Chechen President Attacks Murdered Activist

ABC's Alexander Marquardt reports from Moscow:

With the Russian human rights community still reeling from the murder of Natalya Estemirova last month, the man many accuse of being behind her killing isn’t doing a very good job of convincing them otherwise.

"She never had any honor, dignity or conscience,” the Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov told a Moscow radio station in an interview that aired over the weekend. Referring to himself in the third person, he asked, “Why should Kadyrov kill a woman whom nobody needs?”

Estemirova was a thorn in Kadyrov’s side, working in the Grozny (Chechnya’s capital) office of the human rights group Memorial. She was a harsh and regular critic of the 32 year-old president’s tactics in attempting to quash an ongoing insurgency in the region.

Days before her death a report was released that she worked on that accused Chechen security forces of burning the houses of suspected militants’ families and carrying out extrajudicial assassinations.

In the interview that was released Saturday, Kadyrov said Estemirova “peddled all kinds of rubbish.”

On July 15, Estemirova was kidnapped outside her home in Grozny and found shot several hours later in neighboring Ingushetia. Her colleagues immediately blamed Kadyrov, saying he had threatened her in the past, once telling her “I'm up to my elbows in blood. But I'm not ashamed of this. I murdered and will murder bad people. We're fighting with enemies of the republic."

Kadyrov vehemently denied the accusations of murder, calling the crime “barbaric” and promising a thorough investigation.

Activists have called for independent investigations, arguing that the investigation can’t be objective if the people involved were the same ones Estemirova criticized. The UN also asked for permission to investigate the murder independently but was denied.

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