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Chechen Exile's Claims Evoke Bloody Trail Traced To Russia

Said-Emin Ibragimov says he was kidnapped in France.
Said-Emin Ibragimov says he was kidnapped in France.

A former Chechen separatist official claims he was abducted and tortured in France in August by men he believes were Russian security agents exacting revenge against him for accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes, according to a new "Time" magazine report.

The attack on Said-Emin Ibragimov in Strasbourg came just weeks after the former separatist communications minister sent a criminal complaint to the International Criminal Court accusing Putin of atrocities during the Second Chechen War, "Time" reported.

Ibragimov said he was released after being held captive and tortured for two days by men who spoke flawless Russian -- with Moscow rather than Chechen accents -- and told him to stop "defaming their president."

French police are investigating the incident, one of several in recent years that have seen Chechen exiles and opponents of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov targeted in violent -- and often deadly -- attacks across Europe and the Middle East.

Western officials and rights groups have accused Kadyrov's security forces of involvement in several of these extrajudicial attacks widely seen as motivated by political revenge rather than attempts to stamp out terrorism. Kadyrov has repeatedly denied the allegations. Other assassinations of Chechens abroad have targeted individuals accused by Russia of involvement in specific acts of terrorism.

Here are five prominent high-profile incidents involving Chechen exiles targeted or threatened while living abroad over the past decade.

Umar Israilov

Umar Israilov, 27, was gunned down in Vienna on January 13, 2009, trying to evade capture by four Chechens allegedly tasked by Kadyrov to abduct him and take him back to Chechnya. Israilov, a former bodyguard for Kadyrov, was granted asylum in Austria in 2006 and brought a case against the pro-Moscow Chechen administration in the European Court of Human Rights.

Months before he was killed, Israilov described to "The New York Times" how he witnessed Kadyrov and his henchmen torturing persons suspected of abetting the North Caucasus insurgency. A Vienna jury in 2011 convicted three Chechnya-born men in Israilov’s murder, though Lecha Bogatyryov, a Chechen policeman accused of pulling the trigger, managed to flee Austria after the crime and is believed to be in Russia. Bogatyryov was included in the United States' inaugural Magnitsky Act blacklist of accused Russian rights abusers.

Sulim Yamadayev

Yamadayev, who belonged to a powerful clan that rivaled Kadyrov, was shot in the head outside his Dubai apartment building on March 28, 2009. The slaying came six months after his brother, former State Duma Deputy Ruslan Yamadayev, was gunned down in central Moscow. Both brothers fought on the Russian side during the Second Chechen War, and Sulim headed the Vostok Battalion that was directly subordinate to Russian military intelligence.

Sulim Yamadayev fled Russia in late 2008 after falling out with Kadyrov, whose cousin, State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov, was accused by Dubai authorities of organizing Yamadayev’s assassination. Delimkhanov denied the allegation. A Dubai court in 2010 convicted two men -- a Tajik national and an Iranian national -- of involvement in the killing.

The Turkey Assassinations

In September 2011, three Chechen men accused by Russia of terrorist ties were shot dead in an Istanbul parking lot. Turkish prosecutors said they were killed by Russian agents who subsequently fled the country. Russian authorities allege that two of the slain men were involved in the 2011 terrorist attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. The third was allegedly an associate of Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov. Three other prominent Chechens were killed in Istanbul in 2008 and 2009.

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

Yandarbiyev, a former Chechen separatist leader, died of injuries he sustained in a February 2004 bomb attack on his car in Doha, Qatar. Yandarbiyev, who was Chechnya's acting president in 1996 and 1997, was wanted by Russia on charges of leading an armed revolt and had been living in exile in Qatar. Two Russian intelligence officers were convicted by a Qatari court in Yandarbiyev's death and handed life sentences. The judge in the case said the officers had acted on orders from the Russian government, a charge Russian officials denied. The convicted agents were later transferred into Russian custody to serve out their sentences, but they were reportedly freed from prison. In 2003, the United Nations put Yandarbiyev on a list of people with alleged links to Al-Qaeda.

Magomed Ocherhadji

In a 2009 video posted on YouTube, a young Chechen man claimed that Kadyrov tasked him with assassinating Magomed Ocherhadji, a leader in the large Chechen exile community in Norway. The alleged hitman, identified as Ruslan Khalidov, claims he did not carry out the killing and says he was tortured and threatened in an attempt to force him to comply. "They even did things that I'm ashamed to talk about," he says in the video. The video was posted by, a radical Chechen website that claimed the video is part of a more extensive confession by Khalidov.

Ocherhadji told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service in a 2009 interview that Khalidov had personally informed him of the plot against him. "I went to speak to him [Khalidov] after he sent me a message saying that Kadyrov wanted me to be killed," he said. "Naturally, I was somewhat taken aback. He told me Kadyrov and his people view me as a threat. Because of me, he said, they are afraid to travel to Norway."

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.