The Topography of Abductions in The North Caucasus
Abduction as a concealment tactic became prevalent during the second Russian-Chechen war. Since then, it has become a signature of the Russian counterinsurgency regime.
According to UN reports, between 3000 to 5000 people have been abducted in counterinsurgency operations in Chechnya since 1999. Detailed accounts of the abductions give ample reason to suspect that the military and security forces are responsible for these crimes.
Despite the number of abducted people in Chechnya falling in 2007, 2008 saw those numbers rise again. Due to the relatively small populations of the North Caucasus republics, nearly every family in the region has been affected.
Civilians in the Northern Caucasus live in a legal vacuum, almost entirely on the fringes of the Russian legal system. Local police officials apply the law in order to actively discourage the families of victims from seeking state assistance in resolving these crimes. Although families continue to file lawsuits against the police, both sides understand that the process only serves to create more paperwork, shelved as soon as signed.
In April 2009, Dmitry Medvedev announced the end of the counterinsurgency regime in Chechnya, but the zatchistki (“cleansings”) continue. The past ten years have seen a shift in strategy - from indiscriminate mass abductions, to the narrower operations targeted at specific individuals. Having met no real resistance or legal obstacles, these fear tactics, designed for counter-terrorism in Chechnya, have made their way to the neighboring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan
In their current context, the abducted are incorporeal, as if they never were. They are no longer with the living, but they are not listed among the dead.