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Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (file photo)

The Moscow-backed leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied accusations that he was behind an alleged plot to kill a Georgian journalist.

"Believe me, if someone is acting on my orders, he will carry them out, and if a mission is to be accomplished quietly, nobody...would learn about it," Kadyrov wrote on his Telegram channel late on June 16.

The previous day, Georgia's Service for State Security said it had detained a Russian citizen, identified as V.B., on charges of using forged documents.

It said the arrest came as part of an investigation into "preparation of murder by contract."

Nika Gvamaria, director of the television station Mtavari Arkhi, identified the suspect as 38-year-old Vasambek Bokov, a native of Russia's North Caucasus region of Ingushetia.

He alleged that Bokov was sent to kill Giorgi Gabunia, a journalist with Mtavari Arkhi, on Kadyrov's orders.

The story dates back to July last year, when Gabunia crudely insulted Russian President Vladimir Putin live on air amid worsening ties between Georgia and Russia.

Kadyrov publicly vowed to "punish" Gabunia at the time.

In his Telegram post on June 16, the Chechen leader said that the journalist should "go down on his knees and ask for forgiveness.... Otherwise, he will, I repeat, remain my enemy."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the allegations against Kadyrov "absurd."

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili and Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia have reacted to the alleged plot, without pointing the finger at Kadyrov.

Zurabishvili said on June 16 that Georgia was "dealing with a criminal and provocative action targeted against the country’s stability."

Gakharia said that the investigation was still under way, adding, "We should have sufficient patience, wait, and make all types of assessment afterward."

Rights groups say Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, uses repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the volatile region.

In recent years, several Kadyrov critics were killed outside Russia, and many believe that either Kadyrov himself or Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) were behind the apparent assassinations.

With reporting by the BBC, AFP, and Civil.ge​
Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- Prosecutors in Kyrgyzstan have asked a court to sentence former President Almazbek Atambaev to 15 years in prison at his trial over the illegal release of notorious crime boss Aziz Batukaev in 2013.

Prosecutors also asked the Birinchi Mai District Court on June 16 to deprive Atambaev of all state awards and to confiscate his property.

Atambaev's lawyer, Zamir Jooshev, told RFE/RL that the verdict and sentence in the case are expected to be announced by the court on June 18.

Batukaev, who suddenly was released from prison and immediately left the Central Asian nation for Russia in 2013, was convicted of several infamous crimes -- including the murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry official.

In all, 19 former officials and medical personnel are co-defendants in the high-profile case.

The 63-year-old Atambaev, who has denied any wrongdoing, was arrested in early August last year after he surrendered to police following a deadly two-day standoff between security forces and his supporters.

The move to detain Atambaev was sparked by his refusal to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning in Batukaev's illegal-release case.

The standoff between security forces and his supporters resulted in the death of a top security officer and more than 170 injuries -- 79 of them sustained by law enforcement officers.

The violence underscored a power struggle between Atambaev and his handpicked successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, which has raised fears of instability in the Central Asian nation.

The former president is currently also on trial in another case linked to last year's violence, in which he and 13 others were charged with murder, attempted murder, threatening or assaulting representatives of authorities, hostage taking, and the forcible seizure of power.

Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power in 2017 from Atambaev, a northerner, to southerner Jeenbekov, which was welcomed by the international community after presidential changes -- in 2005 and 2010 -- came after violent rioting.

However, the deadly clashes last year at Atambaev's compound underscored a subsequent power struggle between him and Jeenbekov.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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