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Chechen Refugees – Pawns of Political Games

31.01.2011

Did Misheil Saakashvili assist Putin “to crush Chechen refugees like cockroaches?”

Salome Achba

Some experts think that President Saakashvili’s statement regarding his assistance to Putin in the resolution of the Chechen problem was a confession of sort, and connects it with the suspicious disappearances, imprisonments and unfair extraditions of Chechen refugees residing in Georgia. In 2006, the Human Rights Center prepared a report on the violation of the rights of Chechen Refugees in Georgia. The report describes the existence of vague disappearances, imprisonments and the extradition of Chechen refugees.

“In 2004, Putin succeeded in reaching a resolution of the Chechen problem and I assisted him with it. Shevardnadze never did. Maybe, someone will condemn me for this, but I think violence and disorder was not a good choice for Georgia and I acted logically,” said President Mikheil Saakashvili on January 25, during the program entitled “President’s Q&A” broadcast on the First Caucasian Channel. This statement by the president caused serious concern within society. However, it is difficult to guess from his words how exactly he assisted the Russian president in the resolution of the Chechen problem.

Conflict scientist Paata Zakareishvili said the statement of President Saakashvili is connected with the extradition of Chechen refugees. “President Saakashvili sent several Chechen people back to Russia after they had entered Georgia; thus he convinced the Chechen people that they had nowhere to go. Saakashvili quoted Putin’s statement – “I shall crush disobedient Caucasus people like cockroaches.” So, our president assisted Putin in this – which means he participated in the genocide of Chechen people. The strangest fact is that nowadays, we only produce crocodile tears when discussing the Chechen problem in the parliament and intend to recognize their genocide.”

The Human Rights Center made a special appeal and announced that there is a reason to believe that the Georgian MIA secretly detained several Chechen refugees in Georgia and then extradited them to Russia without any trial. The Russian side had requested their extradition prior to that.

According to the Human Rights Center, President Saakashvili’s statement is directly or indirectly connected with the disappearance of Chechen refugees residing in Georgia, their imprisonment and extradition to Russia. The Human Rights Center calls on President Mikheil Saakashvili to specify and present thorough information to the public “about the issues of Chechnya,” as well as what and how he helped Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. The criminal conducts which were carried out in Chechnya are strictly condemned by international institutions and organizations.”

To view the complete statement of the Human Rights Center: http://humanrights.ge/index.php?a=main&pid=12864&lang=eng

The Human Rights Center report on the rights of Chechen refugees in Georgia  “Silence Kills” was published in 2006. The report describes disappearances and imprisonment of Chechen refugees in Georgia.

“On February 12, 2003, Chechen refugee Adam Talalov, disappeared. He supervised humanitarian aid for refugees in Pankisi Gorge. The 41-year-old Chechen refugee left his home on February 12 and has not been seen since.

Although there is not sufficient evidence to draw any hard conclusions, HRIDC feels that the circumstances surrounding these cases indicate a high likelihood that, through force or coercion by agents of the Georgian government, these individuals have ended up in the Russian Federation and in the hands of authorities,” the report states.

An additional interesting fact which is described in the Human Rights Center report, concerns the cases of two Chechen refugees, Temur Baimurzaev and Islam Kashiev. Georgian border guards detained them in 2002 for illegally crossing the Georgian border. In 2004, the court found them not guilty and they were released.

“Two days after Kashiev and Baimurzayev were released from prison, they disappeared.  It was later learned that Russian Federation border guards had detained the two at the Larsi border crossing near Chechnya. Because this information was not publicly known in Georgia, the refugee community there feared that the two men had been abducted following their release and secretly whisked to the Russian Federation by Georgian agents.  Because it seems unlikely that two individuals wanted by the Russian Federation would attempt to cross the Russian border legally, the HRIDC supports the view of the refugee community,” the report of the Human Rights Center published in 2006.

President Mikheil Saakashvili categorically denied the accusations about the secret extradition of Chechen people. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, responding to the refugee community’s accusations, stated: “These are just allegations.  We don’t need secret extraditions. I was worrying about this information [the alleged extradition].  The Russians say that they [Kashiev and Baimurzayev] were captured at the Russian border, which really seems to me realistic.” 

The extradition of Chechen refugees to Russia started during Eduard Shevardnadze’s government. The government of Shevardnadze refused to assign Chechen refugees to Russia. In reply to that, in September of 2002, the former president of the Russian Federation Vladimer Putin blamed Georgia for “protecting  criminals.” We can assume that the former president of Georgia surrendered and promised to cooperate with Russia in this direction. However, this cooperation continued after the Rose Revolution too – in 2005, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch described 80 cases of organized repatriation of Chechen people from Georgia to Russia. In 2003, the government of Georgia supported the visit to Pankisi Valley of Russian Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations Iuri Brazhnikov, who suggested that the Chechen Refugees should return to their homeland. “The Georgian side is ready to take all measures to ensure the peaceful repatriation of Chechen refugees residing in Pankisi Valley to Russia,” said one of the hosts of the Russian delegation – former deputy minister of internal affairs of Georgia Davit Todua.

Furthermore, President Saakashvili spoke about the events of 2004 during his TV Q&A on the First Caucasian Channel. This was during the time when the relationship between Georgia and Russia became extremely complicated and Saakashvili visited Moscow. Before the visit, Saakashvili said he was ready to take all measures to put an end to the shameful relationship between the two countries. In return, the deputy foreign minister of Russia said Moscow was ready to remove the current visa-regime with Georgia if Tbilisi cooperated with them on resolving the Chechen problem.

It is still unclear what kind of cooperation started between the leaders of Russia and Georgia and whether they used Chechen refugees as pawns in political games. However, the president slipped in speaking. His statement shall be clarified and the Human Rights Center has already requested clarification from the president. We are looking forward to his response!

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