Staunton, June 20 – Sometimes the most heinous crimes are those committed not by officials but by those these officials encourage to think are beyond punishment and then cover up so that the guilty won’t be punished. A case in point of this involves an otherwise obscure murder of a Chechen woman by a Chechen serving with the Russian siloviki.
Amina Umarova, a Chechen journalist at RFE/RL, says that the sudden death and immediate nighttime burial of 23-year-old Madina Umayeva has touched off a wave of anger in Chechnya even as Chechen authorities dig in to protect the man almost certainly responsible (ekhokavkaza.com/a/30681746.html).
Officials at the Chechen branch of the Russian Investigative Committee say they are looking into the matter, but Chechens doubt they will report the truth because “without waiting for the results, the powers that be have done everything they can to save the reputation of the husband of the victim whom witnesses have accused in her death.”
What is known is this, Umarova says. Neighbors reported hearing screams from the house in which Umayeva and her husband Khamidov lived, that their attempts to find out what was happening were put off by his mother, and that the next thing they knew Madina was buried at night, something unprecedented in peacetime among Chechens.
The late woman had recently come into some money from Moscow’s maternal capital program – she had three children – and apparently her husband wanted to control how it was spent rather than allow her to make decisions. Her mother-in-law denied that her son had done anything and blamed Madina’s death on epilepsy, something she isn’t known to have had.
What especially troubled Madina’s neighbors and friends – she has only a small family and thus could be attacked without the risk of reprisals from them – was that Khamidovs went ahead with a funeral at night, something Chechens don’t do except in wartime, as religious leaders pointed out.
Chechen officials from a variety of institutions went out of their way to say that she had died of natural causes but again few believe them. Why has this happened? Almost certainly, Umarova says because Khamidov “is an employee of the Russian force structures in the Chechen Republic.” He is thus protected by the Kadyrov regime and the truth may never come out.
And this is despite the presence of witnesses who have been more than willing to come forward even at risk of attracting the unwanted attention of the powers that be. (For an example in this case that Umarova mentions but that is especially damning, see that provided by Khutmat Dovletmirzayeva, the mother of the deceased (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/351029/.)
This may seem a small case, but only its exposure in the media and especially in independent media beyond the control of Kadyrov is essential not only so that justice will be done in this case but also so that the Chechen strongman will not continue to engage in covering up the crimes of his subordinates and supporters.