Today’s headlines speak of the bleak but sadly not unfamiliar news of another human rights activist being murdered in the North Caucasus. On Sunday, businessman and rights defender Maksharip Aushev was killed when 60 rounds of bullets were sprayed into his car along a highway in the province of Kabardino-Balkaria. Aushev is the third human rights activist to be murdered in the trouble spot in a little over three months, following the murder of Memorial’s stalwart Natalya Estemirova in July and childrens’ charity officer Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband in August.
The Guardian adumbrates Aushev’s trajectory into the sphere of human rights advocacy, prompted by the experience of his own son and nephew being kidnapped, followed by involvement with opposition activist and journalist Magomed Yevloyev. After the latter’s murder in 2008, Aushev would take over Yevloyev’s vociferously Kremlin-challenging website Ingushetia.org. This has been interpreted as critical to the targeting of Aushev by anti-opposition forces:
From La Russophobe:
Aushev had been ritualistically persecuted by the Kremlin from the moment of Yevloyev’s killing (indeed, since well before it) in an obvious effort to intimidate him into silence. Just last month he was the victim of a kidnapping attempt.
Equally Yulia Latynina has apparently suggested that the murder may have been an attempt to quell further investigations into the dubious circumstances of Yevloyev’s death in custody.
Aushev, like Estimorova, was apparently well aware of the threats he faced. The Washington Post quotes the slain activist as saying he was considered ‘enemy number one’ by the FSB, the security services notorious for kidnappings, torture and murders which Aushev investigated. It is written that he apparently ‘benefited’ from the support of Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and from holding a seat on a Moscow-initiated human rights council. Which just goes to show how the notion of human rights protection in the Caucasus, even if nominally stemming from the powers at be, remains little more than an inadequate facade. It is a sad fact that being a defender of human rights in Russia makes you the most likely victim of its violations.
Read more from the Washington Post here.