The Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, told Radio Svoboda that Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist whose bullet-ridden body was found in neighbouring Ingushetia last month, “never had any honour, dignity or conscience.”
Estemirova had been a staunch critic of Kadyrov and led the Chechen branch of the Russian human rights organisation, Memorial. Her body was found on 15 July 2009 on a roadside in Ingushetia hours after she was kidnapped in Grozny, the Chechen capital.
Memorial’s director, Oleg Orlov, accused Kadyrov of involvement in the slaying. Commenting Kadyrov’s latest interview, Alexander Cherkasov, member of Memorial’s executive committee, expressed dismay at Kadyrov’s criticism of the brutally slain activist.
“In this speech Kadyrov again has demonstrated his personal enmity not only toward Natalya Estemirova, but also toward other rights defenders who are simply doing their job,” Cherkasov told The Associated Press.
Oleg Orlov blamed me for Natalia Estemirova’s death. As a human rights defender, he violated my human rights. He should have protected me as an individual and thought about what he was going to say. But he accused me of being a murderer. He said that Kadyrov killed Estemirova.
I told him, “Mr Orlov, you’re a grown-up person. Be a real human being for once in your life and tell me why you violated my rights?” He replied saying, “That is not what I meant. I meant you in your role as president.”
They [human rights activists] are all lawyers. The texts they write follow the letter of the law. They’re very good lawyers. But if they say that Kadyrov or his people are to blame, let them prove it. Why would Kadyrov kill a woman that no one needs?
Estemirova never had any honor or sense of shame. And still I appointed her head of a [civil society advisory] commission with the mayor of Grozny as her deputy. I wanted to be objective about addressing the issue. But she did not like it. She would say stupid things.
I told her, “You’re a woman, and we’re trying to do something for the people. But if it doesn’t work, don’t blame us.” I said I would show her the city budget and told her to try to do better. She said, “Yes, I understand.”
So I said I would disband the commission, thanks very much for your work, but I do not trust you. I didn’t treat her gently. I didn’t tell her I loved her. I told it like it was.
We were both acting in our professional capacities. She was the head of the commission, and I, as the president of Chechnya, was evaluating her work. So why am I to blame? Let the investigators conduct their work. If Kadyrov or his people are to blame, let them be tried and jailed.