Remember the Date

Remember the Date: 15 July 2009 - the murder of human rights defender Natalia Estemirova

posted 16 Jul 2018, 08:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Jul 2018, 08:13 ]

On 15 July 2009 human rights defender 
Natalia Estemirova, a staff member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre's office in Grozny, Chechnya, was abducted and killed. As Human Rights Watchnotes, that morning Natalia Estemirova was carried off in a car as people on a nearby balcony heard her call for help. Her body was found later that day in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia. Seven years on, her killers remain at large. Irene Khan, then Secretary General of Amnesty International, said at the time of Natalia Estemirova's killing: "Natalia Estemirova was a most courageous and inspiring woman who never tired of defending the human rights of others. She was a truly exceptional person and a friend to many of us. We are shocked and saddened by the news of her death and wish to express our deepest sympathy for the family of Natalia Estemirova, for her friends and for her colleagues." As Amnesty International point out in a statement, "Natalia Estemirova's work was crucial in documenting human rights violations in the region, such as torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances, since the start of the second Chechnya war in 2000. She also devoted herself to providing assistance to displaced people and other socially disadvantaged groups. No one has claimed responsibility, but colleagues believe she was killed for her human rights activities."

Natalia Estemirova was recipient of a number of prestigious prizes for her work, including the Robert Schuman medal of the European Parliament (2005), the Right Livelihood Award of the Swedish Parliament (2004 - the so-called Alternative Nobel Peace Prize), and she was the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya Award (2007). In 2007 Natalia Estemirova was a recipient of the Human Rights Watch Defender Award. The video below by Human Rights Watch was made at that time to introduce her work. 

'Human rights activist Natalia Estemirova murdered in Russia,' Amnesty International, 16 July 2009
'2007 Natalia Estemirova Tribute Video,' Human Rights Watch, 17 July 2009

YouTube Video


Remember the Date: On 19 January 2009 Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were shot dead in Moscow

posted 21 Jan 2018, 09:46 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 09:50 ]

On 19 January 2009 human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were shot dead on Moscow's Prechistenka Street. 

Rights in Russia was set up one year later on 19 January 2010, the first anniversary of their deaths, in their memory.

Remember the Date: 26 October 2002 - Nord-Ost Theatre Siege ends

posted 27 Oct 2017, 12:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Oct 2017, 12:21 ]

Russians Mark 15 Years Since Theater Siege, Botched Rescue

A few hundred people gathered [on 26 October] near a Moscow theater to commemorate victims of a deadly hostage crisis in 2002, with some still-grieving relatives bitterly criticizing the state over a botched rescue operation. Raw emotions surfaced at the October 26 ceremony outside the Dubrovka Theater, where some 40 gunmen took hundreds of audience members, actors, and staff hostage 15 years ago and demanded the withdrawal of federal troops from Russia's Chechnya region. The hostage crisis began on October 23, 2002, when the Chechen militants burst into the theater during the performance of a popular musical. It ended 57 hours later, when security forces stormed the building after pumping in toxic gas that neutralized the attackers but led to the deaths of many hostages. [...]
Source: RFE/RL [26 October 2017]

Photo: Wikipedia

Remember the Date: 18 May 1944 - deportation of the Crimean Tatar people from their homeland

posted 18 May 2017, 10:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 May 2017, 10:38 ]

18 May 2017 is the 73rd anniversary of the 1944 Deportation of the Crimean Tatar people from their homeland. 

From Wikipedia: "The forcible deportation of the Crimean Tatars from Crimea was ordered by Joseph Stalin as a form of collective punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazi occupation regime in Taurida Subdistrict during 1942–1943. The state-organized removal is known as the Sürgünlik in Crimean Tatar. A total of more than 230,000 people were deported, mostly to the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. This included the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population, at the time about a fifth of the total population of the Crimean Peninsula, as well as smaller numbers of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians. A large number of deportees (more than 100,000 according to a 1960s survey by Crimean Tatar activists) died from starvation or disease as a direct result of deportation. It is considered to be a case of ethnic cleansing. For a long time Crimean Tatars and Soviet dissidents called for recognition of the genocide of Crimean Tatars."

Deportation of the Crimean Tatars, Wikipedia
Halya Coynash, '“What was done to you in 1944 has a name. It was genocide”,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 18 May 2017
Halya Coynash, 'Russia Bans Remembrance Events on Anniversary of Crimean Tatar Deportation,' Human Rights in Ukraine, 18 May 2016

Remember the Date: 12 May 1997 - the signing of the peace accord ending the First Chechen War

posted 15 May 2017, 11:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 May 2017, 12:10 ]

On 12 May 1997 President of Russia Boris Yeltsin and President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Aslan Maskhadov signed a peace treaty that brought to an end what has become known as the First Chechen War. In a report on the anniversary, Caucasian Knot quotes Oleg Orlov of Memorial Human Rights Centre as saying the treaty was at the time "perceived as a kind of positive event, the end of the war, and the possibility for new prospects." However, subsequently "the situation began to develop under a different scenario and all hopes for peace appeared to be unjustified. This is the fault of politicians and society, both in Russia and in Chechnya. The fact is that in Moscow and Chechnya supporters of the 'war party' gathered strength. Revanchist moods among Boris Yeltsin's subordinates began to prevail almost immediately after the treaty had been signed. The treaty with Chechnya was viewed only as a cover to prepare a revenge, for a new war. Members of the 'war party' in Moscow, among other things, supported the extremist forces in Chechnya. [...] Law enforcers, including the FSB and its chief Vladimir Putin quite frankly showed their unwillingness to follow the peaceful development of relations between the two parties to the treaty." Orlov also stated that Russian society "also faced growing opposition to agreements and treaties with Ichkeria. [...]Deputies of the State Duma and members of the Federation Council used the treaty to criticize Boris Yeltsin. A lot of politicians began to develop their PR based on such criticism. Society turned out to be submissive to such a position, stating that 'a great country had been humiliated,' that 'the victory had been stolen,' and so on." Oleg Orlov believes that the consequence of this "was a new war, new destruction, crimes and victims." [translation of comments by Oleg Orlov by Caucasian Knot]

Photo of the signing of the peace treaty: Caucasian Knot

'Peace treaty in Chechnya disrupted by populists 20 years ago,' Caucasian Knot, 14 May 2017

Remember the Date: 5 March 1940 - Soviet authorities order the mass killing of Polish officers that became known as the Katyn Massacre

posted 6 Mar 2017, 04:25 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Mar 2017, 04:31 ]

"The Katyn massacre, a series of mass executions of Polish nationals carried out by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) in April and May 1940, was prompted by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute all captive members of the Polish officer corps, dated 5 March 1940, approved by the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000. The victims were executed in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, with rest Polish intelligentsia that the Soviets deemed to be 'intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests'."

- Wikipedia [slightly modified]

Photo of the order for the Katyn massacre: Wikipedia

'Katyn massacre,' Wikipedia

Remember the Date: 27 February 2015 - assassination of Boris Nemtsov

posted 27 Feb 2017, 07:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Feb 2017, 07:11 ]

On 27 February 2015 Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on the Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin in Moscow. 

From the entry in Wikipedia, 'Assassination of Boris Nemtsov': 

"The assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian statesman and politician opposed to the government of Vladimir Putin, happened in central Moscow on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge at 23:31 local time on 27 February 2015. An unknown assailant fired seven or eight shots from a Makarov pistol; four of them hit Boris Nemtsov in the head, heart, liver and stomach, killing him almost instantly. He died hours after appealing to the public to support a march against Russia's war in Ukraine. The assassination was met with widespread international condemnation and concern for the situation of the Russian opposition. Russian authorities also condemned the murder and vowed a thorough investigation. On 8 March 2015, Russian authorities charged Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadaev, both originating from Northern Caucasus, with involvement in the crime. Dadaev confessed to involvement in the murder according to Russian authorities, but, according to Russian media, later retracted his confession. Three more suspects were arrested around the same time and according to Russian media another suspect blew himself up in Grozny when Russian police forces surrounded his apartment block.

"Nemtsov was shot and killed crossing the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin walking home after a meal out, in the company of Anna Duritskaya, a 23-year-old Ukrainian model who had been his girlfriend for two and a half years. She witnessed Nemtsov's killing, but was not physically harmed herself. TV Tsentr's video of the bridge at the time of the murder shows that it occurred as a municipal utility vehicle was passing by Nemtsov and a person is seen escaping from the scene in a white or grey automobile. According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, at the time of the murder all the security cameras in the area were switched off for maintenance. The only video of the incident was obtained from the video feed camera of TV Tsentr studio, from a long distance. At the time of the killing, the camera was blocked by a stopped municipal vehicle. The killing happened the day before Nemtsov was due to lead the opposition march Vesna (Russian for "spring"), a street demonstration organised to protest against economic conditions in Russia and against the war in Ukraine. [...]

"Less than three weeks before his murder, on 10 February, Nemtsov had written on Russia's "Sobesednik" news website that his 87-year-old mother was afraid Putin would kill him. He added that his mother is also afraid for former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny. When asked if he himself was afraid for his life, Nemtsov answered, "Yes, not as strongly as my mother, but still..." In an extended version of the interview Nemtsov reportedly added, "I am just joking. If I were afraid of Putin, I wouldn't be in this line of work."

Two weeks prior to his assassination Nemtsov had met "with an old friend", Yevgenia Albats, editor of New Times magazine, to discuss his research into Putin's role in the Ukraine conflict. Albats said that Nemtsov "was afraid of being killed" but "was trying to convince himself, and me, they wouldn’t touch him because he was a [former] member of the Russian government, a vice premier, and they wouldn’t want to create a precedent. Because as he said, one time the power will change hands in Russia again, and those who served Putin wouldn’t want to create this precedent"." 

Photo: Wikipedia

Remember the Date: 23 February 1944. Deportation of the Chechen and Ingush peoples

posted 23 Feb 2017, 10:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 10:21 ]

On 23 February, 1944, the Chechen and Ingush peoples were deported to Siberia and the northern regions of Kazakhstan by order of Joseph Stalin. The operation, conducted on the spurious grounds that t
he Chechen and Ingush people had collaborated with the Nazis, was carried out by the NKVD, then headed by Lavrenty Beria. An estimated 500,000 people were deported and the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was abolished. Tens of thousands of Chechens and Ingush died or were killed during deportation and in the first years in exile. Survivors were only allowed to return home in 1957. On 26 February 2004 the European Parliament voted to recognize the deportation as an act of genocide.

Map: Wikipedia

'Russia's Ingushetia Commemorates 1944 Deportation Victims,' RFE/RL, 23 February 2017
Operation Lentil (Caucasus), Wikipedia
Mairbek Vatchagaev, 'Remembering the 1944 Deportation: Chechnya's Holocaust,' Jamestown Foundation, North Caucasus Analysis Volume: 8 Issue: 8
Sapiet Dakhshukaeva, 'Remembering Stalin's deportations,' BBC, 23 February 2004
Aurélie Campana, 'The Massive Deportation of the Chechen People: How and why Chechens were Deported,' Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, 12 February 2015'Chechnya: European Parliament recognises the genocide of the Chechen People in 1944,' UNREPRESENTED NATIONS AND PEOPLES ORGANIZATION, 27 February 2004
Akhmed Sultanov, Lecha Yelkhoyev and Claire Bigg, ' "There Was No Water, No Food" - Chechens Remember Horror Of 1944 Deportations,' RFE/RL, 23 February 2016
Professor Mohammad Shashani, 'The Sixty Seventh Commemoration of the Chechen Deportation of 1944,', 23 February 2011

Remember the Date: 5 February 2000 - the massacre at Aldy in Chechnya

posted 13 Feb 2017, 10:01 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Feb 2017, 10:02 ]

On 5 February 2000, Russian soldiers summarily executed dozens of civilians in the Chechen village of Aldy. Survivors of the massacre have no hope of finding justice, with the authorities doing everything in their power to whitewash this and other tragedies.
[Source: Open Democracy]

Kazbek Chanturiya writes: 'This Sunday marked the seventeenth anniversary of the Aldy Massacre. This is what locals call the zachistka (cleansing operation) by Russian military units in the small village on the outskirts of Grozny. About 100 civilians were killed in the operation, mostly elderly people and women, with a one-year-old boy and his young mother also among the dead. According to eyewitnesses, the security forces who conducted the "cleansing operation" in Aldy acted with deliberate intention, because virtually none of those killed had done anything at all to provoke them to such cruelty. [...] A criminal investigation into the mass execution of peaceful residents in the village of Aldy was opened on 5 February 2000; the investigation has been suspended and resumed several times since then. This crime, which can easily be counted among the cruellest episodes of the Second Chechen War, remains not only unpunished but also un-denounced and unrecognised by the authorities.'

Photo via Open Democracy: 'A still from documentary ’Aldy: No statute of limitations’ showing Russian journalist Natalya Estemirova before her murder in 2009. Source: YouTube.'

Kazbek Chanturiya, 'Anniversary of Aldy Massacre passes in fear and silence,' Open Democracy, 10 February 2017

Remember the Date: 27 January 1945 - Auschwitz-Birkenau liberated by Soviet troops #HolocaustMemorialDay

posted 28 Jan 2017, 07:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Jan 2017, 07:51 ]

On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated by Soviet troops.

"International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of The liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust. Resolution 60/7 establishing 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide."

- source: Wikipedia

Photo: 'Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May 1944' (c) "Bundesarchiv Bild 183-N0827-318, KZ Auschwitz, Ankunft ungarischer Juden

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