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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kadyrov Pledges to Halt Abductions in Chechnya

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, who heads a security force widely accused of committing abductions in Chechnya, said Tuesday that the Chechen leadership is committed to putting a halt to abductions.

Kadyrov's remarks, as reported by Interfax, came amid a recent wave of concern over abductions and disappearances in the republic.

The issue gained new attention last month after the reported disappearance of eight relatives of Aslan Maskhadov, a separatist leader who was Chechnya's president during its 1996-99 period of de-facto independence.

Many Chechens and human rights groups say the security force run by Kadyrov -- son of assassinated Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov -- carries out abductions with impunity, and that many of the people seized are taken to a Kadyrov-run prison in Tsentoroi, the Kadyrov clan's home village.

"All security and defense agencies will be jointly fighting against abductions," Kadyrov was quoted as saying. "This shameful phenomenon should be uprooted for the sake of stability in the republic."

Kadyrov, however, appeared to obliquely acknowledge that Chechen security forces add to the tensions.

"We are determined to stop detentions without charges, without notification of relatives about the places of confinement," he said. "The government will insist that a mechanism be developed to give an immediate answer to questions on who was detained and by which authority."

The International Federation for Human Rights and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said in an open letter last week that Kadyrov's security forces had brought Maskhadov's relatives to the prison in Tsentoroi in an attempt to force Maskhadov to surrender.

Last fall, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov suggested detaining terrorists' relatives as a means to prevent attacks in the wake of the Beslan crisis.

Chechen authorities have denied that either Chechen or federal forces had detained Maskhadov's family members.

Chechen prosecutors have opened investigation of the disappearances of the relatives -- a sister, two brothers, two nephews and three distant relatives.

"The slave trade has become a profitable business over the past decade. These people could have been abducted for subsequent ransom or in order to promote the release of some captured militant," Chechen prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko told Interfax.

Meanwhile, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights on Tuesday issued an open letter to Russian officials expressing concern about the fate of a Chechen human rights lawyer, Makhmut Magomadov, who reportedly was seized by Chechen security forces on Jan. 21.