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Chechen government head Ramzan Kadyrov.

New report points to violent mass purges among Chechnya's ruling elite

Chechen government head Ramzan Kadyrov.
Chechen government head Ramzan Kadyrov.
Christopher Pike / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian outlet known for its investigative journalism, has released a report arguing that massive purges have shaken the Chechen ruling elite since August 2019. Local sources told Novaya Gazeta that high-ranking government officials in the Northern Caucasian republic have been arrested extralegally and sent to secret prisons in a wave of repressions. The bodyguards, relatives, and allies of those officials have also been targeted, the sources said. Novaya Gazeta reported that victims have been held for days, weeks, or months while their property is confiscated. Those who have been released from the secret prisons have been forced to donate millions of rubles to the Akhmat Kadyrov foundation, which was founded by Chechen government head Ramzan Kadyrov to commemorate his father.

The current repressions in Chechnya began after Ibragim Temirbayev, the mayor of Argun, was dismissed from his post after 15 years in power. According to Novaya Gazeta, Temirbayev spoke poorly of Ramzan Kadyrov and his family in phone conversations with Chechen leaders following his firing, which ultimately led to the former mayor’s arrest. Among the insults Novaya Gazeta cited was “I remain faithful to Russia, not those beardies,” a reference to the beards the Kadyrovs grow as religious Muslims. The newspaper did not indicate how it had obtained access to the contents of Temirbayev’s conversations.

Temirbayev was reportedly arrested after wiretap recordings of his telephone conversations reached Ramzan Kadyrov himself. The former mayor’s relatives and bodyguards were arrested as well, and his appointees in the local government were gradually fired. Security forces searched Temirbayev’s homes and found large numbers of weapons inside. Novaya Gazeta indicated that a criminal case may be opened against Temirbayev, but the searches and arrests made in response to his comments have not yet been officially acknowledged.

Following the repression of Argun’s former mayor and his allies, security officials in Chechnya also increased their surveillance of two former parliamentary deputies, Idris Gaibov and Shamil Magomayev. The pair had already been arrested, tortured, and freed after three months in captivity in 2018. Gaibov has reportedly managed to escape Chechnya and possibly Russia. Police also jailed Gaibov’s immediate family members following his initial arrest. They are still being held in Chechnya’s Kurchaloyevsky District.

Ibragim Temirbayev’s arrest also triggered repressions against many of the republic’s high-ranking elites. Those individuals have been transported to secret prisons in police station basements, where they have begun accusing other individuals, causing even more arrests. Inside the secret prisons, arrestees are tortured and forced to confess that they have betrayed Ramzan Kadyrov.

Novaya Gazeta’s sources said that among those arrested are Chechen Minister of Emergency Situations Ruslan Yakhyev, former Forestry Minister Dikmagomed Mulayev, and former Vice Premier Khalid Vaikhanov. Regional traffic safety head Shamkhan Denilkhanov was also reportedly arrested before support from Ramzan Kadyrov’s wife, Medni Kadyrova, spurred his release.

Apti Alaudinov, the leading deputy to Chechnya’s police chief, also came under pressure during the repressions after social media posts alleged that he had jokingly slapped a portrait of Kadyrov. Alaudinov denied those allegations and retained his position. However, Novaya Gazeta wrote that the deputy chief’s friends and allies refrained from congratulating him when he celebrated his birthday on October 5.

The newspaper noted that its list of those arrested in Chechnya is incomplete. Searches and arrests are reportedly ongoing in villages populated by the clans of those who have already been accused of betraying Kadyrov. Hundreds of people, including both government officials and their relatives, have reportedly been forced to resign from their jobs.

A week before the Novaya Gazeta report was published, a channel called SKFO Telegraph on the social platform Telegram claimed that someone had attempted to poison Ramzan Kadyrov. Chechen officials have dismissed that assertion as an empty rumor.

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Summary by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Hilah Kohen