Staunton, April 21 – The Kremlin “doesn’t see any reason not to trust” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s assertion that there has been no persecution of sexual minorities or other violations of human rights in his republic, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says, given the “anonymous” sources of alternative views (interfax-religion.ru/atheism/?act=news&div=66866).
“Unfortunately or happily up to now there have not been any specific confirmations” of the charges made by the media against Chechnya. Peskov added that the Kremlin “doesn’t know any other means of defending oneself besides appeals to law-enforcement organs,” something the supposed victims in Chechnya did not do.
He continued: “we know that when the law is violated, a citizen goes and complains to the police and the media … But there are no such people” in this case, and that suggests that these are “some kind of phantom complaints” rather than genuine ones.
When Peskov was asked to comment on the statements of media outlets that those who reported being victimized in Chechnya were afraid to come forward, Peskov responded with the following words: They how then can one defend them or check the situation? … Why are they afraid. Are they afraid no one will defend them? This too is untrue.”
He pointed out that Russian ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova had already looked into the situation and been unable to confirm any of the claims of abuse. And he reported that Kadyrov had told Putin that Chechens were angry about such “slander” and “will struggle with [it] within the law,” something the Kremlin leader indicated he approved.
Peskov’s words undoubtedly reflect Putin’s thinking, and they merit attention for three reasons. First, they are yet another indication that the Kremlin isn’t willing or perhaps able to challenge Kadyrov even when as in this case there is clear evidence that he is violating Russian laws.
Second, Peskov’s remarks are yet another indication of the way in which Putin defines “human rights,” not as something that must be defended at all times and in all places but as an elastic concept to be supported or not depending on political utility and redefined at will to serve the Kremlin’s purposes.
And third, it shows a dangerous tendency to dismiss any reports based on anonymous sources, even when anyone who did come forward and identify himself or herself would be at risk of reprisal legal or otherwise from the powers that be. That suggests that the Kremlin may be ready to invoke this “standard” against media outlets in Moscow with regard to Chechnya.
But such Kremlin attitudes have consequences far beyond Chechnya, and this week the Presidential Administration clearly served notice of that fact: it put in charge of supervising regional affairs Yaroslav Zamychkin, an official who comes from Chechnya (kommersant.ru/gallery/3274609 and sobkorr.ru/news/58F5CFB868857.html).