Russian rights group says masked men raid its Chechnya office

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 03, 2015 6:22 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Masked men, some wielding hammers, stormed the office of a human rights organization in the southern Russian region of Chechnya on Wednesday during a protest against its work, the group said.

The Committee Against Torture said on Twitter its headquarters in the regional capital of Grozny had been damaged and police had not responded to calls for help.

The organization is one of only two independent rights groups working in Chechnya, a turbulent, mainly Muslim region where Kremlin-appointed leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been accused of widespread rights violations and heavy-handed tactics against opponents, charges that he denies.

The group's offices have been raided and its representatives beaten in the past in Chechnya.

Moscow fought two wars against separatists in Chechnya in the decade after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and is now fighting an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamist state in the broader North Caucasus area.

Tensions have risen sharply between Moscow and Chechnya since ethnic Chechens with links to Kadyrov's security forces were charged with killing a Russian opposition politician in central Moscow in February.

Relations are particularly tense between Russian forces - worried by Kadyrov's growing autonomy and methods - and security groups in Chechnya that are loyal to him.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)