Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
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The Russian Interior Ministry has denounced the order of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to shoot on unauthorized police from outside his republic, but Kadyrov has denied he has any conflict with federal law-enforcers.
Russia This Week:
– What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
– Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
– All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow
– Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015)
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The drama involving a clash of wills between Moscow officials and Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov took another turn early this morning Moscow time as Kadyrov decided not to let the matter rest but challenged the head of the Investigative Committe again.
Earlier today we reported that Russia’s Interior Ministry condemned a call by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to “shoot to kill” any unauthorized law-enforcer from an outside territory who pursued suspects into Chechnya. Kadyrov was furious at the killing of a Chechen suspect by Stavropol Territory police who chased him into Chechnya.
But Kadyrov was at pains to tell LifeNews that he got along with the Federal Security Service (FSB) because FSB agents and his men hunted terrorists in the woods together; they needed each other. Each week on Instagram, Kadyrov constantly swears his loyalty to President Vladimir Putin and other top officials and made a point of uploading at photo of himself today playing soccer with the Moscow and regional official responsible for affairs in his republic. He was confident Moscow authorities would investigate the incident and find Stavropol at fault.
At day’s end, however, Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee announced that he was canceling the investigation into the incident. For the moment it seemed as if Moscow and the IC prevailed.
Then Ekho Moskvy reported that Kadyrov had called on Bastrykin to explain the reasons for closing the criminal case.
Turning to his favorite mode of communication, Instagram, Kadyrov wrote (translated by The Interpreter):
The leadership of the Investigative Committee should explain to the relatives of the man killed and all the residents of the Republic what the true reasons are for canceling the case, and tell what violations were permitted in its opening, and why there is no need to conduct a probe if a man died.
Aleksandr Bastrykin, chairman of the RF Investigative Committee cancelled the criminal case opened by the IC’s Investigative Department under the article “exceeding official authorities” in connection with the murder of Dzhambulat Dadayev, a resident of the Chechen Republic. He was killed April 19, 2015 while officers of the Stavropol Department of the Interior Ministry and the Temporary Unified Group of the Agencies and Divisions Department ran a special operation to detain him. The motives for the decision haven’t been stated.
At the same time, this fact elicited a sharp negative attitude from the public. Chechen Republic residents ask: why is the inspection cancelled, are there grounds for suspicion over the deliberate deprivation of a person of his life? What happened in their opinion bears witness to the fact that now anything goes in the Chechen Republic!
I suggest that the chairman of the Investigation Committee should explain to the residents of the deceased and all residents of the Chechen Republic what the true reasons for the cancellation of the case is, and describe what violations were permitted in opening it, and why there isn’t the need to conduct an inspection if a man died. I am firmly convinced that this case was opened on a lawful basis, if ever there was a case on earth that was of a lawful nature.
Maybe Bastrykin has information unknown to the relatives and investigators, but then it must be publicized. Dozens of people saw what happened. They describe this in all details, but the investigation, apparently does not find it interesting. We have lost 5,000 people without a trace, hundreds of thousands were killed. Thousands of our combat comrades lost their lives in the battle against terrorists and Wahabists in order to establish peace and order in the Republic. These were the best sons of our people and the other peoples of Russia.
Today Chechnya is the most peaceful and calm region of Russia. And we believe that it cannot be allowed that some people come from somewhere and stage a shoot-out on our streets, subjecting to danger the lives of hundreds of people. We demand the maintenance of order established by the leadership of the RF Interior Ministry itself. If the participants of this action needed Dadayev, then they should have put him into handcuffs and driven him away and not targeted gunfire at him. I am certain that an independent investigation will be found and the truth will be brought to the public, which with outrage are speaking of the clear attempt to take the guilty away from liability. But they must answer!
The newscast from Grozny TV shows some residents of Grozny describing the incident, and a Chechen policeman; eyewitnesses on the road where the suspect was killed; and the Chechen human rights ombudsman describe how Dadayev, a 43-year-old businessman from Nadterechny in Stavropol Territory had reportedly earlier knifed a rival in that region in a fight over a private dispute, and had been forced to sign a pledge not to leave the city. Possibly his departure from the area could have triggered the pursuit by Stavropol police.
Residents say as Dadayev sped away from police, he rammed one of their cars and then kept driving and ran straight into a fence. He yelled “Don’t shoot! I will surrender!,” the eyewitnesses say, but Stavropol police shot him dead. A medic who came to the scene applied first aid but was unable to save him; he said if the ambulance had been summoned earlier, he might have survived. The ombudsman said he had received many calls from citizens concerned about the shoot-out in a residential neighborhood; they were most shocked at the appearance of the Stavropol police in masks, which they said they had not seen on police since the 1990s.
The news anchor stressed that Dzhambulat Dadayev is not a relative of Zaur Dadayev, the suspect in the murder of Boris Nemtsov.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
TV Rain reports breaking news tonight that Aleksandr Bastrykin, chairman of the Investigative Committee, has closed the investigation into the incident that occurred in Chechnya earlier this week, where police from neighboring Stavropol Territory crossed regional lines into the Chechen Republic in pursuit of a Chechen suspect, and shot him dead.
Photo by TASS
As we reported earlier, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was outraged and claimed that his police were not notified in advance of the pursuit. He ordered his troops to “shoot to kill” any such unauthorized outside policeman, which sparked the condemnation of the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow.
Kadyrov was hoping that the IC would investigate the incident and “punish the guilty” — as he claimed Stavropol authorities exceeded their authority.
But Bastrykin closed the case after only a day, as a terse announcement on the IC website says this evening Moscow time at 20:48.
The decree on the opening of the criminal case regarding the fact of exceeding of official authorities by the officers of the police in conducting the special operation in the Chechen Republic by decision of the Chairman of the Investigation Committee is cancelled.
That’s record time for the opening and closing of an investigation.
The notice originally posted on the Chechen Republic Interior Ministry site complaining about the lack of notification has been deleted from the Chechen site. But it is still available in Google web cache.
Its deletion may suggest that the Chechen Interior Ministry is reluctant to be out of step with Moscow Center now.
TV Rain says “it is not known” whether Dzhambulat Dadayev, the man shot on April 19 by the Stavropol police, is a relative of Zaur Dadayev, the chief suspect in the Nemtsov murder case. It is a common name in the region. Regional and Russian media have described the case as involving a private dispute between Dzhambulat Dadayev, who attacked a Dagestani man, and unrelated to the Nemtsov case.
The closing of this case means that Bastrykin has prevailed over Kadyrov — for now. As we reported last year in our translation of the story “Bastrykin’s Humiliation,” this may not hold. There is a long and troubled past of the IC arresting Chechen police accused of atrocities, such as kidnapping, torture and disappearances, and then mysteriously, the cases collapsing the the Chechens being let go.
So far, Kadyrov’s Instagram feed has only placid updates, such as a description of an evening at his sister’s home with “aromatic tea” in the company of the Chechen minister of transport.
He also posted a picture of Lev Kuznetsov, the Russian government’s minister for North Caucasus affairs, playing soccer — he said a few days earlier, he, Kuznetsov and Vice Premier Aleksandr Khloponin, Moscow’s federal representative to the Southern Federal District (which includes Chechnya) had kicked the ball around.
The message here may be that Ramzan is literally ready to “play ball” with Moscow authorities responsible for his region and will not complain further about his fellow Chechen shot dead by neighboring police. However, he may not have heard the news yet about Bastrykin’s pronouncement so further updates need to be reviewed.
While the relations between Kadyrov have been very rocky since the assassination of Boris Nemtsov and the apprehension of 5 Chechen suspects, they haven’t spilled over yet into outright war.
But as Paul Goble notes in his syndicated column today here, there are federal law-enforcers who would be happy to take out Kadyrov and end the constant flow of problems from the region as many people are arrested and tortured, and some people keep complaining about this.
Human rights activists and the independent media have been trying strenuously to get President Vladimir Putin to admit that what Kadyrov does is lawless and abusive and that he must be reined in. But this week Kadyrov turned the tables on Moscow by showing how a Chechen was victimized and shot dead by police from the next region over, reportedly without a warrant or without justification.
The uproar may have been tamped down for now but there may be a point where Kadyrov will feel he has swallowed to many humiliations and has to react. And Moscow has not definitively solved the Kadyrov problem by having a few officials play soccer with him or hand out medals.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Russian Interior Ministry has pronounced “impermissible” a defiant statement from Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov that he had authorized troops in the Chechen Interior Ministry to fire on law-enforcers from other Russian regions if they pursued activities in his republic without notification. But the Kremlin has no comment, and the incident may blow over, especially as Kadyrov has given an interview to LifeNews saying he and the Federal Security Service (FSB) get along just fine as they pursue terrorists in the forest together.
As we reported yesterday, on April 19, police from Stavropol, the capital of Stavropol Territory, pursued a Chechen suspect into Chechnya and shot him dead. He happened to have the same last name — Dadayev — as the current lead suspect in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, although authorities say they are unrelated.
Kadyrov complained that Chechen police were not notified and that Stavropol law-enforcers did not have a proper warrant. In response, he told his men at a government meeting that they were authorized to “open fire to defeat” the outside police. While a video of the Grozny TV broadcast of his statement was removed from the TV web site, Novaya Gazeta found a copy and The Interpreter translated the relevant excerpt.
Then late last night April 23 at 21:12, the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation issued the following statement (translated by The Interpreter):
On April 19, police from Stavropol Territory came to Chechnya to detain a local resident who was wanted for shooting a citizen in their Territory.
In accordance with a procedure established by the RF Interior Ministry, they appealed to their colleagues in the Department of Criminal Investigation of the Chechen Republic Interior Ministry and informed them of the purpose of their visit. As a result, the local detectives offered their assistance in conducting the operation.
During the course of the detention itself, the citizen wanted by police tried to break away in his vehicle, crashing into the vehicle of the officers who had arrived, thus putting their lives in danger. After this, the police fired several shots at the criminal’s automobile for the purpose of halting him, one of which caused him to be fatally injured.
Upon search of his vehicle, a combat pistol was discovered.
The local Investigative Department of the RF Investigative Committee is examining this fact.
In connection with the above-stated, the Interior Ministry of Russia considers impermissible the statement of the Leader of the Chechen Republic about “opening fire for defeat” against officers from other regions who have conducted special operations in the Republic without the knowledge of local law-enforcement agencies.
Kadyrov has responded that he is puzzled by this claim, RBC.ru reported this afternoon April 24. Kadyrov’s press office issued a statement (translation by The Interpreter):
“It does not correspondent to reality from beginning to end. It is known reliably that none of the leadership of the Chechen Republic Interior Ministry and its structural divisions, including the Department of Criminal Investigation were informed by in writing, verbally or by telephone. Kadyrov urged that an internal investigation be conducted of the Stavropol police.“
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “we have seen, heard and read” Kadyrov’s statement, but he had no comment.
Kadyrov did not comment further on the incident on his Instagram stream, his preferred mode of communication but has posted some pictures of himself visiting a Chechen shrine with clergy to pray for “peace, stability and prosperity for our Homeland” and then this morning pictures from a visit to his grandfather’s mosque in his native town of Tsentaroye to pray for a successful sowing season.
TASS then reported this afternoon Kadyrov’s denial that his police were notified and the Kremlin’s lack of comment but added further from Kadyrov’s office that no Chechen police took part in the operation yesterday (translation by The Interpreter):
Meanwhile the head of Chechnya hopes that “the RF Interior Ministry will appoint an internal investigation to identify the officials who displayed insincerity and resolve the issue of their responsibility.”
“If completely contradictory information is received by the RF Interior Ministry from the Chechen Republic Interior Ministry and the head of the Stravropol Territory Interior Ministry, then one of the two is not speaking the truth. I am confident that the RF Interior ministry will establish this and punish the guilty.”
He also said the federal Interior Ministry was not acquainted with the statement based “on unreliable information, in connection with which will be taken the necessary measures to react regarding those who initiated it.”
Kadyrov also provided a further explanation of his “shoot to kill” statement:
“We all know that bandits often use the uniforms of law-officers. This is what happened last year on December 4 when terrorists hid out in the Press Building and the school. They killed police, frightened residents of the republic and Russian. This practice of the use of police uniforms has been used in the past. And we cannot allow acting law-enforcers, if they are indeed such, to lead us into error.”
In an interview with LifeNews yesterday, Kadyrov took the opportunity to deny that there was any conflict between his forces and federal agencies, including the Federal Security Service (FSB).
What conflict? I repeat, these devils that want disorder
on the territory of the Russian speak of this. I am a government
official, I am a general, I am a hero, and not the United States agent,
not a agent of the Western or European intelligence agencies, I am a man
of the Kremlin, I am a man of Putin.
[intelligence] services know who Kadyrov us, we cannot be sicced on each
other he told LifeNews. They just give people various rumors so that
people think and speak among themselves that here in Russia supposedly
there is misunderstanding between the subjects [of the Russian
Federation] and between the special services.”
Republic is a subject of the Russian Federation. This is the choice of
the people, how can I play with that? I can’t of course. I am a servant
of the people, a servant of the Almighty, I am a foot soldier for Putin.
even now are conducting joint special activities in the Chechen
republic, a coordinated announced counter-terrorism operation in the
regions and forests and are conducting preventive measures together with
the federal structure of the FSB. They do not subordinate to me. It’s
just that when I say something, everything gets twisted. If some
governor says something or kills someone, it’s nothing, silence. There’s
silence about the mayor, the government, the head — silence. But if
something is connected to a Chechen, immediately Kadyrov is guilty. Why
so? I do not understand how this comes about?
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick