Vladimir Kalamanov has suddenly found himself occupying one of the least comfortable seats in the Kremlin.
The lawyer, civil servant and former immigration official is President-elect Vladimir Putin's response to Western criticism of atrocities perpetrated by Russian troops in Chechnya.
In a culture with scant experience of investigating or punishing human rights violations, Kalamanov, Russia's presidential representative for human rights in Chechnya, faces a daunting task.
"If I don't get the answers I'm looking for, I'll go to the Supreme Court and to the president," he asserts, determined to impress with his earnestness, honesty, and decency.
Kalamanov who will not say whether he believes the Russians have committed atrocities insists he has a mandate to bulldoze through bureaucracy and demand answers. But the Russian military begs to differ. Asked for details of alleged war crimes, the military prosecutor's office sent Kalamanov a perfunctory letter revealing nothing.
He tried again. He was told that 129 investigations had been launched. Most were about bullying and other offences within the army. Only seven concerned alleged offences against civilians in Chechnya.
"There are practically no cases for crimes against civilians. It's unsatisfactory. I just can't get the answers I'm looking for," Kalamanov says.
He has asked the army for answers on three specific alleged massacres. No response.
Nor can he get the resources he needs. He was appointed on Feb. 17, yet he still has no budget. The staff he has recruited has not been paid. Kalamanov may have a large office in Moscow, but he has been unable to make contact with his people in Chechnya.
His section has one phone line and one fax in Chechnya. There's no phone link to Moscow, and no email. As we talk, word comes through that his bosses have just decided to allocate him a satellite phone.
"He faces so much obstruction and opposition. His operation is an empty shell," says a senior western diplomat. "He's decent enough, and he's struggling against the system, but he's not in a position to do much."
Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch in Moscow says Kalamanov sought to make a good impression with his organization. "But he has a reflexive distrust of anything the displaced Chechens say. If that's your attitude before you start your investigation, you know there will be no results."
Kalamanov brandishes lists of Chechen detainees obtained from the Russian military, and confidential letters from Western missions or the United Nations. He has one detailed list of 646 Chechen detainees, another of 49. Of those, he says, 500 have been released.
Such assertions are contested by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who say that thousands of Chechens have been detained by Russian troops.
He needs at least 30 experts working with him in the Chechen capital, Grozny, and in Znamenskoye, his Chechen base. They must be Chechens to have local credibility, but he can barely find Chechens who will work for him, and none who are suitably qualified.
In the absence of any meaningful human rights investigations, he and his staff of 10 are working essentially as social workers, fielding queries from distraught Chechens on topics such as pensions and housing.
In Moscow last week, U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson stressed the need for an "independent, national investigation" of human rights violations in Chechnya, a significant shift from the earlier call for an international inquiry.
The United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is training some of Kalamanov's staff, are clearly hoping to entrench him in office and then to gradually institutionalize a human rights monitoring mechanism in Russia. But that will be too late for Chechnya.