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The Dogs of Chechnya

There’s a growing volume good material available on Natalia Estemirova’s life.  This article in Foreign Policy by Anna Nemtsova is one of them.

Later that night in her kitchen, we were looking through pictures on a laptop of Mikhail Galustov, a freelance photographer I was working with. Before coming to Natasha, we had spent two days at Kadyrov’s residence; at the time he was Chechnya’s prime minister and heir apparent after the death of his father, the Kremlin’s handpicked leader. The pictures featured Kadyrov showing us around his private zoo: cages with little lions and bears, ostriches running around the garden.

In one series of pictures, Kadyrov was taking his huge dogs out of their cage and baiting them, trying to get them to fight. “I know what else he uses these dogs for,” Natasha said in a heavy voice. The story Natasha told us that night was breathtaking. It was about a teenage boy, a brother of a guerrilla, who had told Natasha that Kadyrov’s police threatened to put him in that cage with the dogs, so he would tell where his brother was. Natasha was telling us story after a story that night about Kadyrov’s methods of “making relatives talk.” Her face darkened, her big beautiful eyes looked tired.