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The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has announced his intention to introduce official collective punishment for the relatives of suspected terrorists. He spoke about the initiative in an interview with Russia Today on 19 April.
Kadyrov claimed that applying collective responsibility will solve ‘the problem of rebels and terrorists’ in Chechnya, as well Russia as a whole.
‘If they have a son or brother who chose the path of terrorism and if their family helps them… They [the relatives of militants] stay home unemployed, they receive pensions and benefits, they cover for their sons or brothers, help them financially to keep killing us; we will evict them’, Kadyrov remarked.
According to Kadyrov, the close relatives of terrorists are accomplices to their acts, and the state should not help to feed, finance, or provide for ‘allies of terrorists’.
Collective responsibility has been practiced in Chechnya for some time. However this is the first that the Chechen head has spoken about it publicly.
In the early 2010s, in areas where militants were still hiding in Chechnya’s mountains, the authorities would force close relatives of suspected militants to walk in front of police and soldiers during special operations. This tactic did not prove effective, as militants still refused to give themselves up.
Another tactic introduced by the Chechen authorities in recent years has been burning down the houses militants’ relatives. This is usually done at night, with families allowed to take out their documents and clothes at most, and in most cases not even these.
They authorities have now began to burn down the houses of and expel relatives of militants fighting outside of the republic, as happened to the family of Zelimkhan Bakharchiev, from the village of Prigorodnoye. Bakharchiev had travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State.
According to the authorities, he organised and coordinated the group of young people who in December of last year attacked police in the centre of Grozny, resulting in the death of two officers.
Bakharchiev’s father, brothers, and cousins were expelled from the Chechnya. The authorities then forced them to leave Ingushetia, where they had found temporary shelter. Their last refuge was with distant relatives in Kalmykia.
The authorities refused to allow the family to bury Bakharchiev’s father, Aslanbek Bakharchiev, who died in exile, in the family cemetery. After the family managed bury him in the Chechen village of Aki-yurt, which is located in Ingushetia. Chechen authorities sent security forces to dig up the body and take it away for burial in an unmarked grave. Residents of Aki-yurt prevented them from doing so.