[JURIST] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] on Saturday called [transcript, in Russian] for a new age of human rights and safety in the embattled Caucasus region of Russia, where the killings of journalists and human rights activists have become increasingly common. The announcement comes in tandem with the appointment of Aleksandr Khloponin [RT report] as new presidential envoy to the area. Speaking at a meeting on the development of the North Caucasus Federal District, Putin said:
I invite representatives of regional authorities, representatives of local authorities, and law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to ensure proper operation and functioning of human rights organizations, those working within the framework of existing legislation in Russia to help people.
Deaths of human rights workers are often blamed on the local police and security forces [WP report], who rarely face charges.
In October, the UN published a report on reforms Russia must take to protect human rights, highlighting the Caucasus region [JURIST report]. The UN report came less than a week after prominent opposition leader and human rights activist in Russia's southern province of Ingushetia [official website, in Russian], Maksharip Aushev, was shot dead [JURIST report] while traveling on a highway in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria. In August, Chechen human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead [JURIST report]. Sadulayeva's death came less than a month after the death [JURIST report] of activist Natalia Estemirova. Also in July, the body of Russian human rights activist Andrei Kulagin [JURIST report], missing since May, was found in a quarry. In April, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin expressed concern [JURIST report] that activists in Russia were being attacked with greater frequency.