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Heads of Chechnya and Daghestan criticise police for disrupting Friday prayer in Moscow

17 July 2023
A police officer in the Islamic Centre in Kotelniki, Moscow. Screengrab via social media.

The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the head of Daghestan, Sergei Melikov, have criticised a Russian National Guard raid on an Islamic centre in the Moscow Oblast on 14 July.

Footage of the incident shows members of the OMON, a special police force within the Russian National Guard, disrupting the Friday prayer in an Islamic centre in Kotelniki.

In the videos, the police are seen demanding identification papers from worshippers, while other videos from the mosque show troops storming into a room and ordering people to lie on the ground.

Russian authorities have not released any statements about the incident, but another video published after the incident sees residents of Kotelniki praising the police for identifying illegal immigrants in the centre.

‘Upon this inspection, foreign citizens were identified — more than 80% of the total number of people who were in the premises’, says a man in the video. ‘The people in the premises are migrants, citizens of other countries: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan’.

Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov took to Telegram to criticise the police for their ‘unprofessional and provocative’ actions, adding that he had instructed Adam Delimkhanov, a State Duma member and head of the Chechen branch of the Russian National Guard, to look into the incident.

In turn, Delimkhanov claimed to have discussed the police raid with the governor of the Moscow Oblast and the Russian Presidential Department for Domestic Policy.

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‘There is no doubt that these provocateurs will receive their well-deserved punishment to the fullest extent of the law’, wrote Delimkhanov on his Telegram channel. ‘We have not left and will not leave such criminal behaviour against Muslims, who are an integral part of Russia and have fought for the interests of our Fatherland throughout history.’

Chechnya’s Human Rights Commissioner, Mansur Soltayev, stated that the police’s actions at the centre ‘discredit [...] the law enforcement system of Russia’.

‘In the footage of the video circulated on the Internet, you can see how the security forces walk on carpets in shoes, do not allow believers to complete their prayers, and insult them’, said Soltaev. ‘Thus, they offended the religious feelings of Muslims and violated the rights of believers. The actions of law enforcement officers are unprofessional and play into the hands of various provocateurs trying to stir up the situation within our country’.

Daghestani Head Sergei Melikov also criticised the incident, stating that ‘the religious feelings of other people should never be offended’.