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Posts tagged ‘Jihad Land of Chechnya’

Kadyrov to seek new term as Chechen president

July 02, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin-backed strongman leader of Chechnya says he will seek another term in office. Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s president since 2007, had said earlier this year that he considered his mission to be complete. His term was to expire in April, but Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed him interim leader until a September election.

Russian news agencies cited Kadyrov as saying Saturday he has filed to run in the election. Putin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize Chechnya after two separatist wars, effectively allowing him to rule the region like a personal fiefdom. Critics allege human rights violations have been widespread under Kadyrov.

The suspected triggerman in the 2015 killing of prominent Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov was an officer in Kadyrov’s security force.

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Report blames Chechen leader over killing of Kremlin critic

February 23, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian opposition activist bluntly accused Chechnya’s Moscow-backed regional leader of involvement in the killing of a prominent Kremlin foe, describing the Chechen strongman as a top security threat to Russia in a report released Tuesday.

Ilya Yashin said he had “no doubt” that Ramzan Kadyrov was behind the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Feb. 27, 2015, outside the Kremlin in Moscow. Yashin said he was sure the suspected triggerman, an officer in Kadyrov’s security force, and his alleged accomplices wouldn’t have acted without Kadyrov’s approval. Kadyrov has denied the accusations and the official probe has failed to identify the mastermind behind the murder.

The Chechen leader posted a link to Yashin’s report on his Instagram account, where he has 1.7 million followers, and other social networks hours before its official release, dismissing it as “chatter.”

Yashin’s presentation of the report at the opposition party’s headquarters in Moscow Tuesday was interrupted by a bomb threat and police moved to clear the hall. An unidentified protester threw replica U.S. dollars at Yashin, suggesting perceived U.S. support for the Russian opposition.

In his report, Yashin accused Kadyrov of misappropriating generous federal subsidies to Chechnya to enrich himself and his loyalists and relying on a personal army of 30,000 to enforce his rule. “Chechnya has become a separate state within the Russian state,” Yashin said. “Kadyrov effectively rejects the federal law and ignores the Russian constitution.”

President Vladimir Putin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize the region in Russia’s North Caucasus after two devastating separatist wars. The gruff 39-year-old succeeded his father, the former rebel who switched sides to become Chechnya’s first Moscow-backed leader before dying in a rebel bombing in 2004.

Kadyrov has used personal ties with Putin to ensure a steady flow of federal funds and effective immunity from federal controls. His unparalleled clout has angered leaders of Russia’s powerful law enforcement agencies, who have pushed for Kadyrov’s dismissal.

The killing of Nemtsov, who was shot dead while walking across a bridge outside the Kremlin, reportedly made Putin mad and emboldened Kadyrov’s foes. The probe into the killing has bogged down, however, apparently reflecting Putin’s view of Kadyrov as a linchpin of stability in Chechnya.

Tensions around Kadyrov heightened in recent weeks when he launched scathing criticism of Russian opposition leaders. With Kadyrov’s term set to expire in early April, some observers saw his statements as an attempt to secure Putin’s support for keeping the job.

In a radio interview broadcast Tuesday, Kadyrov mixed obedience with expressions of unswerving loyalty to the Russian president, saying he was proud to be a “foot soldier” of Putin ready to step down when he says so.

“If they tell me to keep on serving I will serve, and if they say goodbye I will bid farewell,” Kadyrov said. He added that he dreams about leading a military unit to fight “enemies of Russia.” Yashin strongly called for Kadyrov’s ouster, describing his regime as a “threat to national security.”

“Vladimir Putin has placed a time bomb in the North Caucasus that may blow up in case of any serious political crisis and turn into a third Chechen war,” he said.

Chechen wedding scandal, leader’s defiance put Putin in bind

May 19, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — The groom is approaching 50, a silver-haired boss in the Chechen strongman’s feared police force. The bride is 17, a shy beauty reportedly devastated at the idea of wedding a man nearly three times her age.

Many Russians expressed outrage over the nuptials, causing a firestorm in the media and putting Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — on the defensive. The wedding went forward over the weekend anyway, the bride deathly pale and her voice barely audible as she agreed to marry Nazhud Guchigov, who reportedly was taking her as his second wife as allowed by Islamic, but not Russian, law.

Kadyrov’s chief of staff played the best man, clutching the bride by the elbow to control her every step, and Kadyrov himself danced a folk dance at the wedding reception. The scandal comes amid a tug-of-war between Kadyrov and Russian federal law enforcement, which escalated after the slaying of charismatic Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Kadyrov’s defiance in shielding Chechen suspects in the killing has aggravated longstanding tensions between him and Russian security agencies. That creates a headache for Putin, left with the delicate task of moderating the conflict to avoid destabilizing the region.

The tensions are unlikely to spark open hostilities or lead to Kadyrov’s removal. But they reflect an apparent effort by the Kremlin to cut the 38-year-old Chechen leader down to size and make him obey the rules — even as Putin continues to stand by Kadyrov.

Kadyrov has enjoyed an exclusive relationship with Putin, who saw him as the linchpin for peace in Chechnya after two devastating separatist wars that killed tens of thousands. In exchange for restoring stability, Putin gave Kadyrov, a former rebel, carte blanche to run the region in the North Caucasus as his personal fiefdom and funded a costly reconstruction.

The relationship goes beyond Realpolitik. Putin, a macho judo master, and Kadyrov, a gruff red-head with a penchant for boxing, have developed a close personal relationship. Kadyrov has issued a stream of adulatory statements, calling himself Putin’s “foot soldier” and launching diatribes at the West and Putin’s domestic opponents. And with Kadyrov’s apparent blessing, Chechens have poured into eastern Ukraine to fight alongside pro-Russian rebels.

Putin’s patronage has allowed Kadyrov to effectively shed federal controls. He makes it clear he listens to the president and nobody else. And he has imposed some Islamic rules, overruling federal law, allowing men in Chechnya to take several wives and introducing a tight dress code for women.

Lavish reconstruction projects along with Kadyrov’s promotion of Islamic law and his rejection of federal controls have helped swell his popularity, enhancing stability. The Kremlin, in turn, has sheltered the Chechen leader from criticism over killings, abductions, torture and other abuses by his feared security forces.

Federal police and security services have been all but invisible in Chechnya, unable to make a move without Kadyrov’s permission. That has worried many, who say the much-touted order in Chechnya hinges on the Putin-Kadyrov relationship and could be upset quickly if it falls apart.

“Kadyrov’s behavior long has caused irritation,” said Grigory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knot, an online news portal focusing on the Caucasus. Kadyrov’s protective shield started to crack after Nemtsov was gunned down on Feb. 27 just outside the Kremlin, and federal investigators quickly tracked down and arrested five alleged perpetrators, all Chechen. The suspected triggerman was an officer in Kadyrov’s police force.

The top brass in Russian law-enforcement agencies, who have always detested the Chechen leader, saw Nemtsov’s killing as an opportunity to settle scores. But Putin, while calling the slaying a “disgrace” for Russia, awarded Kadyrov with a medal underlining his support.

The Chechen leader was at first openly defiant, praising the suspected triggerman as a good patriot and a deeply religious man. When federal investigators tried to get to another key suspect, a senior officer in the Chechen police force, they were unable to interrogate him in Chechnya, where he enjoyed police protection.

Despite the setback, federal law enforcers kept up the pressure. In April, police in southern Russia made a surprise foray into Chechnya to nab a suspect in a separate criminal case, and shot the man dead when he resisted arrest.

A day later, a furious Kadyrov ordered his forces to shoot to kill any police from outside the region if they dared to venture into Chechnya. With the brash statement, Kadyrov sought to burnish his credentials as a ruler on par with Putin and above federal law.

He may have hoped that Putin would side with him once again. But Kadyrov miscalculated. While Putin did not publicly comment, his spokesman said in a steely statement that Chechen police should unconditionally obey federal authority.

Realizing his blunder, Kadyrov quickly backed off and offered new pledges of loyalty, saying he would step down if ordered to do so. The tensions have abated, but the investigation into Nemtsov’s killing remains deadlocked.

The latest blow to Kadyrov came earlier this month, when a leading independent newspaper reported that the 46-year-old Guchigov was forcing a 17-year-old into becoming his second wife by blocking her village so she couldn’t leave.

Kadyrov stood by the police chief, saying the girl and her family voluntarily agreed to the wedding. The Chechen leader also fired his information minister, accusing him of failing to quash what he described as slanderous reports.

The teenage bride, blushing and looking down, told a news portal controlled by the Kremlin that she faced no intimidation. The Russian children’s rights ombudsman also said he looked into the case and found no violations.

The wedding took place Saturday in Chechnya’s capital, with the bride looking stiff as she was escorted by Kadyrov’s black-clad chief of staff. The quiet resolution of the scandal signaled that Moscow had decided that Kadyrov had been taught a lesson and there was no need to push things further.

In past years, Kadyrov’s men have operated with impunity not just in Chechnya but also on the streets of Moscow. In 2008, one of Kadyrov’s most prominent foes was shot dead just outside Russian government headquarters. Several Chechens were convicted of perpetrating the attack, but the organizers have never been found. Two years earlier, another Kadyrov rival with ties to federal security was shot and killed in central Moscow.

Russian media reported that Chechen businessmen have dramatically expanded their clout in Moscow under Kadyrov, and some members of his feared security forces have been permanently deployed there to help protect Chechen interests and act as musclemen in business disputes. Some reports claimed that Chechens have even challenged the murky economic interests of Russia’s law enforcement agencies, which have considered themselves omnipotent under Putin.

With a multi-pronged attack on Kadyrov, federal law-enforcement chiefs clearly want to reorder the rules of the game and strip Kadyrov of his exclusive status. Putin himself may welcome the idea, sensing that the Chechen strongman was shaking his “vertical of power.”

“I wouldn’t exclude Kadyrov’s dismissal,” Shvedov said, arguing that the Chechen’s purported role as a guarantor of stability may be overestimated, and that a new conflict in Chechnya was unlikely even if he were arrested, because Kadyrov’s men wouldn’t take up arms against Putin.

But others believe that Putin still sees Kadyrov as key to Chechen peace. Alexei Malashenko, a Chechnya expert with Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow office, said that Kadyrov has reaffirmed his special status by pushing through the wedding despite the media uproar. He said that while tensions between Kadyrov and law enforcement chiefs will likely continue, Putin can be expected to stand by the strongman.

“It makes no sense to replace him,” he said. “It will lead to infighting and instability in Chechnya.”

Chechen commander in Ukraine drawn into Russian intrigue

April 12, 2015

LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine (AP) — From a dimly lit room at his base in eastern Ukraine, the commander of a battalion of Chechens fighting Russia-backed rebels looked shaken as TV broadcast news of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s slaying. Adam Osmayev hailed Nemtsov as a “true hero” both for condemning Russia’s war against separatists in Chechnya and for decrying Russian intervention in the current conflict in Ukraine.

“Watch them try to tie Ukraine to this (murder) in some way,” Osmayev added. He was half-joking. But two weeks later, Kremlin-friendly Russian newspapers published reports based on unidentified sources in the security services that accused the Ukrainian government and also Osmayev himself of ordering the Feb. 27 murder of Nemtsov in central Moscow in an attempt to destabilize Russia.

Osmayev denies involvement and no evidence has been presented linking him to the hit on Nemtsov, who was a relentless critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Attempts to implicate the British-educated Chechen commander appear to be part of efforts aimed at deflecting attention from anyone close to Putin, including his security services and the powerful leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Within days of Nemtsov’s assassination, investigators arrested five Chechens, including a senior officer in Kadyrov’s police force, and charged them with carrying out the killing. All five have denied the charges.

The arrests heralded a crisis in relations between the Kremlin and Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya like a personal fiefdom. With generous subsidies from Moscow, he has rebuilt the region after two separatist wars and has relied on his feared security forces to track down and kill foes. His men have steadily expanded their sway beyond Chechnya to control lucrative businesses in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia.

Leaders of federal law enforcement agencies have watched Kadyrov’s growing power with dismay and have made no secret of their desire to curb him. Some observers speculated that the killing might have been ordered by Kadyrov’s enemies in the federal government — an attempt to prompt Putin to fire or at least punish the Chechen leader.

If such a plan existed, it underestimated Putin’s reliance on Kadyrov. The relative stability in Chechnya is seen as one of Putin’s main achievements, and he sees the burly red-haired Chechen strongman as key to maintaining the status quo.

Putin quickly sent a signal that he intended to stand by Kadyrov by awarding him the Order of Honor for distinguished public service, a day after Kadyrov spoke out in defense of the arrested Chechens.

The arrests were a rare case in which federal law enforcement agents managed to nab a member of Kadyrov’s security force, but the investigation then seemed to fizzle. Russian media, citing investigators, have pointed to a possible link between the suspected triggerman, Zaur Dadaev, and his commander, Ruslan Geremeyev, a senior officer in the Chechen police force. But Geremeyev is in Chechnya and off limits to federal investigators.

Russian newspapers have floated a variety of theories about the killing that have muddied the waters — a possible attempt to defuse tensions with Kadyrov. Some reports claimed that investigators believe Dadaev and his suspected accomplices could have acted on their own, even though most observers agree that a senior officer in Kadyrov’s security force would not have acted without sanction from his superiors.

Dadaev, in turn, has rescinded his initial testimony, saying he was beaten and pressured to confess. The reports pointing to Osmayev, a Kadyrov foe, were seen as part of these efforts to deflect attention.

“State-controlled media have put forward a theory that is politically satisfying for Russia’s security forces, the Kremlin, Kadyrov and all of their rival groups — namely, that Chechen Adam Osmayev ordered Nemtsov’s murder,” political analyst Georgy Bovt wrote in a commentary published in The Moscow Times.

Osmayev, 33, has a troubled history with both Kadyrov and Putin. After graduating from Wycliffe College, a prestigious private school in Britain, and attending the University of Buckingham, he returned to his native Chechnya shortly after the second war there ended in 2000. He worked alongside his father, who had been appointed the head of Chechnya’s state oil company.

Chechnya at that time was led by Kadyrov’s father. After his assassination in 2004, power passed to his son, Ramzan, and his relationship with the Osmayevs quickly deteriorated in a dispute over lucrative energy contracts. The Osmayevs fled to Ukraine.

In February 2012, Adam Osmayev was arrested at Russia’s behest and charged with planning an assassination attempt against Putin. Ukraine at the time had a pro-Kremlin government. Osmayev spent three years in detention until being released in November 2014 by Ukraine’s new Western-leaning government.

Shortly after his release, he joined a battalion formed by prominent Chechen commander Isa Munayev to fight against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. When Munayev was killed on Feb. 1, Osmayav took over the command.

His battalion includes several dozen Chechens, many with combat experience gained in the separatist wars in their homeland against Russian army troops. They regularly get calls from Ukrainian army units asking them to carry out reconnaissance missions or diversionary raids behind rebel lines.

Hundreds of Chechens also are fighting on the separatist side. They first joined the rebels last summer in the early stages of the conflict, and with their combat gear and professional demeanor they stood out among what was then a ragtag local force. Kadyrov has described pro-Russia Chechens fighting in Ukraine as volunteers, the same explanation the Kremlin provides for the Russians among the separatist forces.

Osmayev said he has few doubts that the perpetrators of Nemtsov’s killing have ties to Kadyrov, but that the security services now need a convenient scapegoat whose guilt would be easily acceptable to the Russian general public.

“The fact the FSB is . trying to somehow implicate me in Nemtsov’s murder is utterly ridiculous,” Osmayev said, “but not hard to believe now that I am involved in the situation here in Ukraine.”

Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Chechen leader: militants’ families to be deported

December 05, 2014

MOSCOW (AP) — Following a rebel raid that left 25 people dead, Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed strongman said Friday the families of rebels who take part in killings will now be punished by being deported and having their houses destroyed.

Thursday’s clashes in Grozny dented a carefully nurtured image of stability created by Chechnya’s regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov after two separatist conflicts. The violence raised fears of more attacks in Chechnya and widening unrest in the rest of Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region.

Kadyrov, who has relied on his feared security force of former rebels like himself to pacify the province, said he would avenge the deaths of 14 police officers, including his relative, who died in clashes with the Islamic rebels. He said 11 attackers were killed and 36 policemen were wounded. Earlier official reports had said 10 police officers and 10 rebels were killed.

In a message Thursday on his Instagram account, which Kadyrov uses to issue public statements, he said that “the time when they said that parents can’t be held accountable for the action of their sons and daughters has come to an end.”

He warned that a father who sees that his son has joined the rebels should report him to the authorities or stop him by any other means before he spills blood. “If a militant in Chechnya kills a policeman or any other person, the militant’s family will be immediately banished from Chechnya without the right to come back, and their house will be razed to the ground,” Kadyrov said.

He said he wouldn’t care about criticism from rights activists. International human rights groups long have accused Kadyrov of rampant abuses, including arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings.

Kadyrov said he also warned local administrators and police officials that they would have to resign if any local man joins the militants.

Gun battle breaks out in Chechen capital, 9 dead

December 04, 2014

GROZNY, Russia (AP) — A gun battle broke out early Thursday in the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, leaving at least three traffic police officers and six gunmen dead, authorities said. The fighting punctured the patina of stability ensured by years of heavy-handed rule by a Kremlin-appointed leader.

Security officials and the leader of Chechnya said militants traveling in several cars killed three traffic police at a checkpoint in the republic’s capital, Grozny. State news agency RIA-Novosti cited an unidentified law enforcement source as saying that five police officers were killed.

More than six hours after fighting broke out, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said a multi-story building the militants had occupied in central Grozny had been destroyed by fire and six of the gunmen had been killed.

He later said several other gunmen had been found in a city school and an operation was underway to “liquidate” them, the Interfax news agency reported. There was no indication that any children were in the school in the early morning.

Although unrest is common across the North Caucasus, forceful security measures adopted by Kadyrov have spared Grozny significant violence for several years. That has allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to claim success in subduing an Islamic insurgency in Chechnya after years of war.

Dmitry Trenin, who heads the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote in a Twitter post that “the night attack in Grozny looks senseless, except as an attempt to embarrass Putin hours before his annual address to parliament.” Putin, who is to give his state of the nation address on Thursday, already was under pressure to reassure Russians as fears grow over soaring inflation and a plummeting ruble.

An Associated Press reporter saw the building — a publishing house — in flames and heard the sound of heavy-caliber gunfire before dawn, several hours after the unrest erupted. The AP reporter also saw the body of someone in civilian clothing in the street near the publishing house as fighting continued, but it was not clear how and when the person had been killed.

The Moscow-based National Anti-Terrorist Committee, a federal agency, announced that it had imposed a counterterrorism regime on the center of Grozny. This officially allows heightened security measures to be enforced, and typically indicates the imminent use of heavy force to quash unrest.

Life News, a news outlet believed to have links to Russian security services, cited law enforcement officials as saying about 15 people seized three cars late Wednesday in the village of Shalazhi and drove to Grozny, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) away.

Kadyrov said on his Instagram account, which he uses to issue public statements, that the traffic police officers were shot dead as they attempted to stop the cars carrying the gunmen. Kadyrov said the situation was calm and that all essential public services were operating, but he urged Grozny residents to be cautious.

“I ask residents in areas where (security) operations are being carried out to abide by safety measures, and not to go out onto the streets without cause or to go near their windows,” he wrote. “All the talk about the city being under the control of the military is absolutely false.”

In a message posted several hours later, Kadyrov said that six militants were killed in the standoff at the publishing house. “Not one bandit managed to get out. I directly ran the operation myself,” he wrote.

Kadyrov posted a picture showing the lower half of an apparently dead gunman lying beside a rifle, but it was not immediately clear if it showed one of the presumed attackers. The Kavkaz Center website, a mouthpiece for Islamic militant groups operating in Russia’s North Caucasus, carried a link to a video message by an individual claiming responsibility for the attacks. The man in the video claimed to be operating under orders from Chechen Islamist leader Aslan Byutukayev, known to his followers as Emir Khamzat.

The video could not immediately be verified. A few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechnya was plunged into a full-scale war when separatist rebels pursued independence for the republic. The violence was largely confined to that small republic, but rebels ventured into other parts of Russia.

A fragile peace settlement was reached with Moscow until 1999, when an insurgency movement increasingly inspired by radical Islamist ideas reignited the conflict. A military crackdown succeeded by years of aggressive rule by Kadyrov has quietened the region, pushing unrest to neighboring provinces.

Kadyrov has been widely denounced for human rights abuses, including allegations of killing opponents. He has also imposed some Islamic restrictions on the region, including mandatory public headscarves for women.

Chechnya leader inaugurates new mosque in Israel

March 23, 2014

ABU GHOSH, Israel (AP) — The president of Russia’s republic of Chechnya has inaugurated a new, $10 million mosque in an Arab village in Israel.

Ramzan Kadyrov said on Sunday that it was an honor to visit “this good and holy land” during a stop in the village of Abu Ghosh. Isa Jabar, the village’s mayor, says Chechnya donated $6 million for the mosque. He says some villagers trace their ancestry to 16th century Chechnya and the Caucus region.

The mosque was built in the Ottoman Turkish style, the favored architectural style in Chechnya. It features four minarets, making it the only mosque of its kind in Israel. Abu Ghosh, near Jerusalem, enjoys good ties with its Jewish neighbors and is a popular culinary destination for Israelis.

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