Russia Update: Court Rules No Grounds for Interrogating Kadyrov and Associates in Nemtsov Murder Case

October 14, 2015
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, in a picture posted on his Instagram account October 13, 2015.

Following a determination by the Investigative Committee, a Moscow Court ruled today that there were no grounds for interrogating Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his close associates in the murder case of Boris Nemtsov despite the ties of the suspects to them.

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.

The previous issue is here.

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Russian Blogger and Bicyclist Who Exposed Dangerous Drivers Assaulted with Axe

A Russian bicyclist who blogged about dangerous traffic conditions and posted pictures of dangerous drivers on his blog has been hit in the head with an axe by two unidentified assailants, RFE/RL’s Robert Coalson noted, citing Media Zone.

According to a report by Sim.FM, Roman Romanov of Krasnoyarsk, who runs a the site group on the social media network VKontakte called “KrasDTP” [“Krasnoyarsk Road Accidents”] posted a video yesterday October 13 in which he described the attack in the doorway of his home.

“They beat me on the back, on the head, my spin really hurts. They wanted to kill me,” he said.

He said the camera he usually has on his bicycle for his blog posts was
broken off and stolen. Later he posted another video updating readers on
his condition and said his head injury was not serious but that his
vertebrae had been broken.

While he he will
continue to blog, Romanov commented that he will do so anonymously in the future and not claim copyright.
Krasnoyarsk police are investigating the assault.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Kadyrov Provides More Details on Suspects Arrested in Terrorist Plot in Moscow; Complains of Lack of Credit from Moscow

Yesterday October 14, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov commented further on the detention in Moscow October 11 by the FSB of suspects from the North Caucasus who were said to be planning a terrorist attack. Some were said to have trained in Syria with ISIS.

Kadyrov posted on Instagram, his favorite mode of communication, with a copy of the passport of Aslan Neserkhoyevich Basysultanov, age 26, a native of Grozny (translation by The Interpreter)

Terrorists have been detained in Moscow. An explosive was confiscated from them. This is the result of joint work by officers of the Chechen Republic’s FSB and Interior Ministry departments with Moscow colleagues. Earlier, the leadership of the regional Chechen law-enforcement agencies sent to Moscow detailed information about the identities of the culprits who were planning terrorist attacks.

However in reports about the detention of the bandits, there isn’t a single word about the fact that this was done with help from colleagues from Chechnya. On October 8 in Grozny, three fighters were destroyed who according to the Chechen Republic’s FSB and Interior Ministry departments had been trained in camps of the Iblis state [ISIS] and had arrived with the assignment to commit a major terrorist act in Grozny on Grozny’s City Day.

Thanks to wide-scale measures, the terrorist attack was prevented. The heads of the law-enforcement agencies that conducted the operation reported to me that they found three passports on the scene in the names of Chergizov, Baisultanov and Mazayev. I reported on this hot on the trail, answering questions from the media. As a result of further work, the operations investigation group determined that Baisultanov was not among those killed. The Interior Ministry’s incidents file sent within a few hours from Grozny to the [central] Russian Interior Ministry and FSB stated that it was not Baisultanov who was killed but Bashanayev.

People know how to fight terrorists in Chechnya, they know how to pre-empt attacks, they help their colleagues  from other regions.

Kadyrov does not explain where “Said” fits in — the Chechen friend of an unnamed retired Chechen GRU officer who in turn was friends with “Andrei R.,” the husband of the landlady of the apartment on Strelbyshevsky Street raided yesterday by the FSB. This apartment owned by “Andrei R.,” a retired GRU employee, was said to be used by the suspects in the bomb plot.

Kadyrov does not mention here what became of Baisultanov — he was arrested in Moscow, TASS reported. Kadyrov had originally reported Baisultanov as killed in an operation on October 8 in which three Chechen policemen were injured and three militants were killed who were said to have returned from training with ISIS in Syria.

At the time, the Investigative Committee had named Mazayev and Chergizov but not Baisultanov, and instead named Zelimkhan Bashanayev as the third suspect killed, reported.

Baisultanov and another suspected, Elman Ashayev, were subsequently arrested and were said to take an explosive device given to Baisultanov by Chergizov to Moscow. On October 11, Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the FSB announced that 12 suspects were detained and that the Lefortovo Court has authorized the arrest of three of them — Baisultanov, Ashayev and Mokhmad Mezhidov.

Yesterday the National Anti-Terrorist Committee also announced that 3 militants were also killed in Ingushetia, adjacent to Chechnya, who were said to be planning an attack.

A reader of Kadirov’s Instagram cited the Moskovsky Komsomolets report of the landlady’s account involving the Chechen GRU agent, and commented:

The FSB and GRU themselves through their agents recruited these children into the ranks of ISIS and then betrayed them, killed and detained them, how longer will you go on killing Chechens??? For the sake of positions and cash in order to hang on to your feeding trough from Putin.

This is a widely-held belief in the region, and Russian reporters have indicated that the FSB does follow such a recruitment plan, thereby assisting ISIS, as The Interpreter‘s editor-in-chief Michael Weiss reported in the Daily Beast.

No details have been provided by the FSB as to how these 15 militants from the North Caucasus arrested October 11 were recruited and how at least 3 of them made their way to Syria to fight with ISIS. While North Caucasus law-enforcers often report that members of the terrorist group Caucasus Emirate have been trained in Syria, it is usually after they have already killed them in special operations — the cases rarely come to trial.

A rare case of an individual tried for fighting with ISIS was publicized on the eve of Russian air strikes in Syria, as we reported. Vitaly Makarov, a resident of the Siberian city of Tyumen, was given the relatively light sentence of 2 years for having left the country to fight with ISIS — possibly because he was described as “cooperating fully” with the investigation.

According to the researcher Denis Sokolov, about 100 residents of Tyumen Region have left to fight for ISIS. A predominantly ethnic Russian region, Tyumen, among the regions of Russia with the highest revenues and budget expenditures per capita, has been a center for the Russian Orthodox church for centuries although there is a significant population of Tatars and other Muslim minorities.

If the case involving the arrest of the suspects on Strelbishchevsky St. comes to trial, it will apparently be the first such case involving Chechens described as having been recruited to fight for ISIS in Syria.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Navalny Charged with “Insubordination” to Court Bailiffs Seizing Property in Yves Rocher Case

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been slapped with another charge, RAPSI and reported.

Navalny’s lawyer reported that after a court hearing today, bailiffs charged Navalny with an administrative offense for refusing to cooperate with agents who came to seize his property in the Yves Rocher case as we reported yesterday.

Bailiffs ordered Navalny’s property to be seized and restrictions placed on his travel from Russia in order to collect the remaining 1.5 million rubles in a 4.5 million fee for supposed losses by the French company Yves Rocher, which itself has not pressed a claim against Navalny and his brother, Oleg for mail-order services. Navalny’s lawyer asked for an extension because he did not have the funds but it was denied and the bailiffs arrived last night to take his property.

Alexey Navalny could face up to 2,500 rubles ($39) for the offense. The court hearing is scheduled for October 16.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Moscow Court Rules No Grounds for Interrogating Kadyrov and Associates in Nemtsov Murder Case

Following a determination by the Investigative Committee, the Basmanny District Court ruled today that there were no grounds for interrogating Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his close associates in the murder case of Boris Nemtsov, Kommersant reported.

Thus the complaint of Vadim Prokhorov, the lawyer for Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna Nemtsova who had requested the interrogation, was rejected.

In April, Kadyrov had demonstratively announced that he was willing to undergo interrogation. The lead suspect in the murder, Zaur Dadayev, is a former deputy commander of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s Sever [North] Battalion who served under the command of Ruslan Geremeyev, a relative of two influential Chechen politicians in the Federation Council (upper chamber of parliament), Adam Delimkhanov and Suleyman Geremeyev. Delimkhanov in turn is a Kadyrov’s cousin.

Yesterday, October 13, Kommersant and TV Rain reported that forensic analysis in the case corroborated Dadayev’s original testimony, which he since retracted saying it was made under torture.

The medical examiner established that Nemtsov was killed by 6 bullets shot at close range, three in his back and three in his left hip. This coincides with Dadayev’s original confession in which he said he followed Nemtsov on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, then caught up to him quickly shot him three times “from about 5 meters away” as Nemtsov slightly turned back, then fell to the ground on his right side. When he tried to get up, Dadayev shot him three more times.

Forensic ballistic experts also established that the bullets found on the bridge and those confiscated a week after the murder in an apartment owned by Dadayev’s mother in the town of Malgobk in Ingushetia were identical, manufactured by the Yuryuzan Mechanics Factory in 1986.

Other suspects in the case were tied to the scene by DNA analysis of materials found in the ZAZ getaway car, including a cigarette butt left in the ash tray by Anzor Gubashev and fingerprints by Shadid Gubashev, his brother, on the back right door handle. The DNA of Beslan Shavanov, who is believed to be the suspect who followed Nemtsov to coordinate with the killers, was found on the back seat of the car. Shavanov was killed after throwing a grenade when police came to his door to arrest him after the murder. No evidence was found to tie Temirlan Eskerkhanov to the murder, and he has neither confessed nor given testimony against the others.

Dadayev’s lawyer, Shamsudin Tsakayev believes the forensics analysis did not establish the relative positions of his client and Nemtsov and that the bullets could have been planted in the mother’s apartment.

Once again, a news story on the Nemtsov murder has been based on law-enforcement sources who spoke anonymously to the press, in this case Kommersant, and not a formal announcement from officials, who have not made any statements since March. Nemtsov, a prominent opposition politician, was assassinated February 27, on the eve of an anti-war march.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick