Russian activist kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death of family in Ingushetia: authorities remain inactive
October 5, Amnesty International employee Oleg Kozlovsky came to study and cover protests in Magas. On that day, the man could not even imagine that literally in a day he, naked and beaten, would be at gunpoint in a deserted field of Ingushetia. It has been more than a month since Oleg appealed to the Investigative Committee with a statement, but the authorities are inactive – Kozlovsky was not even called in for questioning. The CrimeRussia delved into the details of this case.
“What happened in Ingushetia, by the degree of wildness, surpassed everything”
In Ingushetia on October 4, a mass protest began against the Agreement on the delimitation of the administrative boundary line between Chechnya and Ingushetia, which was signed on September 26 by the heads of the regions (the agreement implies an equivalent exchange of territories). A day later, Oleg Kozlovsky, an employee of Amnesty International, arrived in Magas, the capital of Ingushetia. The purpose of his trip was to observe the protest actions and analyze them: first of all, Kozlovsky was interested in whether the protests were peaceful and, accordingly, whether any possible coercive measures against them and their organizers were justified.
Oleg Kozlovsky, photo from the personal archive, Moscow, 2012
On October 6, the activist was monitoring a city rally all day: he shared photos and videos on his Facebook page, commented on what was happening and watched the situation from the inside.
Rally in Magas, October 6, 2018
As it turned out later, everything was just beginning for him. In the evening of the same day, an unknown person knocked at his hotel room and said that one of the organizers of the meeting wanted to meet him. Open to any cooperation, the man did not suspect anything bad and went out into the street with the unknown person. Oleg was offered to sit in the car and wait there. As soon as Kozlovsky found himself inside the car, two men in black masks and caps sat next to him, took the phone and everything valuable, punched him in the face, forced him to double and look at the floor – so that he would not see the road.
It was unlikely that the abductors were aware of who exactly they were taking: on the way, Kozlovsky was asked for personal information, the objectives of the trip, as well as for information about those for whom he worked and with whom he met in Magas. The abductors themselves introduced themselves as officers of the Ingushetia Center for Countering Extremism, but did not show any documents in support of their words. The man was taken to the field. And there the most interesting part has begun.
“They put a gun to the back of my head and said that they would shoot me now”
In a deserted field, they stripped Oleg Kozlovsky naked and started beating him. At the same time, unknown persons threatened to transfer him to Kadyrov’s men and rape him, they shot a naked man on photo and video, and also offered to work for the Center for Countering Extremism. After the man's refusal, they tried to put psychological pressure on Kozlovsky – the people in masks did not disdain staging the execution: they put a gun to his head several times and said that they would shoot him.
Kozlovsky himself does not believe that this threat had a chance to become real: “If they were going to kill me initially (I suppose they weren't anyway), then having learned that I am an employee of an international human rights organization, they would hardly have done it,” Oleg explained his point of view in the comment to The CrimeRussia. "It would give them nothing but a big scandal and problems. Therefore, in fact, they were afraid more than me. They wanted to make an agreement with me about my silence, in fact, to obtain security guarantees. To make me afraid to speak, they threatened to publish photos (they thought it was some kind of damaging material) and kill my children.”
So, having achieved nothing from their victim, the unknown offered to conclude something like an agreement: they let him go with peace, but he is silent about what happened. “I refused at first, saying that we are not in an equal position to agree on something, and that my duty is to tell the truth about what is happening in the republic. After another staging of the execution and the threat to kill my children, I had to agree to a “contract,” Kozlovsky wrote later on his Facebook page.
Having received a promise from the man to remain silent and “not to write mud about the republic,” he was allowed to dress, they gave him money and personal belongings back (on the way, the kidnappers took them from the hotel), leaving to themselves only Kozlovsky’s phone and video camera.
Then the man was taken to North Ossetia, left at Vladikavkaz Airport. At the same time Oleg noted that his kidnappers halfway complained about the protesters (keep them awake) and human rights activists who “prevent them from fighting crime.”
Upon returning home
October 7, Oleg Kozlovsky was already in Moscow. A couple of days later, he submitted a statement to the Investigative Committee, where he described in detail the incident, met with the head of the Human Rights Court Mikhail Fedotov and the Ingushetia ombudsman Dzhambulat Ozdoyev, who promised to monitor the progress of the investigation. Oleg also went to the hospital for medical help – the doctors stated that he had a broken rib. Further, after coordinating his actions with Amnesty International, Kozlovsky, for security reasons, chose to leave Russia for some time together with his family. A week later, on October 15, Oleg Kozlovsky brought the matter to publicity, writing on his personal Facebook page about what had happened in detail. To date, the message has been reposted by more than 1,100 people.
Later journalists, activists and human rights activists got involved in the case (October 17, Kozlovsky requested legal assistance and support from the Committee against Torture). Only the law enforcement authorities did not pay attention to what happened. Only after almost a month, on October 30, Kozlovsky received a formal reply that his statement was submitted for consideration to the head of the investigative department of the ICR the Republic of Ingushetia.
The human rights defender of the Committee against Torture, Dmitry Piskunov, who represents Oleg Kozlovsky’s interests, commented on the situation: “According to the law, a crime report must be checked within three days from the moment it was received, while the staff of the Investigative Committee should take all measures to ensure the early collection and recording of all possible evidence to prevent their loss or destruction. However, after a month already, the investigators still have not done anything, even the applicant was not interviewed.”
Questions, hopes, and perspectives
It has not yet been established whether the abductors were really the ones who they claimed to be. Oleg Kozlovsky believes that there are two options: either they were really representatives of law enforcement agencies, or it was a thoughtful performance, created by somebody for some reason and designed specifically for him.
“Those people who kidnapped me, claimed that they had good connections in Moscow, and they could get to my family and me, which worries me more,” Oleg explained earlier in an interview with Ekho Moskvy. "Strictly speaking, I cannot say for one hundred percent that they were precisely the employees of the Center for Countering Extremism, although they did not hide (they perhaps even showed) their belonging to this structure. The only thing that they demonstrated was the clear awareness of how these structures work. And they even complained to me about how hard it is to fight extremism, that human rights organizations are stopping them, all the time watching their work, criticizing, and that they cannot protect the peace of citizens normally because of this.”
Now Oleg acts according to the principle "help yourself." His lawyers sent a request to the Artis Plaza hotel in Magas to get a record from the surveillance cameras and identify the abduction participants, but it was too late – the hotel replied that the records were stored for no more than 7 days and that it was impossible to provide them:
The kidnapper knew exactly in which room Oleg stayed, and such information could only be obtained from the hotel staff. However, as time goes on, it is unlikely that the hotel staff was questioned, and the chance that they remember the details, manage to identify someone, or report at least something sensible to the investigation, is melting every day. Oleg himself, after being abducted, did not return to the hotel (recall, he was taken to the airport), so he did not manage to talk with the hotel staff and extract these data on his own.
Hotel where the activist stayed
Oleg is determined, but he looks at the possibilities of Russian justice if not skeptically, then more than realistically: “I have no illusions, such cases in the North Caucasus are very rarely brought to the end,” he told The CrimeRussia. "The Investigative Committee from the very beginning was in no hurry to deal with this case. Only this week (that is, when the month allotted for the inspection has already expired), its representatives contacted me and some stirring began. Naturally, many pieces of the evidence, including camera recordings, have already been destroyed and the investigation will be complicated. But I am sure that if one wants to find the kidnappers one can, using fingerprints, mobile phone billing, witness testimony, etc. If there is political will, it will be possible to quickly establish them and bring them to responsibility, and also find out who gave the relevant instructions and who covered them. If there is no such will, investigators will continue to play hide-and-seek and even refuse to open a criminal case. In this case, we will go to the European Court of Human Rights, where we will prove the inability of the Russian state to investigate crimes.”