Destroyed houses in Grozny in 1994, in the first Chechen war. Photograph: Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

I have found it almost impossible to look away from the images of the carnage unleashed by Russian troops on occupied Ukrainian towns. Overcome with numbness, I masochistically zoom in on the photos of victims, studying every face, or whatever is left of it. All I can think is: “They have done this before. They are doing it again”.

The indiscriminate shelling, the looting, the evidence of rape, torture and executions, and, above all, the sense of enthusiasm with which these war crimes are being carried out are painfully familiar. In recent days, my mind has kept wandering to another photo, taken 18 years ago in Rigakhoy village in Chechnya by my mum, human rights activist Natalya Estemirova.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Mum did everything that she could to shield me from the horrors of the war, but she herself never looked away.’ Lana Estemirova with her mother, Natalya. Photograph: Lana Estemirova

Aged eight, I have a nightmare. Russian soldiers are breaking down the door of our flat. Mum and I run into the sunlit living room. A hand grabs me roughly and yanks me away from my mother, causing a sharp pain in my elbow. Her screams echo in my ears – but I can’t utter a word. Then I hear a cry so heart-rending that it turns into a hoarse rattle: “Lana!” I’m forced on to my knees in the dark corridor. “Please, please, spare her,” I beg, before hearing a shot. No more screams. I slowly look up at a soldier, but I can’t see his face.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chechen nationals exit a house in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli as they are handed over by Kurdish authorities to the Russian government, on 12 November 2017. AFP/Delil Souleiman

The victories over ISIS in Mosul and Raqqa pose a dilemma for states whose citizens travelled to join the Islamic State’s (ISIS) ranks and who may now seek to return home. These states include Russia, and in particular its republic of Chechnya.

On the one hand, Chechen authorities fear the return of insurgents who fought for ISIS. They worry those militants, most of whom are mortal enemies of Ramzan Kadyrov’s heavy-handed regime, will renew the attacks they mounted some years ago in Chechnya. As has been the case in the past, authorities might not stop at jailing returnees, and might also go after their families, friends or associates, potentially hardening hatred of the regime among a wider circle of people.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters carry a portrait of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov during a rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, in February 2016. Credit NurPhoto/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

The evening plane that landed on Aug. 2 at the airport in Grozny, the capital of the Russian republic of Chechnya, was met by a group of high-level officials. Next to them was a young woman in a green hijab with white dots in the shape of hearts, waiting and doing her best to control her emotions. Then the steps were lowered, and a Chechen military police officer carried down a pale, thin boy awkwardly dressed in a plaid jacket and a fedora.

The child did not recognize his mother, whom he had not seen for two years. In 2015, 4-year-old Bilal was abducted by his father when he went to join the Islamic State.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Grozny, Russia, May 17, 2017. Musa Sadulayev/AP Images

The Chechen government’s brutal campaign against gays has understandably aroused a strong reaction in the West. In recent months, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a notorious strongman closely allied with the Kremlin, has directed his police forces to round up gay men, torture them, and sometimes even kill them. In mid-April, former US vice-president Joe Biden said that he was “disgusted and appalled” by reports of the brutal crackdown and urged President Donald Trump to raise the issue directly with the Kremlin, though Trump did not respond. And on May 2, in a meeting with Russian President Putin in Sochi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed her concerns about the persecution of Chechen gays: “I…spoke about the very negative report about what is happening to homosexuals in Chechnya and asked Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the beginning of April, reports surfaced that a crackdown on gay men was afoot in Chechnya, the small, turbulent republic on the southern edge of the Russian Federation. According to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, more than 100 gay men were rounded up by the police and brutalized in secret prisons, and at least three of them were killed. Many remain in detention.

In fear and desperation, 75 people called in to the Russian LGBT Network’s Chechnya hotline. Of these, 52 said they had been victims of the recent violence, and 30 fled to Moscow where they received help from L.G.B.T.…  Seguir leyendo »

A couple from Chechnya who have sought refuge at a house in Moscow. Credit James Hill for The New York Times

At the beginning of April, reports surfaced that a crackdown on gay men was afoot in Chechnya, the small, turbulent republic on the southern edge of the Russian Federation. According to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, more than 100 gay men were rounded up by the police and brutalized in secret prisons, and at least three of them were killed. Many remain in detention.

In fear and desperation, 75 people called in to the Russian LGBT Network’s Chechnya hotline. Of these, 52 said they had been victims of the recent violence, and 30 fled to Moscow where they received help from L.G.B.T.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Jan. 10, a protester holding a sign “I am Charlie” was arrested in Moscow and later sentenced to eight days in jail. A few days later, the federal media watchdog ordered the St. Petersburg edition of the Business News Agency to remove the new cover of Charlie Hebdo from its website. The same agency was warned that reprinting the cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad could be considered a criminal offense, and that it would violate the “ethical and moral norms formed in Russia through the centuries of different peoples and faiths living side by side.”

On Monday, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, whom Vladimir V.…  Seguir leyendo »

The page on the Russian social networking site VKontakte features two images of a 19-year-old man, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who’s suspected of involvement in the Boston bomb attacks. One is a self-portrait, in black and white, that casts him as proud and ambitious. The other shows the young man hugging a male friend at a kitchen table, looking for all the world like two happy, ordinary teen-agers.

The biographical information is sparse: Born on July, 22. Not married. Languages: Russian, English, and Noxiyn mott (Chechen). Education: School Number One in the city of Makhachkala, 1999-2001, Cambridge and Latin School 2011, Boston. Religion: Islam.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Boston Marathon bombings shook the nation. With one suspect killed and the other captured Friday night, there are far more questions than answers at this point. While authorities unravel details in the coming days and weeks, many people are curious about Chechnya and its history, hoping to better understand the background of the two suspected bombers.

The important thing to keep in mind right now is that 26-year-old Tamarlan Tsarnaev had a green card, and 19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev became a naturalized U.S. citizen in September 2012. Assuming that their motives are related to their Chechen origins would be like assuming that Timothy McVeigh's motives were related to his Scottish/Irish origins.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the U.S. tries to process the news that the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing had ties to the Russian republic of Chechnya, Russians and Chechens know what it means for them: trouble.

Little is known in Russia about the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Apparently, the family moved to the U.S. more than a decade ago to seek refuge from Chechnya, which had a long and brutal secessionist conflict with Russia. Relations between ethnic Russians and Chechens remain fraught, and Chechen nationalists and religious fanatics have carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Russian soil.

The initial Russian reactions were incredulous: What do Chechens want with Boston?…  Seguir leyendo »

El último golpe de terroristas chechenos contra la sociedad rusa no ha podido llegar en peor momento. Rusia está sufriendo las consecuencias de una crisis económica que está atacando duramente a su débil economía. La población, mayoritariamente desempleada, reclama trabajo, soluciones a la corrupción y el fin de la inseguridad ciudadana. A nivel internacional, la posición de Rusia se ha visto mermada por una guerra con Georgia que ha debilitado la imagen de un país en declive comprometiendo las relaciones con sus aliados (China, Venezuela, Irán etcétera...). Los rusos señalan al presidente Medvédev como culpable y recuerdan con nostalgia los años de presidencia de Putin.…  Seguir leyendo »

Almost every month for the past two years, Chechen suicide bombers have struck. Their targets can be anything from Russian soldiers to Chechen police officers to the innocent civilians who were killed on the subway in Moscow this week. We all know the horror that people willing to kill themselves can inflict. But do we really understand what drives young women and men to strap explosives on their bodies and deliberately kill themselves in order to murder dozens of people going about their daily lives?

Chechen suicide attackers do not fit popular stereotypes, contrary to the Russian government’s efforts to pigeonhole them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Five years ago, perhaps the news that two women had exploded themselves and at least 38 blameless commuters in Moscow would have left us numb, rather than shocked and despairing. We were more used to it then. But half a decade has passed without such an atrocity, and surely everyone had begun to hope the days of brutality were over.

Already Russian officials have speculated about the help the women must have needed to commit these acts of mass murder. Inevitably, they have used the words "outside forces" – that is, a catch-all term that includes anyone they see as enemies of Russia: the CIA, MI6, al-Qaida, and so on.…  Seguir leyendo »

On the day of the funeral of Natalya Estemirova (Natasha to her friends), a leading investigative researcher for Memorial human rights centre in Chechnya, her friends and colleagues gathered at the Memorial office in Grozny. "Who is next in line?" a sign said. All of us there were devastated by Estemirova's brazen murder, following her abduction by unidentified men who appeared to be law enforcement officers, on 15 July.

Many women were crying, while the men stood there grimly, as if entranced. They knew someone would eventually be next, but thought that after Estemirova's killing there would be at least a lull, a respite.…  Seguir leyendo »

They found the body of my friend Natalya Estemirova on Wednesday. She had been abducted by unidentified men that morning in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, where she lived and worked as a human rights defender. She was seen being bundled into a sedan and was heard calling out, "I'm being kidnapped!" Calls to her cellphone went unanswered all day; she missed several important meetings, including one at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and she failed to pick up her daughter as scheduled at 2:30 p.m.

I immediately feared the worst. The night before I had come back from a week of research in Chechnya with Natasha, as she was known, where we documented the extrajudicial executions, torture and -- ironically -- abductions that continue to go unpunished years after the Russian government declared the war there over.…  Seguir leyendo »

Yesterday, in especially spineless and despicable fashion, a friend of mine was murdered. She was Natasha Estemirova, 50, the head of the Chechnya office of the human rights organisation Memorial, and one of the bravest people in Russia. For many years – and despite repeated death threats – Estemirova struggled to expose the brutality of state security forces whose attempts to root out separatist rebels in Chechnya were accompanied by wholesale terror against its civilian population.

Around 8.30am yesterday, witnesses saw several unidentified men push Estemirova into a white Lada outside her home in Grozny: she managed to cry out that she was being kidnapped.…  Seguir leyendo »

El pasado 16 de abril, Moscú anunció oficialmente el fin de la guerra contra el terrorismo en Chechenia. Desde la proclamación unilateral de su independencia por el ex general de la aviación soviética Djohar Dudáiev en 1991, consecutiva a la desintegración de la URSS, la historia de la pequeña república autónoma se compone de una sucesión de campañas militares, golpes de mano de la guerrilla, treguas precarias y nuevas rupturas de hostilidades. Hoy la paz reina en Grozni -una paz cuyo coste sólo puede calibrar quien haya puesto los pies allí: barrios enteros de la capital arrasados por el fuego de tanques, aviones y helicópteros, aldeas destruidas, familias diezmadas, decenas de millares de jóvenes torturados y desaparecidos en los siniestros puntos de filtración-.…  Seguir leyendo »

No corkscrew. That's the first surprise about Chechnya. Unlike in Baghdad today or Kabul during the Soviet occupation, planes don't arrive high above the airfield and then dip one wing in a steep and terrifying spiral so as to reduce the risk of ground fire as they land. In Grozny they glide in over woods and villages, apparently confident there are no resistance fighters lurking in wait.

Surprise number two is the amount of reconstruction in the Chechen capital. Five years ago when I last visited Grozny it still looked like the ruins of Dresden or Hiroshima, street after devastated street.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por Juan Goytisolo, escritor (EL PAÍS, 20/11/06):

La lectura de Rusia dolorosa. Diario de una mujer en cólera y Chechenia, el deshonor ruso, publicados hace tres años en Francia sin que atrajeran entonces la atención de la opinión pública, es doblemente sobrecogedora: por la brutalidad que describen y por la valentía con la que Anna Politkóvskaya, la periodista asesinada el 7 de octubre, la afronta. Pocas veces una muestra de buen periodismo, atento al detalle significativo y vertebrado por un rigor ético que no retrocede ante ningún peligro, me ha conmovido tanto. Mi conocimiento directo del tema influye sin duda en ello.…  Seguir leyendo »