Austrian police are investigating whether the murder of a Russian asylum seeker outside the capital of Vienna over the weekend was a political assassination.
The police had earlier said that a 43-year-old Russian man was shot dead on July 4 in a parking lot next to a shopping center in the Vienna suburb of Gerasdorf. Two men have been detained in connection with the killing.
Though Austrian police have not named the victim, sources in the Chechen diaspora have told RFE/RL that the man killed was Mamikhan Umarov, a former Chechen separatist and critic of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
The Austrian regional intelligence and anti-terrorism body are investigating the case. Roland Scherscher, the anti-terrorism agency’s head, said a political motive or an argument could be behind the killing.
According to initial reports, the asylum seeker was shot in the head and died before ambulances arrived. An autopsy is being conducted.
Austrian police said on July 6 that the victim had declined police protection, but did not say when or specify why it was offered.
A suspect, who was also identified by Austrian authorities only as a Russian citizen, was captured several hours later about 200 kilometers west of the capital in Linz following a large-scale police manhunt.
Police arrested a second Russian man on July 5 whom they initially thought was a witness. No further details of the suspects were given.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Vienna told the state news agency TASS that it had not been contacted regarding the murder and arrests of its citizens.
Anzor Of Vienna
Umarov, also known as Anzor of Vienna, settled in Austria in 2005 and received asylum two years later.
In interviews and social-media posts, Umarov has said he was a former mercenary, who served in the security service under the separatist government that controlled Chechnya in the late 1990s between two devastating wars against federal forces.
Umarov frequently accused the Russian security forces of carrying out the assassinations of former Chechen separatists in European countries, and, in some cases, posted what he said were audio recordings of officials discussing such plots.
He was expected to be a key witness in the assassination of Chechen Akima Okueva in Kyiv in October 2017 but was not allowed entry into Ukraine.
In February, he created his own YouTube channel, posting 30 video addresses to his subscribers over that time period, with the last one uploaded on July 2.
Most of his video addresses, which are conducted in the Chechen language, end with insulting remarks about Kadyrov as well as the leader’s family and associates. A majority of the videos received in excess of 250,000 views. Chechnya has a population of about 1.3 million though many Chechens are scattered around Russia and other parts of the world.
Rights groups have accused Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, of numerous human rights abuses, including kidnappings, torture, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and the targeted killings of political and personal rivals both in Russia and abroad.
In February, Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov was attacked in Sweden. He was able to overpower his alleged attacker and hand him over to the authorities.
In March 2019, the head of the Chechen parliament, Magomed Daudov declared a blood feud against Abdurakhmanov.
On January 30, Chechen blogger Imran Aliyev, also a critic of Kadyrov, was found dead in the French city of Lille. He had been stabbed 135 times. Prosecutors say they have identified a Russian-born man who returned to Chechnya immediately following the killing as the prime suspect in that case.
In August 2019, Georgian native Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen separatist fighter, was shot dead in Berlin. Prosecutors in Germany have filed murder charges against a Russian national in that case and accused the Russian government of ordering the killing.