Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another assassination in the Russian sphere of influence: What does it mean?

The assassination in Dubai of a former Chechen opponent of the current Kremlin chosen leader of Chechnya reveals how actively President Kadyrov is working to ensure there is no further question about his power. Chechnya, which fought so vigorously against Russian domination, twice in recent years, and many times before that, no longer exists: It is now part of Russia. And one wonders if that whole regime has gone into the hands of a kind of mafia organization, that cannot bear to have its reporters reveal what they know (and so have to exterminate Anna Politkovskaia) and cannot bear to have a remotely potential rival remain alive, even in another country (general, Sulim B. Yamadayev; his brother Ruslan; and Umar S. Israilov).

But there is another reason to wonder if not worry about this report: the Dubai source for this article was not revealed. Is there a risk of telling the truth there?

New York TimesMarch 31, 2009

Another Foe of Chechen Leader Shot Dead Abroad


MOSCOW — A former general in Chechnya and foe of the republic’s Kremlin-backed president was shot over the weekend in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, and the police there said Monday that he had died.

The former general, Sulim B. Yamadayev, was shot at least three times outside an elite apartment complex in Dubai in what appeared to be an assassination, the police said. It was unclear exactly when the attack took place.

The identity of the man who was killed was the subject of conflicting reports. Officials of the hospital in Dubai said that two Chechen brothers, whose names were not released, had been shot during the attack. One died, they said, while the other was in critical condition.

The attack evokes others on Chechens, in Russia and abroad, who ran afoul of President Ramzan A. Kadyrov.

The Kremlin has invested Mr. Kadyrov with almost unchecked authority in a bid to return stability to Chechnya after nearly a decade of bloody war and political turmoil. With Moscow’s blessing, Mr. Kadyrov has created a personality cult and imposed his own interpretation of Islamic morality in Chechnya, whose population is predominately Muslim.

He has also built a powerful security force that has all but crushed Chechnya’s separatist movement, often, rights groups say, with the help of torture and extrajudicial killings.

In January, a Chechen hit man tracked down and killed Umar S. Israilov, a former bodyguard of Mr. Kadyrov, who had received asylum in Austria after accusing the president, and officials in his circle, of kidnapping, torture and murder. Ruslan Yamadayev, one of Sulim’s brothers, was shot dead in his car last September as he waited in a traffic jam in Moscow just outside the White House, the government building where the offices of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin are situated.

Mr. Kadyrov’s government has denied responsibility for these deaths and others, and Alvi A. Karimov, Mr. Kadyrov’s spokesman, said Monday that the president had no information about the killing in Dubai. “We hope that the truth will be established and the guilty found,” Mr. Karimov said.

Sulim Yamadayev, who until last year commanded his own heavily armed fighting force in Chechnya, was perhaps Mr. Kadyrov’s most powerful and well-known adversary and had often clashed with the president.

A separatist fighter in Russia’s first Chechen war in the 1990s, Mr. Yamadayev, 36, switched allegiances and fought with pro-Moscow forces in the second war, which began in 1999. He was later named head of the Vostok Battalion, a contingent of former separatists, co-opted into the Russian Army, that became notorious for its daring raids on militants’ hide-outs and its callous disregard for civilian casualties. Mr. Putin awarded both Mr. Yamadayev and Mr. Kadyrov the Hero of Russia medal, the country’s highest honor.

Mr. Yamadayev ultimately emerged as something of an independent power center in Chechnya. He was backed by Moscow, but his growing authority brought him into conflict with Mr. Kadyrov. Last April, an altercation on a country road between troops from the Vostok Battalion and guards from Mr. Kadyrov’s motorcade ended in gunfire. Some reports said Mr. Kadyrov had personally intervened to avoid bloodshed.

Soon, Mr. Yamadayev was stripped of his command and charged with involvement in kidnappings and murders, though there have been persistent reports that he commanded his Vostok troops in fighting last August during Russia’s war with Georgia.

According to Russian news reports citing relatives of Mr. Yamadayev, he, his wife and their six children left Russia in December and were living in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

A reporter for The New York Times in Dubai contributed to this article.

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