German newspapers with reference to the Berlin criminal police rained down on the readers shocking reports about Chechens. They allegedly prepared a terrorist attack on the synagogue. At the same time, terrorism suspects were called “Islamists”. Accusations of preparing an attack on the synagogue are consistent with the previously formed stereotypes at everyman: “evil Muslims” attack the Jews. And although these communities have coexisted peacefully for decades in Germany and other EU states, the stereotype is alive. First of all, because of the artificial cultivation of the image of an “Islamist”. This time, the target of an information attack became five young Chechens who left Russia due to the persecution by Russian special services.

28-year-old Z. B. has been living in Germany for four years already. He spent five years in a Russian prison on trumped-up charges of complicity with “illegal armed groups”. According to him, he first sent a pregnant wife to Germany, while for six months he has been preparing to leave Russia illegally: after his release, he was under administrative supervision and could not get a passport. He received refugee status from the second attempt – he had to file an appeal to the refusal of the first application to the court. He and his wife are still on the federal wanted list in Russia.

Z. B. wonders why he was stigmatized with the word “Islamist”. On Friday prayer, he goes to a cultural center, to which the police have no complaints so far. “Once there was a shootout nearby, a window was broken by a bullet. But these people were not related to the center”, Z. B. said. As an observant Muslim, he wears a large beard. “My clothes are ordinary, like everyone’s”, the young refugee added. The only clue for the police was the pictures on Z. B.’s phone. During a trip around the city with friends, he took pictures of the streets, and the synagogue fell into the shot. On this basis, the version about the preparation of the terrorist attack was developed. In addition, says Z. B., the police were interested in his photo with airsoft guns. Pictures were taken in Chechnya. Z. B. sometimes played with friends in one of the clubs. He showed the police website of the club, which kept a photo similar to those found with him. “Newspapers posted a photo that I gave them myself … they used it against me”, Z. B. noted. He added that the information wave against him and his fellow countrymen followed already after the police admitted that the suspicions of the preparation of the attack were unfounded. The author of this article asked the central synagogue in Berlin to comment on the charges of the Chechens in preparation for the attack, but did not receive a response.

The last time the Chechen topic appeared in the German press was in December 2019 in connection with the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili. Then the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Heiko Maas, accused Vladimir Putin of lying. The German diplomat denied the allegation that Russia allegedly requested Berlin to extradite Khangoshvili. Putin accused the Chechen, who fought against Russian troops in his homeland, of preparing the bombing in the Moscow metro and denied any involvement of the Russian special services in his murder. Meanwhile, the identity of Khangoshvili’s murderer is established – this is Russian special forces fighter Vadim Krasikov, who had previously committed the murder of a businessman in Russia. An expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (USA) Denis Sokolov does not see a direct connection between the story of Khangoshvili and the arrests in Berlin. “To talk about the connection between the murder of Khangoshvili and the arrest of Chechens in Berlin is a conspiracy theory. Anyway, the death of Khangoshvili creates a certain background for the detention of refugees from Chechnya,” he said. Sokolov excludes the presence of a pro-Russian influence group in the German secret services. “This is out of the question! There are people in the special services of both countries with the same attitude to Islam”, Sokolov said. This attitude coincides with the general attitude in German society, formed under the influence of news about the so-called “Islamic State”. The words of the expert are confirmed by the applicant for refugee status from Chechnya, Muhammad Abdurakhmanov. He was detained and searched by police in Bavaria on the same day that his compatriots were arrested in Berlin. The detention was explained by the fact that he has a large beard and shortened pants. “When I said that I feel like a Jew in Nazi Germany, the policeman replied: “If you don’t like something – return home”, Abdurakhmanov said.

Denis Sokolov does not rule out recurrence of arrests of refugees from Chechnya if the history of Z. B. is not followed by the adequate response. “If human rights defenders, primarily German ones, do not react, do not hold, for example, public hearings, if those responsible for unjustified detentions are not rendered accountable, then the story may repeat”, the expert said.

It is noteworthy that the German police are calm about the presence in the country of pro-Kadyrov Chechens. Z. B. claims: his wife identified the man who tortured her in Chechnya on the street of Berlin.

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