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Chechen Leader Denies Whistle-Blower’s Home Intentionally Destroyed

  • Liz Fuller

The home of Ramadan Dzhalaldinov, destroyed in a fire on the night of May 12-13.

The home of Ramadan Dzhalaldinov, destroyed in a fire on the night of May 12-13.

The home in the Avar-populated village of Kenkhi in southeastern Chechnya of Ramadan Dzhalaldinov, who sought last month to alert Russian President Vladimir Putin to blatant corruption among local officials, was burned to the ground during the night of May 12-13.

The home, on the outskirts of Grozny, of Shamil Dzhanaraliyev, one of two men killed when they attacked a police post early on May 9, has reportedly also been destroyed.

In video footage uploaded to YouTube by the independent Daghestani weekly Chernovik, one of Dzhalaldinov’s three daughters said it was law enforcement personnel who torched their home. She said the men also used force on herself and her mother and threatened to kill them.

Kadyrov, however, immediately denied that anyone had set fire to the Dzhalaldinov family home and suggested in an Instagram post that Dzhalaldinov himself orchestrated its destruction. Kadyrov did not explain how Dzhalaldinov could have done so from neighboring Daghestan, where he is currently in hiding. Dzhalaldinov’s wife and children reportedly left Chechnya on May 13 to join him there.

Dzhalaldinov incurred the wrath of the Chechen leadership by addressing a video appeal to Putin a month ago urging him to take action to curtail embezzlement by local officials of funds allocated for the reconstruction of homes in Kenkhi destroyed during the fighting of 1994-96 and 1999-2000, and also of local teachers’ salaries. Village residents were constrained to denounce Dzhalaldinov and to affirm publicly that his complaints were unfounded. But Moscow-based journalist Valery Polonsky succeeded in traveling to Kenkhi, where he met with villagers who readily confirmed that Dzhalaldinov was telling the truth.

Asked to comment on the destruction of Dzhalaldinov’s home, Russian presidential press spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted on May 13 as saying that if the report proves true, the law enforcement agencies should take immediate action. The Daghestan chapter of the opposition Yabloko party has called on Putin to launch an investigation into the reported incident and to take steps to end the pressure on Dzhalaldinov’s fellow villagers.

Republic of Daghestan head Ramadan Abdulatipov, for his part, reportedly reached agreement during a telephone conversation with Kadyrov on May 13 on sending a joint governmental/parliamentary delegation to evaluate the situation in Kenkhi. But the four men from Daghestan who traveled to Kenkhi the following day told local residents they had been sent by Sagid Murtazaliyev, the former head of the Daghestan branch of the federal Pension Fund.

A close associate of Kadyrov, Murtazaliyev currently faces criminal charges of commissioning political killings and abetting the North Caucasus insurgency. His whereabouts are unknown. According to RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service, his henchmen have already tried to pressure Dzhalaldinov to stop publicly bad-mouthing the Chechen authorities.

Yet despite their proclaimed affiliation with a prominent Kadyrov ally, the four men were prevented from either meeting with villagers or inspecting the site of Dzhahaldinov’s home. Instead, they spent over an hour closeted with local officials and budget sector employees whose livelihood is contingent on their endorsement of the official version of what happened.

Despite the Chechen authorities’ blanket rejection of Dzhalaldinov’s complaints, Kadyrov traveled to Kenkhi on May 6 to talk to local officials and assess the situation at first hand. He assured the villagers that damaged buildings will be renovated and that local officials will be held to account for the missing budget funds.

Kadyrov also pledged that within three months, gas supplies would be extended to the village and local highways repaired. For good measure, he designated 2016 the Year of Sharoy District (where Kenkhi is located), and replaced the Sharoy district head and police chief.

At the same time, at least three Kenkhi residents -- Khizbula Akhmedov, Seidmagomed Nasibov, and Magomedrasul Gitinov, director of one of the village schools -- who told Kadyrov to his face that Dzhalaldinov was telling the truth were subsequently taken into police detention. Nasibov has been charged with illegal possession of drugs.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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