Putin, Chechnya Silence Yet Another Voice

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2009 8:53 AM CDT
Weeping mourners escorted the body of Natalya Estemirova through Grozny, honoring the activist whose brazen kidnapping and execution-style killing shocked Russia's beleaguered human rights community.   (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)
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(Newser) – The kidnapping and murder of activist Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya was horrific, her friend writes in a Washington Post op-ed, but not surprising in the "grossly misruled" region where "anyone who challenges the authorities risks her life." Tanya Loshkina, a director of Human Rights Watch, had just left Chechnya, where the two documented torture, abductions, and assassinations. "We sat at my kitchen table talking into the wee hours about who would be next," she writes. "Now I know."

Like her friend Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist whose murderers have never been found, Estemirova was dedicated to undoing the fiction propagated by Putin and others that Chechnya is at peace. In fact, it's a region where opponents of the regime are regularly abused and killed, and houses are torched as collective punishment. It's unknown who killed Estemirova, but as Loshkina writes, "responsibility for the climate of impunity in Chechnya goes straight to Moscow." The US and Europe can't forget this.