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'Blood Feud': Chechen Blogger Who Criticized Kadyrov Says He Was Attacked Following Official's Threats

Tumso Abdurakhmanov says he was attacked in his sleep a little less than a year after a top Chechen official declared a "blood feud" against him.
Tumso Abdurakhmanov says he was attacked in his sleep a little less than a year after a top Chechen official declared a "blood feud" against him.

Last May, relatives of self-exiled Chechen vlogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov living in Chechnya released a video denouncing and disowning him.

"My relatives were forced on camera to renounce me and to say that in the event of my murder, they would have no grudge against my murderers and would not seek revenge," Abdurakhmanov said in a video response.

"That is, the ground for my physical elimination has been prepared by the Kadyrovtsy," he concluded, referring to the forces of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

On February 26, an unidentified person reportedly broke into Abdurakhmanov's apartment in an undisclosed location in a European country and attacked him with a hammer while he was sleeping.

The Sweden-based Vayfund Chechen Human Rights Association described the incident as "an assassination attempt" and reported that, although Abdurakhmanov was able to fend off the attack, he was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. The attacker was reportedly detained by police, who are investigating.

Abdurakhmanov posted on a video on WhatsApp in which he interrogates the purported attacker, who is seen lying on the floor. The man says he was from Moscow and that he'd been sent by someone named "Abdurakhman from Grozny," the capital of Chechnya, in order "to frighten" the blogger. The alleged attacker also said cryptically, "they have my mother."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on February 27 expressed regret "that some sort of attack was organized against a citizen of Russia." He added that he did not see any connection between the attack and Abdurakhmanov's long-running feuds with Kadyrov and other highly placed figures in the Chechen government.

"We don't think this was an important event for Russia's agenda," Peskov said, according to Interfax.

Abdurakhmanov's brother, Mokhmad Abdurakhmanov, told the independent website Caucasian Knot that his brother had been warned by authorities in the country where he was living that he could be in danger following the mysterious death in France of Chechen blogger Imran Aliyev in January.

Tumso Abdurakhmanov was born in 1985 in a village in Chechnya's Shatoi region. His father, Umalat Abdurakhmanov, was sentenced to death for opposing the Soviet authorities, a sentence that was later commuted to 18 years in prison. The elder Abdurakhmanov served as an official in the 1990s government of Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev and was wounded during the First Chechen War.

Tumso Abdurakhmanov studied as an engineer and by 2015 he was deputy director of the state electricity provider Elektrosvyaz.

However, Abdurakhmanov fled Chechnya in November 2015 after, he said, a traffic incident involving a relative of Kadyrov's led to him being abducted, threatened, and given three days to leave the North Caucasus republic.

Shortly after that, the authorities in Chechnya filed criminal charges against him, accusing him of Islamist extremism and of fighting for the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.

Abdurakhmanov has said the accusations against him are fabricated and that he has never been to Syria.

'We Will Be Looking For You'

After leaving Chechnya, Abdurakhmanov lived in Georgia until 2017. His application for political asylum there was rejected. In December 2017, he traveled to Poland. Early in 2018, he applied for political asylum there. His application in Poland has been rejected twice.

The 33-year-old vlogger runs two YouTube channels with a combined subscriber base of about 200,000. His videos regularly criticize Kadyrov and the administration of Chechnya. He also frequently expounds on his religious views, which tend toward fundamentalist Islam.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (file photo)
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (file photo)

In March 2019, Abdurakhmanov published a video in which he called Kadyrov's father, former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, a "traitor." In response, Chechen parliament speaker Magomed Daudov, a powerful Kadyrov ally, declared a "blood feud" against the vlogger.

"You are my enemy," Daudov said in a video posted to Instagram. "And the enemy of my brothers, and we will be looking for you."

Although Daudov claimed, "we don't plan to kill you," he did warn that "we will have unusual fun with you."

"From now on, when you go to bed, make sure that you lock the door with a key," Daudov told Abdurakhmanov. "When you go outside, be vigilant. If you get a kick in the back, know that it's no accident."

Abdurakhmanov told Current Time, a Russian-language TV channel run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, at the time that he was taking Daudov's "threat" seriously.

"I was threatened, and then I see how Kadyrov's officials comment among themselves, supporting the threat," he said. "High-ranking Kadyrov officials wrote about how they won't regret the means, or the forces, or the time needed to carry out this blood feud."Ramzan Kadyrov's father was assassinated in 2004, and the Kremlin installed Ramzan as head of the republic in 2007, shortly after he turned 30.

He has been widely criticized ever since for massive human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial abduction, execution, and disappearing of various antagonists. Numerous Kadyrov critics -- most prominently, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, and former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemstov -- have been killed or attacked both in Russia and abroad.

In January, blogger Aliyev was found killed in a hotel room in Lille, France. In August 2019, Chechen Zemlikhan Khangoshvili was shot dead in Berlin. In January 2009, former Kadyrov bodyguard Umar Israilov was gunned down in Vienna.

In December 2017, the United States imposed targeted sanctions against Kadyrov under the so-called Magnitsky Act, accusing him of personal involvement in "disappearances and extrajudicial killings."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kavkaz Realii, RFE/RL's Russian Service, and Current Time