The World From Berlin 'Responsibility For Activist's Murder Lies in Moscow'

Within the space of a month, two prominent activists have been murdered in the unstable Russian province Chechnya. The body count for the Chechen president's opponents keeps rising. German commentators suggest Moscow is losing control of the region and it's loose cannon leader.

The bodies of human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov, were found in the Chechen capital of Grozny on Tuesday. Unknown assailants abducted the couple at gunpoint on Monday night from the office of Save the Generation, the children's charity Sadulayeva ran.

Murdered: Zarema Sadulayeva, head of the Save the Generation charity.

Murdered: Zarema Sadulayeva, head of the Save the Generation charity.

Sadulayeva's murder makes her the second prominent Russian activist to be killed in Chechnya in the space of a month. Last month Natalya Estemirova -- a leading member of Memorial, a Russian human rights group -- was kidnapped and murdered in the unstable province.

The government of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has been criticized and some have blamed Kadyrov for the murders, albeit indirectly. After a quiet spell following Kadyrov's installation as president, violence in the region has been on the rise in recent months. Kadyrov enjoys the support of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin but German commentators voiced their doubts about the future of the province -- and its loose-cannon leader.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The hardest thing to bear is the entrance of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov onto the scene. As always, when one of his critics is killed he seems to see it as a personal affront. Someone wanted to hurt him, he lamented this time around, as though he was the victim. He has long accused the West of fostering the war in Chechnya in order to weaken Russia and has accused non-governmental organizations of being paid agitators out to destroy his fine work. Even if he had nothing to do with this latest murder, anyone who talks like that is diminishing the deaths of Estemirova, Sadulayeva and all those brave souls who have had the courage to challenge the totalitarian state."

"The responsibility for this crime lies in Moscow. Not just Putin, who placed Kadyrov on his throne, but also President Dmitry Medvedev. They may be acting like they are shocked, but they have pampered Kadyrov -- who they promote as a kind of wild prodigy who has managed to make order out of chaos and lead fighters back into civilized life. Yet eerily, Kadyrov's opponents have been killed not just in Chechnya but in Moscow, Dubai and Vienna. Kadyrov embodies the Russian style of politician who, when in doubt, reaches for violent solutions to dissent."

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

"Once again, people in Chechnya have been kidnapped and murdered. Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband fought for the rights of children in the Caucasian republic. Not even a month ago, Natalya Estemirova, an activist for the human rights organization Memorial, was found dead. Her colleagues blame Chechen president and Kremlin stooge Ramzan Kadyrov. They have good cause, too. Kadyrov was one of the worst terrorists in the Caucasus, responsible for hundreds of crimes. Three years ago, Russia's then-President Vladimir Putin maneuvered Kadyrov to the top of Chechen politics with a calculated cynicism. The unscrupulous, brutal bureaucrat would find a way to end the violence. And feeding his lust for power would be his reward."

"Clearly this calculation was wrong. The increasingly displeased leadership in Moscow is realizing this. That may be why President Dmitry Medvedev told the federal prosecutor's office to report to him personally on the Estemirova case. Although the case has apparently already been solved, nothing has been made public. The federal prosecutor also took personal charge of the Paul Klebnikov case -- the Forbes bureau chief was murdered in 2004 and the case has dragged on for five years. He has also been investigating the murder of Anna Politovskaya for three years. In both cases, the search for the puppet masters and the shadowy figures behind the scenes isn't really getting anywhere."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has been accused of human-rights violations, but enjoys the support of Moscow's ruling elite.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has been accused of human-rights violations, but enjoys the support of Moscow's ruling elite.

"The Kremlin is on the verge of losing control of part of its country. After the death of Zarema Sadulayeva, the second murder of a prominent Russian civil rights activist in the space of a month, Western politicians are demanding a "prompt explanation." The truth is that, even if the Russian leadership wanted to do something, they have not been in control of the situation in Chechnya for a long time. With Kadyrov, Moscow has itself a Chechen president who does what he wants and simply steps over the corpses along the way. That's part of the reason that the murders of Sadulayeva, her colleague Natalya Estemirova and the journalist Anna Politovskaya will probably never be solved."

"At the same time, other Russian republics in the Caucasus are spinning out of control. Not a day goes by without a bomb exploding, a police officer being shot or an attack on a high-ranking bureaucrat in Ingushetia or Dagestan. And the likelihood that the region's problems can be smoothed over by cash are shrinking in the economic crisis."

"Even the victory over Georgia, which made so many in Moscow proud, looks like a liability in retrospect. Since Moscow unilaterally recognized the independence of the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, it has another albatross around its neck. The tiny state of South Ossetia, not much more than a smuggler's nest, must now be defended and subsidized. And every grenade thrown from there will be blamed on Russia."

The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:

"It hardly took the cold-blooded murders of human rights activists Sadulayeva and her husband to remind us that all is not well in Chechnya. But with this, we have one more indication that it takes the death of someone prominent to get this region on the international community's radar. Otherwise, not much attention is paid to the Chechnyans. Why is that?"

"Officially, last year's Russian anti-terror campaign was a success. The story from the top is that Chechnya is back on course for normalization. The fact that people disappear every day under the brutal rule of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov isn't taken particularly seriously."

"Apart from the Chechnyans themselves, everyone can live with this state of affairs -- especially the West. Flourishing economic ties, a dependence on Russian energy and a fear of making diplomatic waves are all reasons to look the other way and not to criticize Russia, even at the risk of sharing the responsibility for serious human rights violations."

-- Andrew Curry


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