Saturday, July 01, 2006

Intimidation

Writing in the London Review of Books, Anna Neistat presents a Diary of her recent visit to Grozny, Chechnya.

Among other things, she notes:
Russia has done everything in its power to ensure that no accurate information about Chechnya gets out. On the rare occasions Russian TV crews go to Chechnya, they film Kadyrov against a backdrop of freshly painted walls, carefully keeping the rest of the ruined city out of the frame. Foreign journalists can enter the region without authorisation, risking at best their accreditation in Russia and at worst their life, or they can have an official tour, accompanied by Russian security. International human rights organisations do not have permission to enter Chechnya at all: `security concerns' are the excuse. Russia has methodically expelled international observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe.

The West should stop pretending it knows nothing of the daily reality of the Chechen war. Local human rights activists and a few journalists are risking their lives to report the situation in Chechnya. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch publish regular reports on abuses, briefing embassies and foreign ministries, as well as officials at the UN, EU and Council of Europe. But the international community chooses to accept Russia's claims of normalisation, because – and these are words we repeatedly hear – mentioning Chechnya might `make the Russian president angry'. An angry Russian president, they fear, might turn off the gas, leaving millions of European homes without heating. Besides, nobody wants to upset such an important ally in the `war on terror'.
Hat tip: Global Voices Online
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