Other Russia reports:
Human rights activists are documenting a rapid jump in the number of Russian nationals fleeing the country and requesting political asylum, Interfax reported on January 15th. According to Svetlana Gannushkina, the head of the civil assistance committee under the Russian president, “We can see a new wave of applications of [Russian nationals] to Western countries asking them for a [political] asylum.” At a news conference, Gannushkina revealed that in the last three months alone, a total of 1,200 Russian nationals had requested asylum in the airports of Paris, France. Six hundred of those were from Chechnya. “People buy transit airline tickets via Paris and ask for a political asylum there without going to the countries they were bound for as per their tickets, mainly Morocco,” she said.
On January 15th, the Memorial human rights group released a report on conditions in the Chechen Republic, which concluded that the region was now under a totalitarian regime led by President Ramzan Kadyrov. Under Kadyrov’s regime, women aren’t allowed in public without headscarves (under a government “battle for morals”), and 80 percent of television coverage focuses on the president. Oleg Orlov, a Memorial activist, commented that after many years of bloody conflict, the region was now in relative peace, with a lower number of kidnappings and crime. He attributed this result to the continuing work of Russian and international human rights activists.
Meanwhile, in Gannushkina’s words, refugee camps have been forcing inhabitants out into the streets. Chechen residents living in nearby republics are being personally pressured into returning to Chechnya by Kadyrov: “For instance, people aren’t hired for work, and are forced to regularly register their fingerprints. Their social rights are being violated,” she said. According to the activist, the French Interior Ministry has an order which states that Chechens should not be extradited from France.