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3 Feb, 2022 07:24

Russian journalists demand Putin act after ‘threats’ from Chechen leader

Ramzan Kadyrov called for prominent journalists to be prosecuted
Russian journalists demand Putin act after ‘threats’ from Chechen leader

The editors of Russian news outlet Echo of Moscow have requested that President Vladimir Putin step in after the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, called for prominent liberal reporters and outlets to be prosecuted for “aiding terrorism.”

Alexey Venediktov, the radio station’s editor-in-chief, wrote on Telegram on Wednesday, “in connection with the threats directed at our colleagues from Novaya Gazeta and TV Dozhd from the leader of the Chechen Republic, we would like to declare our solidarity with these publications’ journalists.”

He goes on, “we direct the attention of law enforcement agencies to the statements of this high-ranking official, a general in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which are against the laws of the Russian Federation. We ask the Russian President, as the guardian of the constitution, to intervene in the situation.”

On Tuesday, Kadyrov called for prosecutors to bring criminal cases against figures associated with newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the TV channel Dozhd, or “Rain,” which is officially labeled a “foreign agent” in Russia due to links to overseas funding. “What evidence do you need that they are terrorists, abettors of terrorism?” he asked law enforcement. “Where are you looking? In the Chechen Republic you placed them all under suspicion and arrested them.”

Dmitry Muratov, editor of Novaya Gazeta, who was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression,” told RBK that the newspaper had submitted a complaint to Russia’s Investigative Committee on Monday regarding previous statements by Kadyrov. A spokesperson said that they were not planning a separate submission based on the more recent comments.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in December, Muratov emphasized the importance of journalism to drive social progress and break down oppressive systems, saying, “we are the antidote against tyranny.”

This week, Kadyrov also called for the extradition to Russia of family members of Saidi Yangulbayev, a retired judge who left the country after Chechen enforcers detained his wife, Zarema Musaeva, at her apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, hundreds of kilometers from the majority-Muslim region. A court in Grozny has since ordered her arrest formally. Their son, Abubakar Yangulbayev, an anti-torture activist and critic of Kadyrov, also now lives abroad.

On Tuesday, Adam Delimkhanov, a Chechen MP and member of the governing United Russia party, reportedly called for the members of the Yangulbayev family to be killed and decapitated. A group of Chechen officials later released a video in support of Delimkhanov, reportedly saying that there was no more important work than carrying out their beheading.

Nikolay Arefiev, a Communist Party MP and the First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Commission on Parliamentary Ethics, has called for an inquiry into Delimkhanov’s words, saying he could potentially be “dangerous to society.” Leaders from United Russia have not yet commented on the remarks, and Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said President Putin has no plans to meet with Kadyrov in the near future.

The Chechen leader has been in office since 2007, and was re-elected in September with 99.7% of the vote. Activists criticized the election as a “forced vote,” saying that political repression and persecution made it impossible for anyone to contest the ruling party.