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North Caucasus

Despite Harassment, Russian Opposition Leader Presents Scathing Kadyrov Report

Protests As Russian Opposition Leader Presents Scathing Report On Kadyrovi
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February 23, 2016
Protesters repeatedly tried to disrupt a Moscow press conference by opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who presented a report harshly criticizing Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Yashin's report accuses Kadyrov of ties to organized crime and building a "personal army." (RFE/RL's Russian Service)
WATCH: Protests As Ilya Yashin Presents A Report Condemning Chechen Republic Leader Ramzan Kadyrov

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MOSCOW -- At a press conference that was repeatedly interrupted by a bomb threat, police with bullhorns, and hecklers, liberal opposition politician Ilya Yashin has presented a report condemning Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov and calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to dismiss him.

When security officials informed Yashin during his presentation that police were calling for the building to be evacuated because of a bomb threat, Yashin merely held up a copy of his report before scores of cameras and said, "This is the only bomb here."

"My report's key purpose is to attract Russian public attention to the ongoing situation and to demand Ramzan Kadyrov's immediate resignation as leader of Chechnya," Yashin said.

"Vladimir Putin has set a time bomb in the North Caucasus that can detonate and turn into a third Chechnya war as a result of any serious political crisis. To make sure this doesn't happen -- and I am certain that the situation has not yet become irreversible -- this Russian national security threat needs to be thwarted."

Yashin's 65-page report asserts that Kadyrov is ruling over his own "Chechen caliphate" in which he "bathes in luxury, elevates elements of Shar'ia law over Russian law, and is building up his own military might."

"With each passing year, Kadyrov's confidence in his own independence grows and the tone he takes in conversations with the federal government grows more impertinent," the report says.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service following his presentation, Yashin cited an April meeting in Chechnya at which Kadyrov encouraged law enforcement officers to "shoot to kill" security forces from other parts of Russia that conduct operations in the region without its consent. Russia's Interior Ministry later called Kadyrov's remarks "unacceptable."

"Kadyrov is becoming more and more unruly, Kadyrov is becoming more and more aggressive, and his threats now are directed not only at the Russian opposition," Yashin said. 

Kadyrov's call for violence against federal law enforcement officials, footage of which was subsequently removed from the website of local channel Grozny TV, was "essentially a declaration of [Chechnya's] independence," Yashin added.

The nine chapters in Yashin's report cover topics from Kadyrov's authoritarian rule in Chechnya, to his lavish personal lifestyle and alleged corruption at the expense of the federal budget, his "personal army" of some 30,000 fighters, his purported ties to organized-crime figures, the high-profile murders of Kadyrov critics like politician Boris Nemtsov and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and his alleged support for terrorists abroad.

It notes that while most Russian politicians condemned the April 2013 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon, which was carried out by two brothers who were originally from Chechnya, Kadyrov openly speculated that the attack had been carried out by U.S. security agencies and that the Tsarnaevs were just "sacrificial victims."

The section on Kadyrov's "personal army," which wears Kadyrov's initials on its insignias and swears personal allegiance to the Chechen leader, says it has played a leading role in Russia's covert military intervention in Ukraine, gaining considerable combat experience. It summarizes media and social-media reports of the so-called "Kadyrovtsy" fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Because Kadyrov did not respond to Yashin's request to be interviewed for the report, its last section contains 20 unanswered questions that Yashin was unable to pose.

Before the Moscow press conference, Kadyrov posted a copy of the report on his own social-media accounts, dismissing its charges as "nothing but blabber."

Yashin was repeatedly harassed during the press conference. An unknown protester threw fake U.S. dollar notes at him, apparently to imply that Yashin is on the payroll of the U.S. government.

At one point, security officials wrestled a man to the ground a few meters away from Yashin. The man shouted that Kadyrov had done "more for Russia" than Yashin ever would.

​"I am a patriot of Russia," the heckler shouted as security guards frog-marched him from the room.

ALSO READ: '20 Unanswered Questions' For The Chechen Leader
 

Throughout the event, police outside the building used bullhorns to order an evacuation, saying they had received a telephone bomb threat.

The building had been closed and searched the previous day because of another purported bomb threat. No explosives were found.

As Yashin answered questions, a police officer with a bullhorn entered the hall and ordered the room cleared. Yashin responded that he considered the order unlawful and continued the event. The officer left the room.

Asked whether he was concerned for his own safety, Yashin said: "As to my personal security, I definitely realize the risks that I am facing; I do understand that the people our criticism is aimed at are a very dangerous sort of people with resources of physical power, with routinely pardoned political murders on their hands. I do understand the risks. But I also understand that, if we do not speak up, these risks will grow further against all of us."

The press conference was held under heavy security, with police searching and frisking journalists as they entered the hall. The outside of the building had been splattered with red and green paint.


Tom Balmforth

Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics.

 

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