A suspected assassin has reportedly been detained in connection with an attack against a Russian exile. Musa Lomaev says he survived what appears to be the latest in a string of brazen attacks, two of them fatal, against dissidents in Europe who have railed against the brutal Kremlin-backed ruler Ramzan Kadyrov.
Kadyrov, a ruthless strongman who has previously discussed his willingness to die for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly been accused of ordering torture, the detention of gay men, and assassination attempts on his critics. Although he has always denied those allegations, he is also known to make frequent and violent threats against anyone who dares to criticize him.
Four of the Russian exiles who have been targeted in Europe this year have one main thing in common—they had been vocally critical of the notorious ruler of Chechnya, a republic of south eastern Russia. Two of them, Imran Aliyev and Mamikhan Umarov, were killed. A third, Tumso Abdurakhmanov, was able to overpower his would-be attacker in Sweden, and survived.
On Friday, Finnish authorities reportedly arrested a suspect in connection to another possible assassination attempt on Lomaev, a fourth Chechen blogger. According to Finnish station Radio Liberty, Lomaev claims a suspect was detained on Thursday after, he says, a price-tag of $500,000 was placed on his head.
Lomaev runs a YouTube channel where he posts videos criticizing the Kadyrov regime, and says that he escaped Russia after being kidnapped and tortured in 2004 by the police, who accused him of carrying out terrorist acts against the government. As yet, there are no further details on the reported attempt on his life.
Earlier this year, the Financial Times reported the assassination of Chechen blogger Mamikhan Umarov. He was reportedly killed two days after posting a video on YouTube goading Kadyrov into murdering him, in which he said: “Come and stop me!... Send your toughest guy, I’ll tear him a new one.” He was shot three times on the outskirts of Vienna, and two Russians were later detained.
Kadyrov tried to deflect accusations of his government’s involvement by claiming western intelligence services were killing Chechen exiles in an attempt to damage his image. “Don’t become puppets, take care of your families. Otherwise the same fate awaits you, and they will blame Kadyrov and his team,” he wrote, according to the FT.
Earlier in the year, in January, the 44-year-old blogger Imran Aliev was murdered in a hotel room in Lille, France—he had received a reported 135 stab wounds. French police investigating the murder later identified a man who traveled with the victim from Belgium, then fled to Russia after the killing, as the chief suspect.
A police official told Business Insider at the time, “We have also collected intelligence about the man that indicates he works closely with Kadyrov, which continues to confirm our suspicion that this was a politically motivated murder linked to Aliev’s dissident activities.”
Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who survived his attack, posted a video of himself standing over the bloodied body of his hammer-wielding assassin. When questioned, the man told Abdurakhmanov, “They have my mother.” The head of the Chechen parliament had previously declared a “blood feud” against Abdurakhmanov.
Chechnya became one of world’s worst human rights violators under Kadyrov, who used Kremlin money to rebuild the republic and has largely been given the freedom to rule how he wants as long as he remains loyal to Putin. Kadyrov previously said he’s “ready to die” for Putin and has described himself as Putin’s “foot soldier.”
Earlier this week, The Daily Beast reported that a teenager in Chechnya was forced to strip naked and make a horrific “apology” video after daring to criticize the Kadyrov regime.