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The New York Times’s C.J. Chivers reports that Austrian prosecutors have linked the Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to the assassination of Umar Israilov, a political opponent in Vienna who gave highly damaging evidence against Kadyrov in a court case. Israilov, a former combatant under Kadyrov’s command in the Chechen War, had secured asylum in Vienna after giving dramatic testimony before the European Court of Human Rights that tied Kadyrov personally to instances of torture, kidnapping, and murder.
[T]he Austrian government’s investigators concluded that Mr. Kadyrov ordered that Mr. Israilov be kidnapped, and that the group of Chechens who tried to snatch Mr. Israilov from a Viennese street botched the job. One of them shot Mr. Israilov after he broke free and tried to escape, the investigators found. Their conclusions, pointed and direct but based largely on circumstantial evidence, shift the focus now to Austria’s federal prosecutors’ office, which has been preparing indictments. Three Chechen exiles are in custody in the case: Otto Kaltenbrunner, who is accused of being the local organizer of the crime; Muslim Dadayev, who is accused of monitoring Mr. Israilov’s movements before the crime and driving the getaway car; and Turpal Ali Yesherkayev, who is accused, with a fourth man, of confronting Mr. Israilov as he stepped from a grocery store and then chasing him as he fled. The fourth suspect, Lecha Bogatirov, left Austria and returned to Russia after the killing, investigators found; he is suspected of shooting Mr. Israilov three times with a pistol. Mr. Israilov, who was 27, was a former bodyguard and midlevel official in the paramilitary forces under Mr. Kadyrov’s command.
Chivers previously reported on the details of the police investigation.
Chivers notes the curious stream of assassinations of individuals who have criticized or embarrassed Kadyrov. He doesn’t, however, list all the names. The two most prominent figures on the list would certainly be Anna Politkovskaya, the veteran Russian war reporter whose courageous coverage of developments from Chechnya forced Russian prosecutors to bring criminal charges in several cases involving unwarranted violence targeting civilians, killed in her apartment on October 2006, and Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former KGB colonel who defected to the West after refusing to carry out orders to assassinate Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was also well known for his close ties to Chechen opposition figures. He died in November 2006 after ingesting a lethal dose of Polonium-210. The investigations surrounding the death of Israilov may well help investigators understand how Politkovskaya and Litvinenko were killed.
All of these cases point to a dangerous practice of political murder-for-hire that has its roots in Russia and does not recognize the asylum granted by European powers. The disclosures surrounding Kadyrov will also provide an important test case for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He has been Kadyrov’s unquestioning protector up to this point. Will Kadyrov continue to be sheltered as his violent practices get a high-profile airing in the West?
Update: Kadyrov’s Denial
The Times now reports that President Kadyrov has denied the accusations:
“Excuse me, but it would be so stupid and cruel to kill a person in the city center,” Mr. Kadyrov said Thursday at a news conference in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, a region in the Caucasus mountains of southern Russia. “Why would I need to do this?”
Kadyrov presented an alternative hypothesis about the killing: that Israilov was the target of a blood feud. “‘He killed people, committed crimes and had dozens of enemies,’ he said. ‘Blood feuds in the Caucasus are no joke, not empty words.’”
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”