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Ramzan Kadyrov

Turkish authorities have arrested four Russian citizens, one Ukrainian citizen, and one Uzbek national on charges of "military and political espionage" linked to alleged plans to attack Chechen opposition activists residing in Turkey.

The Turkish Prosecutor-General's Office said on October 20 that the men arrested in the cities of Antalya and Istanbul on October 8 are Abdula Abdulayev, Ravshan Akhmedov, Beslan Rasayev, and Aslanbek Abdulmuslimov of Russia; Ihor Yefrim of Ukraine; and Amir Yusupov of Uzbekistan.

The men are also suspected of buying weapons to use against Turkish-based critics of the Kremlin-backed leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

If convicted, the men face up to 20 years in prison.

Russian officials have yet to comment on the situation.

The Untouchable: How Kadyrov Maintains His Tight Grip On Chechnya
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There have been several attacks outside Russia against Kadyrov's critics in recent years.

In January, a court in Sweden sentenced two Russian citizens from Chechnya to lengthy prison terms for their roles in the attempted killing last year of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, an exiled Chechen blogger and outspoken critic of Kadyrov.

A year before that, Imran Aliyev, another Chechen blogger known for his criticism of Kadyrov, was found stabbed to death in a hotel room in the northern French city of Lille.

Austria arrested two Chechen asylum seekers as part of an investigation into the killing in a Vienna suburb of another Kadyrov critic, Mamikhan Umarov, in July 2020.

Human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of widespread rights and other abuses in the region, allegations he denies.

Critics say Kadyrov is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of his political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

Defenders claim Kadyrov has brought relative calm to the volatile region following two wars between Moscow and separatists after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

With reporting by Sabah, Hurriyet, Artigercek, and Beyazgazete
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has warned of repercussions for what he called "illegal public gatherings" ahead of protest rallies planned by exiled opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Domestic and international human rights groups have criticized Kazakhstan's new law on mass gatherings adopted last year, saying it allows the government to maintain its tight control over peaceful assembly.

Speaking at a session of parliament on October 21, Toqaev downplayed those concerns while saying that "those who take part in illegal demonstrations will be prosecuted."

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"The law on peaceful public gatherings we adopted is an important step for democratization, no matter what people say about it. Nobody is against peaceful gatherings, demonstrations. There is no need to obtain permission for that. Just informing authorities about that is enough. But some people do not follow even that requirement," he said.

"I want to warn the ones who commit such a violation of law that such activities will be legally assessed. The duty of the Prosecutor-General's Office is to explain the law to citizens, while law enforcement must provide safety and security in the society," Toqaev added.

Toqaev also took aim at women who have frequently rallied in front of the government buildings and banks to demand social allowances and other benefits for single mothers and lower-income families.

"We must honor mothers in our society. But mothers also must understand they have obligations. Some mothers with many children are disrupting the social order," Toqaev said.

Toqaev's statements come two days before rallies planned by Ablyazov, an exiled former head of BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh authorities who has fought multiple extradition battles over accusations that he embezzled billions.

Kazakh authorities designated Ablyazov's Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) and the group's associate, the unregistered Koshe (Street) party, as “extremist” organizations in March 2018.

Human Rights Watch earlier this year criticized the Kazakh government for using anti-extremism laws as a tool to persecute critics and civic activists. Several hundred people have been prosecuted for supporting or being members of the DVK or Koshe parties.

The Kazakh authorities have insisted there are no political prisoners in the Central Asian country.

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