Will Kremlin Really Investigate Natalya Estemirova's Murder?

Kadyrov governs Chechnya with a mixture of Stalinist repressive policies and Caucasian vendettas. In a 2005 interview with the pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, he admitted that it was his "hobby to kill devils." He employs bloodthirsty mercenaries who feel confident that no police officer or prosecutor would dare bring them to justice -- after all, Kadyrov is a protégé of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president. As a result, the northern Caucasus has become a lawless region -- with the Kremlin's blessing. And Kadyrov has become a nightmare for human rights activists.

Estemirova Was Openly Warned

Natalya Estemirova was the daughter of a Chechen father and a Russian mother. She had recently sharply condemned Kadyrov's thugs for their systematic practice of burning down houses belonging to the families of members of the separatist underground movement. She helped Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, document 13 cases. And she also investigated the case of the wife of a rebel murdered by a police officer.

For Kadyrov, the human rights activist was a provocation and an enemy. He took action against her, including removing her from her position as chairwoman of the "Citizens' Council" in Grozny. He insulted her publicly and warned her to stay away from ministries and other government buildings in Grozny. Experts with the Russian domestic intelligence agency FSB say that "Kadyrov and his associates," as one colonel told SPIEGEL, are "strongly suspected of having planned and executed the murder of Estemirova." The crime, says the FSB officer, clearly bears "the coarse signature of the Kadyrovtsy," referring to a feared militia loyal to Kadyrov.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Munich when he learned of the murder. He paid tribute to Estemirova, saying she had done "very useful" work because she "spoke the truth." Medvedev also instructed the chief investigator to personally supervise the investigation of the bloody deed.

Will Medvedev's words have any effect? Will this murder actually be solved for a change?

Based on their experiences, Estemirova's colleagues doubt very much that that will happen. Vyacheslav Izmailov, an editor at Novaya Gazeta, says: "I would like to see the Russian investigator from Moscow who will actually launch an investigation there in Chechnya." Moscow's investigators, says Izmailov, know perfectly well that the Kremlin supports Kadyrov. He is convinced that "Medvedev's orders to the investigators are pure fiction." Kadyrov, he says, has surrounded himself with people "who don't know how to do anything but kill people" and who feel safe.

Izmailov's words are bolstered by several remarks Medvedev made in a meeting with the Chechen president at the Kremlin on June 22, some of which were televised. In the meeting, the Russian president, who has himself publicly warned against "legal nihilism" in his country, told Kadyrov that his campaign against underground fighters had "produced results." And then he urged Kadyrov to "continue this work."

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