Saturday, 30 June 2012

Lezginka, The Caucasian War Dance

The Lezginka is a Caucasian dance named after the Lezgis that is danced all over the Caucasus, by Georgians, the Armenians, the Chechens, and the many other cultures who are home to the Caucusus. This article also contains the basic description of the moves involved in the Lezginka.

The strange thing about Lezginka and the various videos of the dance on sites like Youtube, is that there seems to be a war, fought in the comments sections, over whether it is an all male dance, or whether it is a dance that includes one or more women. Some maintain the former, some the latter, and others maintain that the Lezginka includes women, but that there is another all-male dance called the Mkhedruli ("military" in Georgian).

I think the answer is that it's all one dance that went through a historical change. It started out as an all-male war dance, like this scene from the Russian made movie, 12, were a boy dances the Lezginka with Chechen Rebels resting at his fathers farm:

Or, if you'd prefer a more real-life example, consider this clip of Chechens dancing The Lezginka at a party:

There's no doubting that the above dances, whether you want to call them "Lezginka" or Mkhedruli, are all-male war dances. Aside from the fact that the participants are exclusively men, the male aesthetic of the dance is unmistakable. There are no curves in the Lezginka, only elbows and knees in a whirlwind of angles, balanced geometrically. The point isn't grace and fluid movements, but to combine the speed of a spinning-top with an as sudden and precise a break in motion as that of a whirling dagger nailing the apple on top of the beautiful assistant's head, so vulnerably and trustingly stand does she. It is a war dance.

A great example of a Lezginka is usually given by the Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov:

I think what happened was that, as time went on, women started jumping into the fray. I would guess that this was a very, very late development because even today it is very conceivable for rivals over a woman to get into a fight if she dances with one of them and leaves the other alone. But, in any case, that the introduction of women into this dance is a new development is also evidenced by how thoroughly boring the woman's dance is compared to the man's: it is basically gliding in circles while making elegant gestures with the hands. The footwork, if any, is limited to imitation. Consider this video of Lezginka being performed by women at a Chechen Wedding, for example:

And that is the "evolutionary" curve that the Lezginka has gone through: it began as a war dance, women joined in, and it then became a spectacle for people to watch, vicariously enjoy, and clap for entertainment: the concert ends at 8 PM so you can get to work on time the next day. And that's generally the curve of culture from pre-modern to late modern. Savage and exhilarating in the beginning; beautiful-ish and civil toward the middle.

Here's a diagram of the steps so you can learn how to do a Lezginka :

Description of the moves :

Man: Raise your shoulders in a broad manner and keep your arms outstretched while bending them slightly in the same direction. Your fingers should be open, however, every so often, make a fist while bending your arms. Your legs should bend slightly while stomping on the ground and crossing your feet. The most important part of the Lesginka should be to be close to your female partner NEVER touching her. You should encircle her while moving your arms around her. You should give the impression of being jagged and hard, but also flowing at the same time.

Woman: Keep your arms raised above your shoulders while veiling your face with your fingers as if you were tickling the air. Walk softly, flutter close to your partner but also give him the impression that he needs to "follow" your lead. Maintain eye-contact with him while walking gently, crossing your feet. You ought to conjure a feeling of softness.

Lezginka Dance Instructions

The Wolf Of The Caucasus

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Chechen Conflict Documentary

A Correspondent Documentary On the Chechen Conflict with Russia From Its Beginning in the 1790's To The current time.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

The Wolf Of The Caucasus

Monday, 25 June 2012

Witness Account Of Russian War Crimes In Chechnya

The following is a list of accounts of war crimes commited against Chechen civilians and Chechen fighters, These source from an eyewitness to many of the events and the boasts of a Russian Soldier.

"I remember a Chechen female sniper. We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it to let off some steam."

"The main thing is to have them (Chechens) die slowly. You don't want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death."

"The summary executions don't just take place against suspected fighters. One 33-year-old army officer recounted how he drowned a family of five - four women and a middle-aged man - in their own well."

"You should not believe people who say Chechens are not being exterminated. In this Chechen war, it's done by everyone who can do it," he said. "There are situations when it's not possible. But when an opportunity presents itself, few people miss it."

"I would exterminate and kill all the men I met during mopping-up operations. I didn't feel sorry for them one bit."

"We shouldn't have given them time to prepare for the war," he continues. "We should have slaughtered all Chechens over 5 years old and sent all the children that could still be re-educated to reservations with barbed wire and guards at the corners."

"But where would you find teachers willing to sacrifice their lives to re-educate these wolf cubs? There are no such people. Therefore, it's much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow."

"So there will be one Chechen less on the planet, so what? Who will cry for him?"

War has no rules for the Brutal Russian forces battling Chechen Separatists. Many Russian 
Troops openly admit committing atrocities against both Chechen guerrillas and civilians, "It's part of the military culture of impunity" they say. But many now have troubled consciences.

They call it bespredel - Literally, "no limits." It means acting outside the rules, violently and with impunity. It translates as "excesses" or "atrocities."

It's the term Russian soldiers use to describe their actions in Chechnya.

"Without bespredel, we'll get nowhere in Chechnya," a 21-year-old conscript explained. "We have to be cruel to them. Otherwise, we'll achieve nothing."

Since Russia launched a new war against separatist rebels in its republic of Chechnya a year ago, Russian and Western human rights organizations have collected thousands of pages of testimony from victims about human rights abuses committed by Russian servicemen against Chechen civilians and suspected rebel fighters.

To hear the other side of the story, a man traveled to more than half a dozen regions around Russia and interviewed more than two dozen Russian servicemen returning from the war front.

What they recounted largely matches the picture painted in the human rights reports: The men freely acknowledge that acts considered war crimes under international law not only take place but are also commonplace.

In fact, most admitted committing such acts themselves--everything from looting to summary executions to torture.

"There was bespredel all the time," one 35-year-old soldier said. "You can't let it get to you."

The servicemen say atrocities aren't directly ordered from above; instead, they result from a Russian military culture that glorifies ardor in battle, portrays the enemy as inhuman and has no effective system of accountability.

"Your army is based on professionalism," said a 27-year-old paratrooper who served alongside U.S. troops as a peacekeeper in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Our army is based on fervor."

Russian officials, including the Kremlin's war spokesman, Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, have criticized the human rights reports, saying they are riddled with rumor and rebel propaganda.
Officials have sometimes blamed reported atrocities on what they describe as rebel fighters dressed as Russian soldiers.

But they acknowledge that some human rights violations do occur and say they are taking steps to curb them.

"[Chechens] are Russian citizens, for whose sake the operation was undertaken in the first place," Yastrzhembsky said in an interview. "They should be treated according to the same laws as in the rest of Russia. Any violation, regardless of who commits it, must be reviewed by the procurator [investigating magistrate] and the guilty parties should be punished."

That may be the Kremlin's official position, but servicemen say things are different on the ground. In part because of media coverage of Chechen slave-trading, torture and beheadings, the soldiers believe that the enemy is guilty of far worse atrocities.

Although they know that executions and other human rights violations are wrong, they also consider them an unavoidable--even necessary--part of waging war, especially against such a foe.

In their view, human rights workers and other critics are simply squeamish about the real nature of war.

"What rules? What Geneva Conventions? What difference does it make if Russia has signed them?" said a 25-year-old army officer. "I didn't sign them, none of my friends signed them. . . . In Russia, these rules don't work."

Perhaps most important, the servicemen described a pervasive and powerful culture of impunity in the Russian armed forces. They believe that authorities say one thing in public but deliberately turn a blind eye to many war crimes. A few even said investigators helped cover up such atrocities. Right or wrong, the soldiers are confident that authorities will make no serious effort to investigate war zone misconduct.

"You don't make it obvious, and they don't look too hard," another 21-year-old conscript said. "Everyone understands that's the way it works."

Many of the servicemen admitted having troubled consciences. But like a mantra, most repeated what they had been taught--that whether one likes it or not, going to war means acting bespredel.

"What kind of human rights can there be in wartime?" said a 31-year-old police commando. "It's fine to violate human rights within certain limits."

"The main thing is to have them die slowly. You don't want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death." - Andrei

Andrei's pale eyes glow against his tanned skin. He's been home only 10 days. He opens and closes kitchen cabinets, searching confusedly for sugar for his tea. "I still haven't gotten used to domestic life," he apologizes. He has just turned 21.
During basic training, he recalls, Red Cross workers came to his base to teach about human rights and the rules of war.

"They tried to teach us all kinds of nonsense, like that you should treat civilians 'politely,' " he says. "If you behave 'politely' during wartime, I promise you, nothing good will come of it. I don't know about other wars, but in Chechnya, if they don't understand what you say, you have to beat it into them. You need the civilians to fear you. There's no other way."

Andrei says the lesson that stuck was the one his commander taught him: how to kill.
"We caught one guy--he had a fold-up [radio] antenna. He gave us a name, but when we beat him he gave us a different name. We found maps in his pockets, and hashish. He tried to tell us he was looking for food for his mother. My commander said,

'Stick around and I'll teach you how to deal with these guys.' He took the antenna and began to hit him with it. You could tell by the look in [the Chechen's] eyes that he knew we were going to kill him.

"We shot him. There were five of us who shot him. We dumped his body in the river. The river was full of bodies. Ours, too. Three of our guys washed up without heads."

Andrei says he knows that officially, Russian troops are supposed to turn all suspected rebels over to military procurators. But in practice, his unit literally took no prisoners.

"Once they have a bruise, they're already as good as dead," Andrei says. "They know they won't make it to the procurator's office. You can see it in their eyes. They never tell us anything, but then again, we never ask. 

"The easiest way is to heat your bayonet over charcoal, and when it's red-hot, to put it on their bodies, or stab them slowly. You need to make sure they feel as much pain as possible. The main thing is to have them die slowly. You don't want them to die fast, because a fast death is an easy death. They should get the full treatment. They should get what they deserve. On one hand it looks like an atrocity, but on the other hand, it's easy to get used to.

"I killed about nine people this way. I remember all of them", says Andrei.

Russian Soldiers do not believe in the humane act of taking prisoners:

Servicemen say the type and frequency of bespredel vary significantly from one unit to another. A few said such things never happened in their units. But even they knew of incidents involving other units.

Other than looting, the most common crime recounted to The Times was the execution of suspected rebels.

"We called it 'taking them to the police station,' " said one police commando. "The nearest police station was 300 kilometers [about 200 miles] away. In reality, they wouldn't make it farther than the next corner."

Nearly all of the servicemen interviewed said they didn't bother taking prisoners.

"We had a clear-cut policy with prisoners: We didn't take any," said another police commando. "To be more precise, we did take one prisoner once and tried to hand him over to the procurator's office. But one of our men was wounded on the way, and then we decided--no more prisoners.

What's the point? We already risk our lives greatly when we fight against them.
Why risk them again to save the lives of fighters and give them the chance to go to jail when what they deserve is death? . . . You can carry out the sentence right on the spot."
The summary executions don't just take place against suspected fighters.

One 33-year-old army officer recounted how he drowned a family of five--four women and a middle-aged man--in their own well.

"You should not believe people who say Chechens are not being exterminated. In this Chechen war, it's done by everyone who can do it," he said. "There are situations when it's not possible. But when an opportunity presents itself, few people miss it.

"I don't know what it is, bespredel or not," he continued. "But it is a war. A war is a very cruel thing, and matters of life and death should not be judged by civilian standards."

Mutilation of corpses and torture were reported less frequently but clearly were common in a number of units. Several servicemen interviewed for this report confirmed that some members of Russian special forces cut off the ears of their victims in a revenge ritual.

"Cutting ears may seem savage to some, but it has its explanations," said one commander. "It's an old tradition among the special forces--you cut off the ears of the enemy in order to later lay them on the tombstone of your friend who was killed in the war. . . . It's not a manifestation of barbarism. It's just our way of telling our deceased mate: Rest in peace. You have been avenged."

"I would kill all the men I met during mopping-up operations. I didn't feel sorry for them one bit." - Boris

Boris' body was both built and broken by years of boxing. His face, hands and torso have the strength and subtlety of cinder blocks. Since he returned from the war zone, he has had trouble sleeping at night.

"Sometimes I fear I will not be able to control myself, especially after a couple of drinks," the thirty something police commando says. "I wake up in a cold sweat, all enraged, and all I can see is dead bodies, blood and screams. At that moment, I'm ready to go as far as it takes. I think if I were given weapons and grenades, I would head out and start 'mopping up' my own hometown." He says he can no longer remember all the people he killed.

"I killed a lot. I wouldn't touch women or children, as long as they didn't fire at me. But I would kill all the men I met during mopping-up operations. I didn't feel sorry for them one bit. They deserved it," he says. "I wouldn't even listen to the pleas or see the tears of their women when they asked me to spare their men. I simply took them aside and killed them."

When he came home from Chechnya, he resigned from his unit. He says he's happy to be in a regular job. And he's trying to forget the war. But there are some things he can't forget.

"I remember a Chechen female sniper. She didn't have any chance of making it to the authorities. We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it. After this, a lot of the boys calmed down. Justice was done, and that was the most important thing for them.

"We would also throw fighters off the helicopters before landing. The trick was to pick the right altitude. We didn't want them to die right away. We wanted them to suffer before they died. Maybe it's cruel, but in a war, that's almost the only way to dull the fear and sorrow of losing your friends."

Russian Soldiers Kill For Revenge:

Notions of provocation and revenge are central to the servicemen's mind-set. In Russian culture, a man not only has the right but is also honor-bound to respond to a "provocation." When a Russian serviceman is killed or mistreated by the enemy, his comrades must take revenge.

Nearly all of the servicemen who recounted incidents of bespredel--a slang term that originated in Russia's prisons--described them as revenge attacks for the deaths of their comrades.
"When you see your mates drop down on the ground, when you take your dead and wounded to the hospital, this is when hatred rises within you," said a 23-year-old army officer. "And the hatred is against all Chechens, not just the individual enemies who killed your friends. This is when bespredel starts."

These tendencies in Russian military culture have been intensified by a virulent Russian hatred of the Chechens - a hatred running higher in this conflict than in the 1994-96 war in the republic.

Sergei Kovalyov, a Soviet-era dissident who served as human rights commissioner in Chechnya during the first war until he was fired for his outspokenness, says the Kremlin fosters a culture of impunity that makes it all but certain that some excesses might take place.
"As usual, it is the authorities who are to blame because they deliberately refuse to do what they should do--monitor the situation, suppress unlawful actions and severely punish the guilty. But they deliberately do not do it," he said.

"If one were to make a list of those guilty of the cruel treatment of peaceful civilians, one should start with President [Vladimir V.] Putin," Kovalyov said. "He knows perfectly well what is happening."

And that, Kovalyov said, is "not too far from genocide."

"It's much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow." - Valery

Valery is a personnel officer, what in Soviet times would have been called a commissar. He's a lieutenant colonel responsible for morale and discipline. He shouldn't talk to reporters.

But the night is dark, the beer from the roadside kiosk outside his army base is cold, and he has a lot on his mind. He checks documents, then launches into a diatribe.

"In this war, the attitude toward the Chechens is much harsher. All of us are sick and tired of waging a war without results," he says. "How long can you keep making a fuss over their national pride and traditions? The military has realized that Chechens cannot be re-educated. Fighting against Russians is in their blood. They simply don't know how to do anything else."

"We shouldn't have given them time to prepare for the war," he continues. "We should have slaughtered all Chechens over 5 years old and sent all the children that could still be re-educated to reservations with barbed wire and guards at the corners."

"But where would you find teachers willing to sacrifice their lives to re-educate these wolf cubs? There are no such people. Therefore, it's much easier to kill them all. It takes less time for them to die than to grow."

Valery was in Chechnya in the early phase of the war, when he says there was little oversight from the high command and there were no pesky journalists.

"The solution to Russia's war, in fact, would have been very easy--the old methods used by Russian troops in the Caucasus in the 19th century. For the death of every soldier, an entire village was burned to ashes. For the death of every officer, two villages would be wiped out. This is the only way this war can be brought to a victorious end and this rogue nation conquered."

Valery acknowledges that atrocities occur but says that, in effect, soldiers are carrying out a policy the government needs but is afraid to declare.

"For political reasons, it's impossible to murder the entire adult population and send the children to reservations," he says. "But sometimes, one can try to approximate the goal."

"So there will be one Chechen less on the planet, so what? Who will cry for him?" - Gennady

Gennady is a paratrooper and proud of it. He's wearing a telnyashka, the paratroopers' trademark striped undershirt, and a robin's-egg-blue beret studded with badges. It's Paratroopers' Day, and the 24-year-old has come to a city park to meet his pals and trade war stories. He spent a few months in Chechnya last winter and expects to return this fall.

Gennady says his officers taught him to trust no one in Chechnya, not even the children.
"There were cases when small kids would run to the middle of the road, right in front of a moving convoy of trucks and APCs. And they were shot dead right on the spot by soldiers who thought the kid could be carrying a mine or a grenade. Hell knows, maybe they weren't. But it is better to be safe than sorry."

Gennady says that although he's been home for a few months, his hatred hasn't abated.

"I hated them when I fought in Chechnya, and I hate them now. I can't even watch TV when it shows Chechens, I feel all my muscles start to ache and I want to smash something."

Gennady says the most important lesson his commanders taught him was: Shoot first. Think later.

"Our officers would always teach us: Be careful, do not feel ashamed to be afraid of everything. Fear is your friend, not your enemy, in Chechnya. It will help you stay alive and come back home to your families.

If you see someone who looks suspicious, even a child, do not hesitate - shoot first and only then think. Your personal safety is priority No. 1. All the rest does not matter.

So there will be one Chechen less on the planet, so what? Who will cry for him? Your task is to complete the mission and return home unscathed."

After the destruction of Chechnya's capital Grozny, The UN named it "The most destroyed City on earth" You can read my account of visiting Grozny here.

The average estimate of the number of Chechens murdered under the Russian Federation is around 250,000 Civilians and 16,299 Militants.

A message to the barbaric Russian Forces and The FSB: "War crimes have no expiration date, When you die, you will have to answer to God."

The Wolf Of The Caucasus 

An Account Of A Visit To Modern Grozny

Early in the morning, on a freezing cold winter's day, I found myself standing on the edge of a snow covered field in the middle of the Chechen countryside. Before I started my journey here, I failed to check the weather forecast and unfortunately I left Moscow without my military grade jacket and also without my breakfast, a big mistake.

Now the only thing standing between me and the icy winds blowing off the Caucasus mountains was a highly inadequate coat. But things were about to get worse.

As I turned around, Staring back at me were two huge black stone lions standing guard on either side of an imposing gateway, the entrance to a sprawling luxury compound with its own private zoo of exotic animals such as bears and wolves, that is home to Chechnya's warlord in chief and President Ramzan Kadyrov.

A group of Mr Kadyrov's personal militia constantly looked me up and down suspiciously, their fingers were uncomfortably tight on the triggers of their automatic rifles, making the situation tense.

I was about to talk to the man who is now regarded as Chechnya's new president.

Running the war destroyed republic isn't a job for the faint-hearted. But then again, Ramzan Kadyrov is no ordinary man.

In the early 1990s at the age of 16 he was already commanding a band of Chechen separatist fighters in the first Chechen war.

After the second Chechen war in 2002, Kadyrov's father, Akhmad Kadyrov, changed sides, leading a pro-Moscow government of former rebels. Two years later the elder Kadyrov was dead, blown up by an assassin's bomb in Grozny.

Desperate to find a replacement, Moscow turned to his then 28 year old son, who was then head of the secret police. The former rebel then became Chechnya's prime minister.

The problem for me was that the man now about to be promoted to president had disappeared.

As I stamped my feet trying to stay warm a man in a tweed overcoat emerged from the gatehouse. In perfect accented English he apologised for his boss's failure to appear.

Either he didn't want to tell me, or more likely, he didn't know that Mr Kadyrov was in fact in Moscow. 

While I'd been heading south towards the Caucasus, Ramzan was heading in the opposite direction, called to the Kremlin for his meeting. I would not be able to speak with "the Lion of the Caucasus" this time.

A few minutes later amid a lot of shouting, police sirens and revving engines I was packed into a car. We were heading straight for Grozny, Chechnya's decimated capital.

As we lurched down the potholed road our convoy gathered speed. Soon the speedometer on the old Volga saloon was reading 160 km/h, that's 100 miles an hour, on a bumpy two-lane Chechen road. Ramzans militia were keen on hanging out of the sunroof and letting off bursts of rounds from their automatic rifles causing the car to swerve on the icy road, Becoming nervous I reached for my seatbelt, to find it did not have a buckle.

The Grozny I had expected, the one I'd experienced, resembled Berlin in 1945. Just four years ago the United Nations still called Grozny the most destroyed city on earth. Ravaged by two brutal wars, it had not a single building left undamaged by the brutal urban warfare fought to take the city

But now right in front of me, on either side of Grozny's main street, stood rows of freshly painted blocks of flats. At the far end the soaring minarets of a huge new mosque, the largest mosque in Europe and Russia.

Grozny is being rebuilt at a frenetic pace... and it's being paid for by Moscow. For the Kremlin the sooner the scars are erased, the sooner the outside world will forget the two brutal wars it fought and the war crimes it committed, to keep the rebel republic under Russian control.

The way I see it, the more young Chechen men working on building sites, the fewer that will be tempted to pick up a gun against Russia.

But while Moscow pays the bills, running Chechnya is today left to Ramzan Kadyrov and his band of former rebels.

In many ways the policy has been a success. The war does seem to be over because thousands of rebel fighters have been absorbed into Mr Kadyrov's new Chechen army.

But under his rule thousands of other Chechen men have disappeared without trace.

In the middle of Grozny I am surrounded by a group of women holding scratchy photographs of young men. They are the mothers of the disappeared. Their stories are eerily similar, of sons, brothers and husbands who left home one day to go to work, to the shops, to apply for a new passport, and never came back.

A woman with bright green eyes looks at me. I just want to know what has happened to my son, she said. Where is he? Is he alive or dead? People say life is better now, that the war is over, but for us the war will never be over until we find out what has happened to our children, I fear I will never see my son again.

The Wolf Of The Caucasus

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Documentary On Chechnya

An English Speaking Documentary with Russian Subtitles.

The documentary covers the Chechen History and Conflict in detail.

The Wolf Of The Caucasus

Putin the peacemaker for Syria? That's not how it's worked out in Chechnya and Georgia

Barack Obama’s latest plan to save Syria is to outsource the problem to Russia. It's a solution tantamount to inviting a date rapist to lead a Take Back the Night rally. But it’s entirely consistent with the administration’s foreign policy in general, premised on the idea that regimes which blame the United States for their own political instability or rampant criminality don’t really mean what they say and can be charmed into comity.

Since the start of the Syrian uprising, Russia has consistently defended Syria at the UN Security Council, amplifying its defense in direct proportion to gruesomeness evidenced by the Assad regime. It has blamed the Syrian opposition for atrocities clearly carried out by proxies of that regime. Despite professing a commitment to Kofi Annan’s six-point cease-fire agreement, Russia has continued to arm Assad with the latest battle tanks, air defense systems and who knows what else, denying that any of this will be used against the civilian population. Even as the grisly massacre in Houla got underway, a Russian-flagged vessel – this one owned by billionaire oligarch Vladimir Lisin – was docking in the port of Tartus to offload yet another consignment of weapons.

Alexander Golts in The Moscow Times has written the best analysis of why Putin continues to back Syria’s dictator even in the face of international reprehension: “Putin identifies with Assad, former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He is firmly convinced that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are all little more than contrivances that allow the West to control weaker nations.”

Putin realises that he, too, could wind up in an iron cage in front of a tribunal wanting to know how the price of his personal timepiece collection vastly exceeds his declared annual salary. To prevent this from happening, he has fashioned a funhouse mirror image of the system he believes exists in the West, authoritarianism tricked out as “managed democracy.”

What might a Russian-brokered transition in Syria look like?

Perhaps the best case study is Chechnya, home to another restive Muslim people, summarily categorized as Islamist terrorists and therefore deemed fair game for indiscriminate bombing campaigns, house-to-house raids, rapes and disappearances. Since 2003, Chechnya has been ruled as an undisguised and thoroughly corrupt satrapy of the Kremlin. Its current “president,” Ramzan Kadyrov, has repeatedly rigged elections to give the ruling United Russia Party a Ba’ath-like showing of upwards of 99 percent. Prior to the last Duma election in December, Chechen officials claimed that there were 608,797 registered voters; 611,099 ballots were subsequently cast. According to the US State Department’s 2011 human rights report on Russia, Kadyrov’s  government “continues to violate fundamental freedoms, engage in collective retribution against families of suspected militants, and foster an overall atmosphere of fear and intimidation.” A Syrian Kadyrov is easy enough to imagine: Maher al-Assad, Bashar’s more sadistic brother, could assume the presidency and allow Putin to declare a “cosmetic” transition in effect.

But how can Assad continue to blast cities and villages and deploy his tanks and helicopter gunships even as his Kremlin ally professes its solemn commitment to the Annan protocol? Consider the previous six-point ceasefire agreement Putin signed onto but has subsequently used as kitty litter: the one governing the close of the 2008 Russian-Georgian War. Moscow has not only ignored the plan’s clear demands for the “non-use of force” and for Russia to withdraw its troops from occupied territory, but it has further entrenched Russia’s military and intelligence apparatuses on foreign soil, in clear contravention of international law.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two breakaway regions over which the 2008 war was fought, have effectively been annexed by the Russian Federation, as a new briefing by my colleague Alexandros Petersen shows. Russia has engaged in the deliberate dispossession of ethnic Georgians in these territories, much like Assad’s Alawite-majority militias are now ethnically cleansing Sunni neighbourhoods in Hama. Ten thousand Russian troops and security personnel equipped with battle tanks, artillery and aircraft, are now stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where many villages have been razed or burnt to ground to make way for Russian military installations. South Ossetia’s entire budget and the majority of Abkhazia’s are funded directly by Moscow and the top ranks of both local “governments” are filled with Russian nationals, many of them agents of Russian military intelligence (GRU) or its domestic intelligence agency, the FSB. The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) designated to observe the terms of the 2008 cease-fire has been routinely prevented from doing so, just as the current UN mission to Syria has been kept by Syrian army checkpoints from surveying the latest massacre in al-Qubeir.

More revealing, though, is the length to which Putin will go to destabilise a pro-Western country in its “near-abroad”, much less a pro-Western opposition in the Mediterranean. US intelligence agencies confirmed what the Georgian Interior Ministry alleged last July: that a Russian GRU officer, Major Yevgeny Borisov, was responsible for 12 bombings and attempting bombings in Georgia throughout 2011, including one at a NATO liaison office and one near the U.S. embassy, both in Tiblisi. Telephone intercepts have shown that Borisov and his subordinates are quite the chatter-bugs with the Russian Defence Ministry whenever something goes off in Georgia. One planned attack involved RDX, a military-grade explosive, which had been placed under a railway bridge in the village of Chaladidi in the western Khobi district of Georgia. It didn’t explode. But Borisov’s deputy made the mistake of phoning the EUMM offices to inquire about the blast and offer his assistance with any resulting casualties; days later, local residents discovered the device.

Syrians can tell you how familiar all of this sounds. And Obama is surely aware that the sower of such cynicism and chaos isn’t going to sincerely assume the mantle of peacemaker. The irony is that this unconscionable re-casting of Putin’s role in Syria is a testament to a pending election in the United States that might well toss an embattled incumbent from office.

The Wolf Of The Caucasus

Originally Posted Here

Three Ingush men Disappear From Sunzha District

In Ingushetia, three residents of Sunzha District disappeared

On June 11, in the Sunzha District of Ingushetia, under unascertained mysterious
circumstances, three residents of the village of Arshty Bai-Ali Makhauri, Bekkhan Zhukalaev, and Islam Bazgiev disappeared. 

This was reported by the Human
Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial". On the next day, the burnt body of Bekkhan Zhukalaev
was found the on the outskirts of a village.

According to Lom-Ali Makhauri, his brother Bai-Ali, born in 1982, went to his relatives to the village of Berd-Yurt with his VAZ-21099 car of green colour to help build a fence. He was accompanied by Bekkhan Zhukalaev (according to other sources Djukalaev), born in 1985, and Islam Bazgiev, born in 1990. This was reported by the message of the HRC "Memorial", received by the "Caucasian Knot" edition office.

In the evening, they were returning home. Their relatives found out that between the villages of Berd-Yurt and Arshty, separated by a distance of about seven or eight kilometres, the car with the young people was stopped by unidentified persons in camouflage. They were in three Lada Priora cars and a Gazel minibus of white colour. The relatives of the disappeared men do not know what happened next.

According to the Investigatory Department of the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) in Ingushetia, on June 12, at about 7:00 a.m., on the outskirts of the village of Berd-Yurt (according to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) in Ingushetia, on the outskirts of the village of Chemulga, which is located about two kilometres from Berd-Yurt), a burnt car body, presumably VAZ-21099, was found. Besides, fragments of a man's body were
found in the place. The victim was identified by his family members as Bekkhan Zhukalaev, a resident of the village of Arshty.

According to the website of the Republic's MIA, inflammation of the car could be caused by an explosion of up to 800 grams in TNT equivalent. The burnt car  belongs to Bai-Ali Makhauri.

On June 13, Lom-Ali, the brother of Bai-Ali Makhauri, filed a written complaint to the Division of the Russian MIA in the Sunzha District of Ingushetia about the fact of disappearance of his brother, and on June 14, he filed a written complaint to the Investigatory Division of the Sunzha District of the Investigatory Department of the ICRF in the republic. On June 15, Lom-Ali
Makhauri appealed to human rights organizations and to the Ombudsman in Ingushetia to help find his brother.

As of June 18, the whereabouts of Bai-Ali Makhauri and Islam Bazgiev are still unknown.

Russian Security forces in Ingushetia, seemingly accountable to no one, have kidnapped, tortured, executed and buried in unmarked graves many innocent men and women on the false pretence that they are rebels. This acts are commited to continue the distabilization of the Caucasus region and give Russian an excuse to occupy.

A documentary was made on the mass abductions, killings and crimes committed by Russia in Ingushetia, It can be viewed here.

The Wolf Of The Caucasus