Is This The “Chechen Trace at Maidan” Mr. Putin Was Looking For?

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Russian informational portal “Life News” published some information from its sources in the Russian Secret Service recently, stating that the mass protest in Ukraine was organized by four “members of the North Caucasus rebel groups specialized on training the combattants”. They allegedly “trained 115 specialists for organizing the city riot.”

Intrigued, we went to Maidan — and indeed found a real “Chechen trace” in the very heart of Kyiv, though this “combatant” is only 1.5 m tall. Meet Amina Okueva, a fragile Chechen young woman, who works as a surgeon at Odessa City Hospital. All her “sabotage” appeared to be providing medical assistance to anyone needing it, and “training extremists” was just guiding nurses.

Amina, can you please tell when you and your husband came to Ukraine? What prompted you emigration?
— I’ve been living in Odessa for 11 years already. It was impossible to stay in the Russian Federation any longer, so I decided to move. Obedient Muslims always have problems there, especially those of Chechen and Ingush ethnic origin. Here I entered the Odessa Medical University and studied at the Department of general surgery. They say it’s a challenging choice for a woman, but I like surgery, as you can clearly see the results of your medical intervention. Now I work at Odessa City Hospital.

It was in Odessa I met my husband after he moved to Ukraine, and we got married. My husband, Adam Osmaev, fled from persecution by the Russian authorities (his father had been persecuted earlier as well). We enjoyed living here for quite a long time, and people’s attitude has always been good and adequate. It lasted until, unfortunately, the pro-Russian politics came to power; this is where our problems began.

What encouraged you to participate in the protests; first in Odessa, and now here in Kyiv?
— When Maidan began, I had a great hope that Ukraine will after all sign the Association with the EU and there’ll be more respect for Human Rights than now, but… When the armed security forces attacked the protesters (which was an unpleasant surprise for most population), I joined the protests in Odessa, went to meetings, and of course, wanted to go to Kyiv. Superiors at my work didn’t mind, and I was absolutely free to spend my free time at the meetings as much as I wanted.

I think many have heard about the criminal trial cooked-up against my husband, Adam Osmaev. He was detained in Odessa by the Secret Service forces on February 4, 2012; Putin’s presidential campaign was on the run in Russia. My husband was tortured, drugged with psychotropics and threatened for mopping up his family, so he was forced to underwrite the role of a “terrorist” who prepared to attempt — in Odessa, Ukraine! — at Putin’s life. Besides, Ukrainian authorities acknowledged the tortures really took place.

Later they attempted Adam’s prompt criminal extradition to Russia; this attempt failed, however, because of the complaint to the European Court for Human Rights sued at the proper time, which stopped the extradition process. Now we are waiting for the court trial. Since the beginning of Maidan there hasn’t been any single session, they are always delayed under different specious excuses. I think they’re waiting to see where the political wind blows. But if the government changes — i think the justice prevails no matter who comes to power, and the cooked-up trial will fall apart.

How you decided to drop everything and come to Kyiv?
— It was a spontaneous decision; I read at Facebook that there was a demand for medical volunteers, came to Kyiv and asked where the Maidan Medical Office was. I came and offered my help — and started doing my job. At first I wanted to spend some time here and then some time back in Odessa, but then I learned that it’s dangerous for the recognisable activists to leave the Maidan, many people disappeared at bus and railway stations on their way home.

So I thought it would be safer if I stayed here. Actually, now Maidan is the safest place in the country: there’s a 24/7 policing where people work for a full due, and, of course, mutual help where everyone is willing to help anyone. I got stuck here due to this situation, I had no intention to leave Odessa for good. I don’t even know how my Hospital Administration reacted when I “disappeared”...

Were you afraid of “scary Ukrainian nationalists” when you got here? Such bogeyman stories are quite popular in Odessa as far as I know.
— I’ve always had a good attitude towards Ukrainian patriots, though such propaganda really exists in Odessa. When there was a ballot for 100 most prominent Ukrainians several years ago, we voted for Stepan Bandera and were glad that he won the II place. How can anyone hate him if he was a real patriot who died for his country’s freedom? For that reason I had no prejudice.

How the Maidan activists accepted the new member of the team — a Muslim, a Chechen woman?
— The attitude was good from the very beginning. There's a homey friendly atmosphere here, people are well-minded towards each other, like a real big family. I can’t even recollect any distasteful moments.

Of course people were curious. Many people here take well to Chechens, not only guys from UNA-UNSO, but everyone. People are pleasantly surprised. Of course stereotypical questions are asked from time to time, people want the “downtrodden Chechen woman” to voice her position — but all this is asked in a very delicate manner.

Everybody respects my need to pray on time; I can take ablution and pray in my corner and no one ever objected.

The only difficulty is nutrition, but the girls at the kitchen already know that I don’t eat meat that is not halal, and, of course, any dishes cooked with such meat, so they try to cook separate garnishings so that I can eat them, too. Halal food is what makes the most problems here, but, thank God, this problem is solved easily.

Are there other Muslims among the constant Maidan activists?
— There’s an old Crimean Tatar in the camp, he lives here since Maidan started. Crimean Tatars come by groups regularly. I’ve seen ethnic Ukrainians and Russians who were Muslims, there’s quite a lot of them to my surprise. I don’t know them in person, but we recognize each other in the crowd. Chechens and Ingushes came from Russia. I think people come from Russia to either have their own close look on how the nation stood against unjust rulers or to take part in this. Many people, despite the propaganda in the Russian Media, understand what’s really going on here.

Is there some special attitude to the medical workers, or no favorites are played?
— People respect medical workers everywhere, I suppose. The main thing is that I never hurry in prescribing some medicine in order to get rid of the person as fast as possible, but I always try to get into their problems and find the reasons causing health disorders. People see that you're trying hard and appreciate that. There’s enough medicine and equipment, as people from all over Ukraine bring them here, both to the medical office and to medical tents, so the operating conditions are almost as in the hospital with good financial support, except for we work for free.

What kind of medical help is needed most often?
— As a rule, people come complaining on A.R.V.I., virus respiratory diseases, bronchitis… During active fights at Hrushevskogo Str. there were, of course, many people injured, including gunshot wounds; we removed the bullets and debrided wounds and overcast seams… Now it’s all safe, thank God — we only remove stitches.

Were there provocation attempts in the camp?
— Sometimes the “titushkas” (“titushka” is a thug, usually with a martial arts background, paid by the government and acting under auspices of police to incite violence, provoke unlawful behaviour among peaceful protesters, engage public in scuffles and fights. Normally pretends to be one of the demonstrators, clad in dark sportswear of Adidas or similar brand. During violent police crackdown, titushkas were primarily engaging independent journalists) are caught in the camp overnight, armed by a knife or even with a traumatic gun… The main danger, however, is beyond the camp. When I go to Hrushevskogo Str., no one is allowed there without having a bulletproof vest and a helmet on, guys at the barricades don’t let unprotected people pass. It’s armistice now, but they still demand that everyone was well equipped just in case.

For instance, everyone was outrage that the government snipers at Hrushevskogo Str. provided accurate fire at medical workers. They shot at the press, as they don’t want the world to learn the truth, but I still wonder why they shot at medical workers, such behaviour was of course very inhuman. Now we, the medical workers, put bulletproof vests on when we go there; not a nostrum of course, but still they protect from knives and traumatic guns. I don’t wear medical marking just in case, and provide medical help wearing my usual clothes. People know how I look like and there’s no need for marking for me.

Is there enough armour for everyone?
— Yes, as a rule, although I often see guys wearing plastic helmets… Medical workers are provided with best armour available first and foremost, can’t complain… But speaking about the rest — unfortunately, not everyone is provided with good armour. I’m glad the situation improves little by little thanks to the efforts of non-indifferent people.

Is there some useful experience you gained here at Maidan?
— It’s a very good school of hard knocks, you can’t find anything like this elsewhere. I learned a lot of new and interesting things here. I’m surrounded by the highly-educated people of different professions who can tell many interesting things about their work. I can assure without waxing too poetic that the blossom of the nations gathered here, they’re very good people. It’s interesting to talk to former law enforcement officers who tell about the methods of psychological pressure,means of self-defence, etc. Very informative are chats with former soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

I can’t say that all my new acquaintances are my best friends now, but I think we’ll stay in touch after this is over. I’d like to.

Do you have any post-Maidan plans?
— I want to move to the Western Ukraine, somewhere to the Western part of Ivano-Frankivsk region, near the mountains. Frankly speaking, I don’t want to stay in Odessa after this situation with my husband’s arrest, my intussusception changed and I don’t feel safe in that city any longer.

But these are the plans for the future — of course nothing is granted. We’d like to stay in Ukraine, of course, as we love this country which became our home. If the current government remains, however, I think we’ll be forced to try our luck at some other European state. The things we tried to escape in Russia reached us here — Putin tries hard to establish his orders even here, in the neighbouring country. But we hope for the best and will stand until the end. We all here, regardless of our political sympathies and views on Ukraine’s future growth areas, stand for the same — for justice and safety from any arbitrary rule and ability to plan our future with no fear.

Interviewed by Ms. Tetyana Evloeva

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