Russian human rights group has offices torched after leader's arrest

Memorial condemns arson attack on office in Ingushetia by masked men as ‘terrorist act’

Masked men have torched the offices of a prominent human rights organisation in Ingushetia in southern Russia, days after the head of its operations in neighbouring Chechnya was arrested on hotly disputed drug charges.

Memorial, Russia’s oldest human rights group, published photographs of its charred offices in Nazran, the capital of Ingushetia, a republic in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region.

The human rights group said that according to CCTV footage the attack happened early on Wednesday morning and was carried out by two masked men carrying petrol cans who climbed into a second floor window. The offices were empty at the time.

“Memorial considers this to be a terrorist act,” the organisation said in a statement. “There is clearly a link between this arson attack and those forces that are trying to destroy Memorial’s work in Chechnya and force Memorial out of the entire North Caucasus region.”

On 9 January, Oyub Titiev, the 60-year-old head of Memorial’s offices in Chechnya, was arrested and charged with possession of more than six ounces of marijuana. He faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

Titiev, who took over at Memorial’s Chechen office after the murder in 2009 of his colleague Natalia Estemirova, has denied the allegations and said the drugs were planted on him by police. Human rights activists have said the charges are revenge for Titiev’s exposure of rights abuses by officials loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-installed leader of Chechnya. His arrest came shortly after Magomed Daudov, the speaker of the Chechen parliament, described human rights activists as “enemies of the people” and suggested they should be executed.

The US state department and the Council of Europe have both called on the Chechen authorities to release Titiev.

Titiev’s lawyer, Pyotr Zaikin, told Russian media this week that Chechen authorities had threatened to arrest the human rights activist’s relatives if he did not confess to the charges.

“If I confess, this will mean that I have been forced to plead guilty by means of either physical pressure or blackmail,” Titiev wrote in a letter to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, that was published by Memorial.


Marc Bennetts in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Office of human rights group torched in Chechnya
Workers say they have suffered harassment after complaining about methods used by authorities after Grozny terror attack

Shaun Walker in Moscow and agencies

15, Dec, 2014 @1:51 PM

Article image
Court cases threatening human rights group Memorial start in Russia
Cases under ‘foreign agents’ law mark attack on civil society and attempt to recast Soviet history

Andrew Roth in Moscow

24, Nov, 2021 @5:42 PM

Article image
Court in Chechnya banishes human rights activist to penal colony
Oyub Titiev sentenced to four years in penal colony after widely condemned trial

Andrew Roth in Shali

18, Mar, 2019 @6:29 PM

Article image
Russian court orders closure of country’s oldest human rights group
Supreme court ruling on Memorial is watershed moment in Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on independent thought

Andrew Roth in Moscow

28, Dec, 2021 @1:44 PM

Article image
Chechen leader's Instagram closure 'led to revenge attacks' on NGO
Memorial says Ramzan Kadyrov blames them for US sanctions that led to account deactivation

Marc Bennetts in Moscow

21, Jan, 2018 @1:04 PM

Article image
Chechnya president sues human rights activist over murder claim
Ramzan Kadyrov under question in Moscow court as he launches defamation suit against Memorial chairman

Miriam Elder in Moscow

25, Sep, 2009 @11:06 PM

Article image
Russia calls for answers after Chechen leader's Instagram is blocked
Internet watchdog demands explanation after Ramzan Kadyrov claimed Facebook also suspended him without explanation

Marc Bennetts in Moscow

26, Dec, 2017 @11:22 AM

Article image
Russian court orders closure of another human rights group
Memorial Human Rights Centre liquidated a day after its sister group, Memorial, in assault on civil liberties

Andrew Roth in Moscow

29, Dec, 2021 @4:08 PM

Article image
Protest at Russian court as future of rights group Memorial hangs in balance
Judge orders recess in case deciding whether group should be shut down under ‘foreign agents’ law

Andrew Roth in Moscow

25, Nov, 2021 @3:18 PM

Article image
Russia investigates 'gay purge' in Chechnya
Putin officials pursue claims of homosexual men jailed and tortured in republic ruled by Kremlin-backed Ramzan Kadyrov

Shaun Walker in Moscow

26, May, 2017 @4:00 AM