomb mission, while the others stormed the building where a shootout broke out with police.

The attack took place as ministers were arriving for work.  The speaker of the parliament escaped the attack unharmed, and the deputies inside the building at the time were taken to safety.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said security forces successfully took out all four militants in an operation that took around 15-to-20 minutes to complete.

Early reports indicated that no civilians were injured or killed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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