Amnesty International employee who was studying protest moods kidnapped and beaten in Ingushetia, Caucasus

Amnesty International employee who was studying protest moods kidnapped and beaten in Ingushetia, Caucasus
Oleg Kozlovsky

Oleg Kozlovsky was taken outside the city, stripped, and beaten.

Amnesty International researcher Oleg Kozlovsky, who monitored protests against the transfer of land to Chechnya, has been kidnapped in Ingushetia. This is reported on the website of the international organization.

October 6, the day following Kozlovsky’s arrival in Magas, a man came to this hotel and lured him into his car under the pretext of arranging a meeting with one of the protest organizers. Then Oleg Kozlovsky was taken outside the city, stripped, and beaten. The kidnappers disguised themselves as employees of the Center for Combating Extremism of Ingushetia, however, they did not provide any IDs.

“We stopped near a field, where they stripped me and took a picture; then they threatened to publish it, rape me, hand me over to Kadyrov supporters, etc. They demanded that I agree to work for the Center for Countering Extremism, but I refused. They beat me, broke a rib, held a gun to the back of my head, and said that they would shot me dead,” the researched reported via Twitter. “When they could not get anything from me, they demanded that I should not tell anyone about what happened and threatened to kill my children - so I had to promise them I wouldn’t tell. I dressed up, and then they took me to North Ossetia and dropped me off by the Vladikavkaz airport.

According to Amnesty International, the execution lasted two hours. “Oleg was kidnapped in front of the hotel staff and in the field of video surveillance cameras’ view; the city was simply flooded with police because of the protests. Those who are responsible for this cowardly attack must be promptly found and brought to justice,” Marie Struthers, Amnesty International Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said. The organization brought the matter before Russian law enforcement bodies, but nothing has been reported on their reaction so far.

Kozlovsky wrote that he had left Russian together with his family, but was going to return shortly and continue work. “Last week, I reported the crime to the Investigative Committee and met with Mikhail Fedotov and Ingushetia Ombudsman Dzhambulat Ozdoev, who promised to monitor the investigations. So far, there has been no reaction from the IC, and I have no illusions,” the journalist noted.

As reported by Interfax, Presidential Chairman of the Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov has contacted Head of the Russian Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin and Head of Ingushetia Yunus-bek Yevkurov and asked him to take the case of the kidnapping and beating of Kozlovsky under his personal control. “I have filed a corresponding appeal to the Investigative Committee head and head of the Republic of Ingushetia,” Fedotov added.

The protests against the transfer of land to Chechnya have been taking place in Ingushetia since mid-September. Monday, October 15, marks the expiration of the agreed term of the protest rally against the treaty, in connection with which the Council of the Ingush people’s teips has sent a notice on its extension for another ten days – from October 16 to 25. Having considered the notification, the government decided to coordinate the rally for two days, stating that from October 18, a number of major events of a “sports and cultural character with mass participation of people” are planned in Ingushetia, including the Republic capital, Magas. Meanwhile, Head of Ingushetia Government Zyalimkhan Evloev previously said that the regional authorities could coordinate a protest rally in the center of Magas until October 25, as requested by the organizers.

The other day, Ingushetia Head Yunus-bek Yevkurov said that the Republic leadership was not ready for the violent dispersal of protesters. At the same time, he expressed gratitude to the federal authorities and personally to Plenipotentiary of the President of the Russian Federation in the North Caucasus Federal District, Aleksandr Matovnikov, for “understanding the need to refrain from using force.”

He also said that the agreement on the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, which caused indignation of the Ingush, was taken spontaneously. According to Yevkurov, he has discussed this topic with the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov since 2009 or 2010, but the starting point for the talks was the dissatisfaction of the residents of Ingushetia, who discovered a road bulldozer owned by Chechenavtodor at the border area with Chechnya.

Explaining why the residents were not informed about the border agreement, Yevkurov said that “there was no such necessity.” He also said that he could not show the documents until they were fully approved – “what if there were some changes.”

Meanwhile, the organizing committee of the rally in Magas called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to cancel the agreement on the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. Until now, the head of state has yet to comment on the rallies in Ingushetia. Federal channels and the media are mostly silent about the thousands of protests in the Republic.

October 8, Presidential Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin was closely monitoring the situation in Ingushetia, but refused to talk about the authorities’ position on the issue of the border between the republics.

“This is the regions’ business, and since we are talking about the position taken by representatives in Ingushetia, then, accordingly, this is the Ingushetia authorities’ business,” Peskov said as quoted by TASS. He also stressed that for the Kremlin, the main thing was that everything remained in the constitutional field and within the framework of the law.”

The appeal of the Magas rally organizing committee says that the issue of changing borders and territories can be resolved exclusively by a nationwide referendum. The organizers say that Ingush deputies face tremendous opposition on the part of Republic Head Yunus-bek Yevkurov.

“According to the deputies, the republic head’s supporters resort to threats, blackmail, and bribery. As a result of such unprecedented pressure, deputies have not been able to collect a quorum to consider the issue for a week; several deputies have already written a letter of resignation. Authors of the message ask the president to cancel the “unconstitutional and illegal” agreement on the borders and “consider the issue of Yevkurov's responsibility.”

Protests against the transfer of Ingush lands to Chechnya have continued since the end of September, and the indefinite protest rally in Magas has been going on since the signing of the document on October 4. Deputies of the People’s Assembly of Ingushetia claimed that the vote on ratification of the agreement was fraudulent. In response, Yevkurov said that the deputies said this so as to give a good account of themselves in front of their relatives and teips (clans), who had allegedly put pressure on them before the voting.

The protests in Ingushetia degrade the already low rating of the Ingushetia head. This week, the Center for Electoral Practices named the republic among the 14 regions, the leaders of which were highly unlikely to run for a new term in 2019.

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