Amnesty International has urged Russia’s federal authorities to act after the “kidnapping” of a Chechen human rights lawyer’s mother from her apartment in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, some 1,800 kilometers away from Chechnya.
In a statement dated January 20, Amnesty said Zarema Yangulbayeva, also known as Musayeva, was taken away from her apartment by several masked men who introduced themselves as Chechen police officers.
The 52-year-old Yangulbayeva is the mother of Abubakar Yangulbayev, a lawyer of the Committee Against Torture NGO.
“Will Russia’s federal authorities again ignore the developments in Chechnya and pretend that they are not aware of attempts by the Chechen authorities to muzzle their critics by criminal acts and abductions of their relatives?” Amnesty’s statement said.
Yangulbayev told RFE/RL that his parents have been residing outside of Chechnya for many years and have nothing to do with any developments in Russia’s North Caucasus region.
According to him, his mother was forcibly taken from her apartment at the Chechen authorities’ order to bring her to her native region as “a witness” in an unspecified fraud case.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on January 21 that he was not aware of the situation around Zarema Yangulbayeva, emphasizing that she is the wife of retired federal judge Saidi Yangulbaev.
“The Kremlin has no details about the abduction of a federal judge’s wife in Nizhny Novgorod and prefers not to believe in it,” Peskov said.
In late December, dozens of relatives of Chechen bloggers who reside abroad and often criticize Chechen authorities and the region’s Kremlin-backed authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov, were detained. Most of them were later released, but some, including two of Yangulbayev’s relatives, remain in custody.
Yangulbayev himself was briefly detained in the city of Pyatigorsk and questioned as a witness in a case of “justification of terrorism.”
Russian and international human rights groups have for years accused Kadyrov of overseeing grave human rights abuses including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the persecution of the LGBT community.
Kremlin critics say Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned a blind eye to the abuses and violations carried out by Kadyrov because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in Chechnya.
Chechnya went through two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency that spread to other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.
With reporting by Ekho Moskvy