Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Will New Details on Killings of Gays in Chechnya Make Kadyrov Toxic Even for Putin?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 24 – The Kremlin has consistently defended Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov against all criticism, but new details on the murders of gays in his secret prisons could make him too toxic for the Russian authorities to do so. Indeed, Kadyrov’s own suggestion that he’d like to conclude his political career may set the stage for his departure.

            In April 2017, Moscow’s Novaya gazeta broke the story about the arrest and torture of gays in “secret prisons” in Chechnya.  That attracted enormous attention but little real action inside the Russian Federation as Moscow continued to defend its janissary against the charges. But two developments in the last few days may change that.

            First, on December 20, the OSCE released a report by Graz Professor Wolfgang Benedek providing what it describes as “incontrovertible”  evidence of these crimes and calling for Kadyrov to be brought to the Hague on charges of violating the human rights of the population under his control (lenta.ru/news/2018/12/21/gaaga/).

            And today, Elena Milashina of Novaya gazeta has published a follow-on story which documents the murder of two gays held in his jails, and refers to the scandal as “Chechen-gate,” an indication the stakes have been raised for Kadyrov and his patron Vladimir Putin (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/12/23/79043-tayna-za-zheleznoy-dveryu).

            Her 2800-word article, which includes both the testimony of others who were incarcerated with the two murder victims and grizzly photographs of what was done to them, is certain to attract more attention not only in Europe where concerns about Kadyrov’s homophobic policy are already high but also in Russia itself.

            And consequently, Kadyrov who has survived despite all his other crimes may be brought down by this because if Putin tries to defend him this time around, the Kremlin leader may find himself even more isolated from people of good will not only in the West but in his own country as well.

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