LIVE UPDATES: The Russian Foreign Ministry now confirms that Andrey Karlov, Russian ambassador to Turkey has been shot dead.
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Kadyrov Reports Killings of Police and ‘Bandits’ on December 18; Berates Press for ‘Fabrications’
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed the murder of the three policemen on his Instagram account.
First he posted on his Instagram account on the evening of December 18 that “4 bandits were destroyed and 2 taken to the hospital” after they failed to obey the orders of traffic police. He posted footage of Grozny streets to attempt to prove to his audience that everything was under control, the streets were open (although they appeared deserted) and repairman were fixing a lamp post in which evidently holiday lights had been knocked out.
“I must with great regret note that certain media deliberately whipped up the situation, disseminating false information from fictitious sources, knowing in advance that they do not correspond to reality. Thus, one Internet publication with the notice ‘Breaking News’ reported that on Sunday, in the center of town, an explosion went off and there was gunfire. In fact, there was no explosion and no gunfire on the avenue referenced, no gunshot was heard, all the stores, restaurants, cafes and offices were open. They also wrote that the special operation was conducted in Staromyslovsky District, although it took place several kilometers from the city in a mountainous wooded area where there is not a single building.
I emphasize once again that not a single shaitan [satan] will leave Grozny alive if he has come with a weapon in his hands. This was visibly demonstrated in recent days. I grateful to all the participants of the operation who demonstrated professionalism, courage, firmness, and endurance. They operated under conditions of deep snow, cold weather, ravines and steep inclines. To our friends all around the world I say that Grozny and Chechnya are all quiet, we are preparing for New Year’s, we’re waiting for you to visit!”
Kadyrov accompanied his post with a clip of soldiers and vehicles making their way across a snowy field. He is shown in a woolen cap and heavy jacket, barking orders to soldiers who jump out of the truck and commence firing.
LifeNews reported initially, citing a law-enforcement source, that only three militants were killed and three who were wounded were taken to the hospital; three others were said to escape.
Militants in Touch with ISIS
Ismailov was killed in Grozny the night of December 17-18, police sources told Interfax. He had earlier been recruited into an extremist group. According to the source, he received commands over the Internet from a certain “Al-Bari,” who is believed to be in Syria.
Others killed in the firefight with police were Islam Altemirov and Magomed Ilyasov, Novaya Gazeta reported; also killed were Ibragim Mazhayev, Khamatkhan Mintayev, Istamul Mamayev and Akhmad Akhrashev, Caucasian Knot, an independent regional news site, reported.
FSB and Independent Experts Believe Attacked Related to Rebellion Against Kadyrov, Not ISIS
Dzhemal denied that there were recruiters actively coming to the region and “promising cash and paradise.” He said instead, some local residents get up early in the morning and announce, “We are the Islamic State.”
In August, as we reported, ISIS released a video showing Russian-speakers calling for jihad in Russia; Kadyrov dismissed this as “nonsense.” Experts were not as dismissive as Kadyrov, however.
“I note in particular that this is a large group. The militants virtually behaved like suicide bombers with low effectiveness. This provokes surprise and doubt; either this is a cell that just emerged and didn’t manage to act and didn’t understand how to act, or the report is not true. There is a certain unknown; perhaps the real losses among police are being hidden.”
He added that the attackers could have been recent recruits, novices who acted ineffectively. “It’s stupid and pointless,” he commented. He did not believe the attacks of this year and 2014 or other separate attacks were related or organized by the same mastermind.
On October 28, Chechen police put out a notice of a bounty of 3-5 million rubles for information regarding nine militants in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia.
Militants Likely to Be Members of Local Underground, Determined to Harm Kadyrov’s Image
“Most likely it was a desperate raid of desperate and angry young guys which had an element of a rebellion. They didn’t have the goal of planning to kill one specific law-enforcer, they killed those who chanced by or whom it was easier to kill. Their main purpose was to somehow harm Kadyrov, show that there are those who resist him, even at the price of their own lives, to commit something with resonance.”
“If the situation in Chechnya does not change radically in the near future, sooner or later we will encounter a powerful armed rebellion of people who cannot live any more in humiliation. I think recruitment by the IS is not primary. The reasons for the armed rebellion are local. Although I don’t rule out that young people could sympathize with the IS. It’s possible the ISIL members have taken responsibility for these attacks, they are happy to take responsibility for various raids.”
She added that people are frustrated and grow radicalized long before they take up arms and could grow angry at conditions in Chechnya and want to take action after absorbing radical ideas for many years.
Kadyrov was “re-elected” to the position of head of the Chechen Republic in the September parliamentarian and gubernatorial elections, amid widespread concerns about fraud.
Tanya Lokshina, staff person at Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office said she believed the timing of the attack was accidental, and noted the divergent figures and details given about the clash which left uncertainty not only about the numbers of militants and police killed or injured but whether civilians were harmed. She noted that a backlash against relatives and friends of the militants would now likely ensue, with homes being burnt down as punishment. Back in 2014, Kadyrov ordered the torching of the homes of those involved in the attack on Grozny, and also expelled some from the republic; as a result 15 homes were destroyed.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
In July there was a failed coup in Turkey, and immediately the Turkish government blamed followers of Fethullah Gulen, a preacher and Turkish thought leader who now lives in the United States. Turkey used the crisis to purge tens of thousands of its critics from public jobs and the military and security apparatus. The Turkish government also effectively shut down the free press, squashing news outlets that defied it and threatening the rest to get in line with the government narrative or face possible prosecution.
As Turkish expert Ilhan Tanir explained in August, the post coup environment has radically changed Turkish society, and mostly in ways that distance Turkey from the West:
Failed Coup Just Latest Crisis Pushing Turkey Away From West
The effects of the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey continue to ripple through the country, and indeed far beyond. It's just the latest event to stress the relationship between Turkey and the West, and as that alliance deteriorates it will have serious repercussions for regional security in the Middle East, the crisis in Syria, geopolitical balance, and the fight against terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS).
Now the Turkish press is already insinuating that the assassin who killed Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov earlier today — now identified as Mert Altintas, an off-duty member of the riot police — is also a follower of Gulen.
Yunus Paksoy is a journalist at Daily Sabah, a major Turkish news agency which has been careful to toe the government line since the coup:
The Russian state media outlet TASS, citing the HaberTurk (literally “Turkish News”) news outlet, says that the gunman was dismissed from the police during investigations into this summer’s coup, and was a member of FETO, Gulen’s organization.
None of this has been confirmed yet. What we do know is that, so far, the Turkish government has quickly linked this assassination with the summer coup, suggesting that Erdogan wants to ensure that his government is seen as working with, rather than against, the Russians.
— James Miller, Pierre Vaux
As we have reported, the Russian media reports that Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, has been shot dead in Ankara.
The Russian Foreign Ministry now confirms that Karlov is dead.
Video we posted below shows the assassination. A graphic picture appears to show the body of the gunman after a reported firefight with those who responded to the scene.
There are now reports that the assassin is a member of the Turkish riot police, even though he said that he was motivated by Russia’s actions in Syria and Aleppo.
Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkish Parliament, provides a few more details.
Other Arabic and Syrian journalists and sources have said the same — the assassin was likely Turkish.
Michael Horowitz, a well known analyst, reports that according to Turkish media the assassin is Mert Altintas, a member of the Turkish police:
This is still unconfirmed.
— James Miller
Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, has been shot. Various Turkish media reports indicate that Karlov was speaking at an art exhibit in the capital when a gunman shot the ambassador.
Reuters and CBS have reported that the ambassador has died, citing the Russian state media outlet RIA.
Al Jazeera reports that a gunfight then ensued and the gunman may have been killed:
“There are at least three wounded people who were taken to the hospital,” Turkey’s NTV television said.
A witness talking to Turkey’s CNNTurk television said that the attacker was acting alone.
“He said that I will not leave this place alive,” the attacker said, according to the witness.
The attacker reportedly talked about the situation in Aleppo after he shot the ambassador multiple times.
Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency said the attacker was killed by the security forces after a gun fight.
The Associated Press adds more detail:
The ambassador, Andrei Karlov, was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital, Ankara, when a man wearing a suit and tie shouted “Allahu Akbar” and fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer in the audience. The attacker also said some words in Russian and smashed several of the photos hung for the exhibition. There was panic as people ran for cover. NTV said three other people were wounded in the attack.
The death toll in Irkutsk Region of Russia has now climbed to 48 in a mass poisoning incident after victims drank a skin lotion called Boyaryshnik, used as an “alcohol surrogate,” which turned out to contain methanol instead of ethanol, Gazeta reports.
As Gazeta writes, “these numbers keep growing all the time — such victims in a terrorist act would be considered massive and would provoke a national shock in any country.”
As we reported, such “medications” marked for cosmetic use have become popular as an alcoholic drink as the price of regular liquor has risen and the government has taken measures to control sale of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets.
Last year, 11 people in Krasnoyarsk were killed and 27 permanently injured after drinking fake “Jack Daniels” bottles that actually had a mixture of ethanol in them; a 44-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl were poisoned to death this past April from the fake “Jack Daniels” still being sold, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Novaya Gazeta also reported a conspiracy theory making the rounds in Siberian cities to explain the epidemic of poisonings: when the poisonings occurred in Krasnoyarsk, it was said to be the result of Khloponin, former governor of the region, cracking down on the regular liquor trade. He had some “serious people” working for him in the region from domestic and military intelligence. When he left to take the job in the alcohol regulation agency, they remained.
“What would it cost them to organize such a sabotage?” say local conspiracy believers. The problem with the theory is that poisonings have taken place in Penza and Orenburg, unrelated to Khloponin.
Gazeta was unable to tie the known firms to sales in Izhevsk, where people were poisoned, although the town is mentioned in one company’s advertising. They tracked one business woman involved in wholesale deliveries from the site of Boyarka-24 but were unable to reach her and confirm information about the companies she was related to. They found another business woman through Boyarin’s site who offered to arrange for a reporter a sale of the vending machine. She was discovered to be related to a company selling electronic poker tables as well but were unable to reach its founder
Znak.com has reported that a factory making the fanfuriki is located in Izhevsk.
Then Gazeta traced the actual manufacturer of all three companies’ vending machines to companies in Samara called Medstar and Gippokrat [Hippocrates], related to a holding company called Biomed whose founder was Dmitry Ostrovsky. He had left the companies in 2010 and turned them over to his relatives and moved on to head the Union of Producers of Herbal Medicinal Remedies. Ostrovsky is known as “Don Fanfurik,” i.e. the don of the little bottles sold to poor people as a cheaper form of alcohol.
Medstar reported a revenue of only 25,000 rubles ($404) last year but Gippokrat made 1.2 billion rubles ($19.3 million), 7 million of which ($113,118) was pure profit; it has 66 certificates for producing facial and skin cosmetics. Among them is the Boyaryshnik lotion as well as other remedies such as a red pepper extract substance. According to local court house records, police periodically involve Medsar representatives as experts on lotions seized from other companies.
The Russian Ministry of Health’s chief narcotics expert Yevgeny Bryun says that even if drinkers of the potions aren’t poisoned, they risk burning their esophagus and respiratory systems.
It appears that the substance is harmful enough when made with ethanol, but in the case of the Novo-Leninino batches, where people were poisoned to death, they were made with methanol, Novaya Gazeta and other media reported.
TASS reported in October that RAR, the Russian alcohol regulation agency, would take control over the cosmetic lotions in 2017 and they would only be sold in limited quantities in certain places.
Every year, tens of thousands of Russians die of alcohol abuse; Rospotrebnadzor, the consumer oversight agency estimates the number at about 500,000 every year. By contrast, there are about 88,000 annually who die from alcohol-related conditions in the US.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The regional prosecutor for Irkutsk has reported that the death toll from a rash of poisoning from a Russian cosmetic product used as an alcohol “surrogate” has reached 26, and 54 more are on the hospital, Interfax reported.
Ekho Moskvy has just updated the number of deaths to 33.
The number is expected to grow as others are believed to have purchased a lotion called Boyaryshnik ( literally “hawthorne”) in Novo-Leninino district. Both men and women aged from 35 to 50 have perished this weekend from drinking the substance which is supposed to be used only as an after-shave lotion or skin toner and carried a label “Not for Internal Use”. The liquid was found to have both methanol and anti-freeze in it instead of ethanol.
Two shops were discovered to be selling Boyaryshnik and authorities have opened up a criminal case. Two suspects have been arrested with possession of more than two tons of concentrate of Boyaryshnik which was also sold as a bath lotion.
Izvestiya said this particular form of Boyaryshnik was a counterfeit that did not use the usual recipe found in many other versions.
Sergei Aksyonov, head of the Russian-occupied Crimean government said Boyaryshnik was sold everywhere “even at gas stations.” The self-proclaimed Simferopol “administration” urged merchants to stop selling it, Investigator reported.
Three years ago, Irina Badyrga, the chief physician of the Tuva Republic Narcotics Dispensary in the Russian Federation said that the situation with Boyaryshnik had worsened in the previous three years as the substance was becoming more and more popular. As some versions of it contained window cleaner, more and more people were winding up in the hospital, PlusInform reported. It was the drink most popular with homeless and poor, said PlusInform.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick