A moderator of a Telegram channel critical of the authorities has appeared in a video torturing and humiliating himself, reportedly after being abducted by armed men.
In the video posted to Telegram channel 1adat on Monday, a naked man standing on his knees in the corner of the room introduces himself as 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkayev. The man claims to be the administrator of the 1adat channel.
‘This is a dirty group, they discuss strangers, the Chechen Government, create pictures and write poetry, do all kinds of inappropriate things’, the man says. ‘I realised that all this is inappropriate.’
The man then says that he ‘decided to punish himself’ and begins to sodomise himself with a glass bottle from the Sernovodskaya mineral water. Sernovodskaya is owned by the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation, named after the father of Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov.
Public apologies by people who criticise the authorities are frequently published on social media or broadcast on state television in Chechnya.
The 1adat Telegram channel publishes information about human rights violations in Chechnya.
The channel’s administrator, who remains anonymous, told OC Media that two days before the video was published, a moderator from their channel informed them that ‘armed men’ had come for him.
On Tuesday evening, a new video with Tepsurkayev appeared on social media.
‘I made the video because there would be a demand for me to do so. I insulted other people’s mothers and sisters. Either they had to put me on a bottle or shoot me in the forehead. I didn't want to be shot in the forehead… ’.
‘Armed people came for him’
The 1adat administrator told OC Media that they did not know Tepsurkayev's identity or any other information about him until the video was released. According to them, he was not the channel’s administrator as he claimed in the video, but a moderator of the conversation.
According to the administrator, Tepsurkayev wrote to them on Saturday afternoon to say that armed men had arrived at his workplace.
‘We asked him to send information and photos, but he has since disappeared. Yesterday we got this video from his account.’
The administrators of the channel assume that the young man was abducted by officers of the Terek Special Rapid Response Unit (SRRU) of the Federal Service of the National Guard.
‘We do not yet know who exactly kidnapped him and is detaining him, but we assume that it could have been officers from the Terek SRRU [Special Rapid Response Unit of the National Guard].’
The Terek SRRU and its commander, Abuzaid Vismuradov, were included in the US Government’s sanctions list in May 2019.
Vismuradov also serves as head of the security service of the head of Chechnya and a deputy prime minister in the Chechen Government.
The 1adat channel has released a video claiming that there had been multiple attempts to hack the channel and that they believed this was how Tepsurkayev was discovered. They added that the video ‘disgraced the entire Chechen people’.
‘Extraordinary, even for Kadyrov's Chechnya’
Russian rights group Memorial has appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Investigative Committee of Chechnya with a request ‘to establish the whereabouts of Salman Tepsurkayev and to investigate his possible abduction, torture, and degrading treatment’.
‘We demand that this gruesome incident is investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice’, Memorial said in a statement.
‘The responsibility for what happened lies with the leadership of the Chechen Republic and Ramzan Kadyrov personally’, Oleg Orlov, a member of Memorial’s Council said.
According to Orlov, it would be ‘extremely naïve’ to expect a real investigation from the official departments, since many crimes previously committed by the Chechen authorities have not been investigated.
‘Sooner or later, all those responsible for this crime will be punished. But we, as human rights activists, want this punishment to take place within the law’, he added.
Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a prominent Chechen blogger in exile, called the incident ‘extraordinary, even for Kadyrov's Chechnya’, in a video message on Tuesday. Abdurakhmanov said the situation required public outcry.
‘This guy, if possible, should be taken to a safe country and given the opportunity to publicly talk about how it all happened.’
‘You have never sunk so low before’, he said, addressing Kadyrov and his supporters.
Public apologies in Chechnya
The practice of forcing members of the public to publicly apologise has been applied by the Chechen authorities for several years. Many such apologies are broadcast on state television channels or through official social media channels.
People frequently issue apologies for making public requests for help or publicly criticising the authorities. There have also been cases in which people have apologised for messages sent privately in messaging apps.
In one recent case in June, the mother of a woman who was allegedly murdered by her husband apologised on Chechen state TV for speaking publicly about domestic violence.
In May, three women who posted videos online of local residents being beaten in the streets by the security forces for breaking lockdown also apologised. In a video published by a pro-government Instagram account, the women, along with their male relatives, asked for forgiveness.
The practice has not been limited to adults. In August 2016, a 16-year-old boy gave a tearful apology on state TV for criticisng Chechen officials.