Dissent is Deadly - Kadyrov’s Power in Europe
A dictator with a private army.
Who tolerates no criticism.
00.07 RAMZAN KADYROV (HEAD OF CHECHNYA): I promise on the holy Koran that wherever they are, I won't leave them alone.
Ramzan Kadyrov means what he says.
00.19 MURAT (Name altered): They beat me in the face with their fists. They beat me on the body. My eyes were blindfolded so I don't know what they beat me with.
Flight to Europe does not mean his critics are safe .
00.35 ANONYMOUS WITH PISTOL: Anyone who criticizes our leader Ramzan, I'll shoot them from this pistol. I'm here in Germany. We control this place.
Nor that they will be allowed to remain.
00.48 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: If I go back to Chechnya today, it's the same as walking into certain death.
Dissent is Deadly – Kadyrov's Power in Europe
01.06 TANYA LOKSHINA – RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH:
There are no human rights in Chechnya today. There is no rule of law. In fact there is no law. The only law which is there is what Ramzan Kadyrov says. His orders are the law. Those who dare question Mr Kadyrov's order are in very serious trouble. Doing so publicly is pretty much suicidal.
Christmas Eve 2015, Heldenplatz, Vienna
A group of around 150 Chechen refugees gather before Vienna's Imperial Palace.
They're demonstrating against the persecution and humiliation of their countrymen in their homeland in the North Caucasus.
Among them is thirty year old former resistance fighter, Mansur Sadulaev.
01.53 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: We've come here today because we can no longer remain silent when we see the humiliation of our people in our occupied homeland. They can’t speak up about anything, anyone who tells the truth can be arrested and slandered. Authorities will say that they are crazy or possessed by the devil.
02.22 Sadulaev fled to Austria in 2012 after receiving threats to his life in Chechnya.
His application for asylum has already been rejected twice by Austrian authorities.
Sadulaev has no doubt that were he to return to Chechnya he would be killed.
02.40 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: Any person who talks about the situation in Chechnya, anyone who tells the truth, needs to fear for their lives.
Because of this everyone remains silent. Even many of those who are living in Europe are afraid. They're not afraid for themselves, but for their relatives who, you could say, are hostages of the Russian occupiers.
03.08 Russian President, Vladimir Putin, installed Ramzan Kadyrov as head of the restive republic in 2007.
The now thirty-nine year old has ruled with an iron fist ever since.
03.21 TANYA LOKSHINA - RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Kadyrov wants total control. Russia today is an authoritarian state, but Chechnya under Kadyrov has become this totalitarian enclave in Russia's territory.
03.37 The Vienna protest was triggered by Kadyrov's public humiliation of civilians critical of his regime.
This social worker, Aishat Inayeva, recorded a message on WhatsApp in which she complained about Kadyrov living a life of luxury while ordinary citizens were barely able to make ends meet.
Kadyrov responded by ordering her and her husband to a meeting in his palace.
03.57 Following an excruciating grilling on national television, the clearly terrified Inayeva retracted her words.
04.09 INAYEVA: At that moment my head wasn't right, and I don't even know myself what I said.
04.18 Another incident involved a young man named Adam Dikayev who criticized Kadyrov on Instagram.
Dikayev was tracked down and had his trousers removed - an act considered a huge insult for Chechens.
He was then filmed running on a treadmill singing a song with the title: 'My best friend is President Putin'...and forced to take back his words.
04.39 TV PRESENTER:
'I am Adam Dikayev. Thinking they wouldn't find me, I wrote on Instagram something that didn’t need to be written. They found me, and they took my pants. I understand now that I’m a nobody. From now on, Putin is my father, my grandfather, and my tsar.’
04.55 TANYA LOKSHINA - RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: By using brutal physical methods, pressure, public humiliation, the Chechen authorities try to mould everyone into submission.
05.07 Inayeva and Dikayev survived their public shaming.
But this professor from Grozny University paid the ultimate price.
Khezir Izhiev was abducted by law enforcement agents in mid-December 2015.
Twelve days later, his beaten body was discovered in a forest.
05.29 SIGN: ‘STOP THE TERROR AGAINST FREE SPEECH IN CHECHNYA.’
05.38 Passers by in central Vienna barely noticed the Christmas Eve protest.
But Mansur's interview – broadcast in Chechnya and across Europe by the US-funded Radio Free Europe – spread far and fast.
05.50 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: It's been a long time since anyone spoke about what is really going on in occupied Chechnya. So it was very widely disseminated.In particular I heard from Chechens at home that these videos were seen by many.
06.09 Kadyrov reacted swiftly, threatening collective punishment to relatives of those involved.
06.17 KADYROV(Austrian news report):
I have given the order to find out who their brothers and fathers are, which clan and where they are from, who they are. Their relatives in Chechnya must be told to control their relatives in Austria. If they don't do this, then we will make them.
06.32 Access to Radio Liberty in Chechnya was blocked.
And Mansur soon found himself the subject of rumours.
06.40 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: Stories began to spread that my father had been abducted. Others said he had been killed, others that he'd been taken, kidnapped. Others said my mother had been abducted. It's not true because my father was killed by the Russian occupiers back in 2000.
07.05 Mansur has no family left in Chechnya.
But other participants in the Vienna demonstration reported that family members back home received visits from authorities.
07.15 MURAT (Name altered): The local police came. After this my mother said: he was asking about me, he was interested in where what, how... He was very suspicious and said he'd been sent there to find out about me.
07.35 Undeterred by Kadyrov's threats, Sadulaev and others in Vienna's Chechen diaspora organized a second demonstration in late January.
Similar protests were planned for other cities across Europe using social media networks such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
07.52 Organisers are certain their messages were monitored by Chechen authorities.
One day before the demonstrations were due to be held in Europe, a mass rally in support of Kadyrov and Russia was suddenly called in the Chechen capital, Grozny.
08.06 Grozny Television reported that over one million Chechens spontaneously flocked to the streets - a figure only slightly under the recorded population of the republic.
Speakers at the rally used Cold War era rhetoric, denouncing critics of Kadyrov and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, as traitors and enemies of the people.
08.25 ADAM DELIMKHANOV - CHECHEN PARLIAMENT: We know our enemies and traitors of this country. Whoever they are and wherever they are, for every word that is said against the head of the Chechen republic and President of Russia, Vladimir Vladimirovich and against the Chechen and Russian people. They will answer according to the law. There is only one way to treat traitors… as traitors. Allahu Akhbar!!
08.53 The following day, the second demonstration went ahead in Vienna.
Rallies were also held in Oslo, Helsinki, Berlin, Paris and four other cities.
Mansur again spoke out, and again, the video cameras were there to record his words.
09.10 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: I want to tell all our countrymen at home, we can see your situation. We are worried for you. Our hearts bleed for you. Although we cannot do more we are doing everything in our power because we are one people. There is no difference between Chechens in Europe and Chechens in Chechnya. We want freedom. In our homeland, on the territory of our forefathers, we want to be free, to live freely and not to be slaves.
09.42 TANYA LOKSHINA - RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Kadyrov views himself as the father of the Chechen people, the boss of the Chechen people. And so it irritates him to the point of no return that there are Chechens in other countries, Chechens outside of Russia whom he cannot control. It makes him extremely angry.
10.06 Chechen authorities reacted quickly, and harshly.
Magomad Daudov, a former insurgent, now second in command in Chechnya, posted this photo on his Instagram page.
It shows Kadyrov with his dog, Tarzan, along with a message which reads:
'Tarzan's fangs are itching, and he especially hates dogs with foreign masters'.
10.29 Supporters of Kadyrov in Europe posted photos of themselves on social media sites with slogans declaring 'Kadyrov is a patriot of Russia'.
And this menacing video message was distributed via WhatsApp throughout the Chechen diaspora.
10.45 ANONYMOUS PISTOL HOLDER: Asalam meleikum. Listen guys, look here at what I'm showing you and take note. Anyone who criticizes our leader Ramzan (Kadyrov)... I’ll shoot them from this pistol. So pay attention and stop it. Do you all get it? I'm here in Germany, in Hamburg, and I won't stop for anyone, because we control this place. And if anyone thinks I'm bluffing, come here and I'll show you I mean business. Allahu Akhbar!
11.15 Mansur knows to take Kadyrov's threats seriously.
In January 2009, former presidential bodyguard, Umar Israilov, was shot dead in broad daylight in the Vienna suburb of Floridsdorf.
Israilov had recently lodged a lawsuit against his ex-boss at the European Court of Human Rights.
11.38 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: Everyone knows very well how they murdered Israilov here in Austria. We also know well how here there are many pro-Russian people from Chechnya who can carry out their orders.
12.01Israilov is only one of a long list of prominent Putin and Kadyrov critics who have met with untimely ends.
Among them are journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, former FSB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, Russian opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov and human rights defender Natalya Estimirovna.
Now Mansur too has found himself on Kadyrov's radar.
12.27 KADYROV ON GROZNY TV: There is one propagandist there, his name is Mansur Sadulaev. He fled from here, he fought here. He is a terrorist. We have his photo, we have everything. He's a member of a terrorist organisation. Why don't they arrest him in Europe? He is on the Federal wanted list. Why? Because he's signed a document to say that he will work for them, that he will carry out their commands and that's why he feels so free there.
12.58 Kadyrov’s accusations came as no surprise to Sadulaev.
13.02 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: They have noticed that our speeches in particular were supported by the majority of young people. And not only those who are outside Chechnya, but also those who are inside Chechnya. Any person who the people support, they see a particular threat in that person of course. And why did they support us? Because we said what everyone knows but no one says.
13.43 TANYA LOKSHINA - RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Chechen officials including Ramzan Kadyrov himself say loud and clear that their opponents are enemies, and are sponsored by the west to destroy Chechnya and Russia, and that they need to be qoute-unqoute ‘dealt with'.
14.05 Since his instatement as president, Ramzan Kadyrov has developed a reputation for not only his extreme ruthlessness, but also for his wild extravagance.
He lives in an opulent palace of gold and marble which he shares with his wife and seven children.
14.22 Kadyrov enjoys entertaining western celebrities, boasts an extensive collection of luxury cars, has a penchant for racing horses which he keeps in Dubai, and even has his own private zoo.
14.35 Other hobbies include collecting weapons…
…posting pictures of himself with baby animals on his Instagram page
… and throwing lavish birthday celebrations for the man who built his career on the second invasion of Chechnya … Russian President Vladimir Putin.
14.53 KADYROV: Today we've come to say words of thanks to our great patriot, our national leader. Our supreme high commander, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who we remember. We will never forget those difficult days when he, Vladimir Putin was beside our people and supported us.
15.12 TANYA LOKSHINA - RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It’s quite understandable why he's saying that, because Putin is the one who appointed him to run Chechnya. All the money comes from Putin and in a sense Kadyrov is no one without Putin.
14.35 For the relatives of the estimated 300,000 Chechens who lost their lives during the two brutal wars with Russia, it's impossible to forget, let alone forgive the country which invaded their territory.
15.55 Mansur was 13 years old in 1999, when the Russian army marched into Chechnya for the second time.
MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: I remember well how they conquered Chechnya. All those murders of civilians, the abductions of people, the looting. I saw it all myself. In 2000, I lost my father at the hands of the Russian occupiers. You could say that with the first war and the second war, my whole childhood was spent in war.
16.22 When Russia took control of the republic in mid-2000, Vladimir Putin appointed Ramzan's father, Akhmad, as head of the Chechen administration.
Three years later, the one-time supporter of the anti-Russian insurgency became president of a region now firmly controlled by his former enemy.
16.43 To most Chechens, Kadyrov was the ultimate traitor.
Six months later he was dead – assassinated at a parade celebrating Russia's victory in World War II.
16.56 In 2007, Ramzan inherited his late father's post, and with it, his loyalty to Russia.
Human rights organizations estimate that since Kadyrov senior became president, over 36 thousand Chechens have been killed and between 6 - 7,000 have disappeared.
17.16 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: Of course, like any normal person I couldn't stand aside and watch this. Everything I could do, I did, to free my people and my land from the occupation.
17.38 In 2008, Mansur joined a group of resistance fighters.
But he was to pay a high price for his opposition to the Russian-backed regime.
17.45 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: The Russian occupation forces arrested me in 2009. And sentenced me to two years in prison.
There are reportedly over 27,000 Chechens currently behind bars in Russian prisons.
17.59 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: Every day they are tortured, subjected to brutality, beatings, humiliation, insults, hunger, cold. They took me to a cell with prisoners who were infected with tuberculosis especially so I would become infected with tuberculosis. Me, and the other Chechens who were with me.
18.23 MANSUR: After I was freed, they also came, took me away, threatened me, and demanded that I work for them. They said directly to me that if I didn't cooperate they wouldn't let me live.
18.38 Mansur realised he had no choice other than to leave his homeland.
18.43 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: In 2012 I came here to Austria and was immediately taken to hospital as I was in a very serious condition. I spent six months in hospital, after which it took a long time to recover.
19.06 Four years after arriving in Austria however, Mansur and his family still face an uncertain future.
19.13 Selima, her husband Murat and their three children find themselves in a similar situation.
Selima’s troubles began when her younger brother was arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of terrorism.
An eight year ordeal followed as she and human rights investigators attempted to seek justice.
19.33 SELIMA: Together with human rights defenders from Memorial, we began to stage demonstrations against their detention and torture at the Russian Department for the Fight against Organized Crime. These meetings did not help. We staged them near the government. But of course they didn't help.
19.48 Selima’s endeavours to help her brother were in vain.
But at least she survived.
19.54 SELIMA: All the people who helped us in this matter, Natalja Estimirovna, the deputy head of the Chernokozovo prison, the deputy head of SIZO (remand prison) in Grozny, all those people, I can say that they were. They are no more. They were all killed. Not one single person who helped us in this matter survived. They are no more.
20.18 The family made their final decision to flee to Austria after Murat was abducted and beaten.
They are now living in a 15 square metre room in a pension in a village near Vienna.
Despite everything the family has been through, their application for asylum in Austria has been rejected.
20.36 MURAT: They have rejected us. They said they don’t believe our documents although we have given them everything they need. I told him how I'd been abducted, how I'd been beaten. He said, 'It's not possible that people in Chechnya just walk around with guns.' I said, 'How can it not be, when I've just come from there?' 'No', he said. 'It's all fine there, everything's been rebuilt. How can people simply be walking through the streets with guns?’
21.10 Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, explains how decisions are made.
21.17 KARL-HEINZ GRUNDBÖCK: The first thing is to assess whether the reasons they gave for fleeing are plausible or are they telling a story which is not believable. That's the first thing. The other is the question as to what assessment we make for the country in general.
21.43 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: For the past few years the authorities have tried very hard to show the world that the war is over in Chechnya, that the Chechens are happy to be under Russian occupation, that Chechens want to live with Russia. Every demonstration or every complaint about the situation in Chechnya bothers them because it destroys this image they are building.
22.14 Since the second war ended in 2004, the Chechen capital Grozny has been completely rebuilt.
The city now boasts gleaming skyscrapers, an enormous mosque and renovated streetscapes.
In 2012 a delegation from Austria's Far Right Freedom Party visited Chechnya as guests of Kadyrov.
They returned to report the republic was now peaceful and refugees could safely return.
22.42 TANYA LOKSHINA - RUSSIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Representatives of Austria really weren’t the only ones who only got to see the bright side of contemporary Chechnya. It looks safe. Also, such visitors, foreign vistors in particular, they only got to hear the official part of the story. The authorities actually make huge efforts to make sure that they don’t get to see any critics, they don’t get to talk to any independent actors.
23.15 A group of foreign journalists and human rights activists however received a very different kind of welcome on a recent visit to Chechnya.
As they entered the republic in March this year, the minivan they were traveling in was attacked and set on fire.
All aboard were badly beaten.
23.33 One of the journalists was investigating the fates of two Chechen asylum seekers who had recently been deported from Norway.
Shortly after arriving back in Chechnya, both had died under mysterious circumstances.
23.47 While Mansur and Selima have so far failed to receive asylum in Austria, thousands of Kadyrov supporters are living freely and openly in Europe.
23.57 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: It’s like some kind of slow-acting landmine.Those people who are pro-Russian, who are being accepted here and live here without problems, this means that Chechens here don’t feel safe.
24.35 This Chechen imam living in Innsbruck even spoke out recently on Grozny television, reassuring viewers back home that everything in Chechnya was just fine.
24.48 KAMAILOV: Those who spoke out at the demonstration did not speak in my name, and not in the name of those Chechens living in Austria. We can go home. Here in Innsbruck there isn't a single person who can't go home. My relatives are working in Chechnya. They say that everything is fine for them.
25.11 MANSUR SADULAEV – FORMER RESISTANCE FIGHTER: If everything there is so fine, so beautiful and so good, why are thousands leaving, families, people to the countries of Europe? If it's so good there, and they say it's even better then Europe, then why are people selling everything – their homes, flats, possessions – and giving their last money to leave for Europe. Why?
25.50 And now Mansur has a personal invitation from Kadyrov to return to Chechnya, delivered courtesy of Grozny Television.
25.59 KADYROV: If you are a Muslim, if you are a man and hero, come home so you can walk and talk in front of the cameras. We're in the motherland. Look, I'm standing in the middle of the city. Come and kill me. What? You're not a hero, not a man? No, you're nothing, so think, look in the mirror and say to yourself – 'Ramzan told me, speaking the truth – 'think like a man and don't judge like a woman’.
26.39 Murat and Selima are waiting anxiously for the results of their asylum appeal.
Mansur Sadulaev has been placed under permanent police protection in Austria.
He and his family are also still waiting for news from Austrian authorities.
Kadyrov's term as head of Chechnya is due to expire in September 2016.
Putin has highly commended his work and insists he should stay.