There have been at least two recent attempts to assassinate the pro-Moscow head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, according to unconfirmed reports from the news agencies regnum.ru and kavkaz-uzel.ru on July 28 and 29 and information received by RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. That service has not yet been able to confirm the veracity of those reports, and Kadyrov's press service has, predictably, denied that any such incident took place. Security measures in Grozny have nonetheless been intensified in recent days.
The precise time frame of the attacks and the identity of the perpetrators is unclear. According to regnum.ru, six members of Kadyrov's close entourage were apprehended on July 20 in Tsentoroi, in southeastern Chechnya, on suspicion of plotting to kill Kadyrov. They were reportedly tortured and killed the same day.
The second assassination attempt, during a public function in Gudermes sometime last week, was reportedly undertaken by a member of Kadyrov's bodyguard who tried to open fire on him with a pistol, but was himself gunned down by a second bodyguard. Kadyrov escaped unscathed.
Kadyrov is reported to have met with district administrators and police officials in Gudermes on July 24. While there he reportedly harangued and criticized them in the most strident tones for their imputed failure to take effective measures to prevent young men from flocking to fight in the ranks of the North Caucasus resistance headed by self-styled amir of the North Caucasus Doku Umarov.
Kadyrov's press spokesman Lyoma Gudayev told the radio station Ekho Moskvy on July 29 that Kadyrov was not in Chechnya the previous day -- when the first vague reports of the botched murder attempt surfaced -- but on an official visit to Yaroslavl Oblast. According to regnum.ru, Kadyrov met in Yaroslavl with members of the Chechen community and attended a soccer match between a local and a Chechen team. Unprecedented security measures were in place during that visit, according to regnum.ru, with armed OMON (special forces) detachments and armored vehicles deployed to protect him.
Western journalists who have traveled recently to Grozny and met with Kadyrov have noted the extensive and elaborate security measures that surround him at all times. But outside Chechnya, he is more vulnerable: on May 21 his motorcade was involved in a road accident outside Moscow. Certainly Kadyrov is feared and hated so intensely that few would mourn his death. But the reported attempt by a single gunman to kill him in Gudermes could have had only minimal chances of success, and from the details sounds like the work of an incompetent amateur. Whether the recent reports mask a more serious failed attempt to kill Kadyrov, and who might have orchestrated it, can only be guessed at, however. (RFE/RL's North Caucasus Director Aslan Doukaev sheds some light on Kadyrov's adversaries and his measures against them.)
-- Liz Fuller