July 23, RFE/RL -- MOSCOW -- Human rights activists in the North Caucasus are appealing to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to take action to protect them from attacks and allow them to work safely, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
The written appeal to Medvedev comes after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov remarked during a television interview that workers at the human rights organization Memorial are "enemies of the people, enemies of the law, and enemies of the state."
Valentin Gefter, the director of Russia's Human Rights Institute, said the problem is not just with Kadyrov, but with the governments and officials throughout the North Caucasus.
"Unfortunately, the problem isn't corrupt soldiers or some sort of underground, but crimes committed by police officers and members of the local government," Gefter said. "While it's a local problem, it seems that the federal government isn't doing anything about it."
In May, Medvedev met with activists working in the North Caucasus and assured them that he fully supported their work.
Kheda Saratova, a human rights activist in the region, said that after she heard Kadyrov's statement she called his office and spoke to his press secretary.
"I asked him what the president's words meant and if, as a human rights activist in Chechnya, I was now considered a criminal by the government," she said. "And he answered me, 'You should cut down your activity.'"