Chechen blogger Imran Aliyev, known for his criticism of the Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been found dead with multiple stab wounds in a hotel in France, according to reports.
AFP quoted unnamed sources close to the investigation late on February 3 as saying that the 44-year-old blogger, who resided in Belgium and was known online as Mansur Stary (Old Mansur), was found dead on January 30 in his hotel room in the northern city of Lille.
According to the source, Aliyev arrived from Belgium a day earlier with another man, "who presumably had the same nationality."
The prosecutor's office in Lille said no one had been detained so far in the investigation but declined to provide further details, according to AFP.
On January 30, a local newspaper, La Voix du Nord, reported that a man's body was found with multiple stab wounds in a hotel in Lille. The report did not identify the man.
The Chechenskiye Novosti (Chechen News) account on Telegram on February 1, identified the man as Aliyev, citing relatives and friends of the deceased.
It is not the first time that a critic of Kadyrov has been killed in Europe.
In August 2019, a former Chechen separatist fighter, Georgian native Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, was shot dead in Berlin.
A 49-year-old man with a Russian passport has been detained in connection with the killing. The suspect, also implicated in the murder of a Russian businessman in 2013, has maintained his right to keep silent.
Berlin expelled two Russian diplomats over the apparent assassination, but Moscow has rejected the allegations of state involvement.
Rights groups say Kadyrov, who has ruled the volatile region since 2007, uses repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the region. They claim Kadyrov is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extra-judicial killings.
Kremlin critics say Putin has turned a blind eye to the alleged abuses and violations of the Russian Constitution by Kadyrov because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiments and violence in Chechnya, the site of two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency that spread to other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.