Chechen State TV reported on November 2 the thwarting of a plot to kill republic head Ramzan Kadyrov by a group of some 20 young men from the town of Argun.
Kadyrov for his part announced in an Instagram post the same day that the young men had been led astray and indoctrinated into Wahhabism by an incompetent self-taught imam. That cleric has not been identified, and his current whereabouts are not known.
Kadyrov added that following a five-hour meeting with the young men in question and their parents, he resolved to show clemency because they had acknowledged the error of their ways. The detainees have since been released, and their parents have undertaken to ensure they do not violate the law in the future. Some human rights activists, Caucasus experts, and Grozny residents doubt, however, whether any plot to kill Kadyrov existed. The news portal Caucasus Knot quoted one Grozny resident as saying he believes the detention of the young men and their release was just a PR exercise. The man, who gave his name as Musa, quoted residents of Argun as saying the young men -- who reportedly included the brother of a police officer killed by the North Caucasus insurgency -- simply gathered periodically in the boiler room of the local mosque to discuss the situation in Syria.
Oleg Orlov of the Moscow-based human rights watchdog Memorial argued that the very fact the young men were released suggests that they had done nothing illegal. He characterized the episode as a PR exercise intended to portray Kadyrov as "a humane leader."
It may also have been intened -- although Orlov did not say so -- to counter reports that dozens of young men with beards, but with their upper lips clean-shaven, Salafi-style, have been detained in various towns in Chechnya in recent weeks on suspicion of adhering to Salafi Islam, and had their beards forcibly shaved.
Likewise of note is the fact that the young men detained were not, according to the uncle of one of them, beaten to extract a confession of guilt. He said that during the three days the young men were held in custody, they were given meals and allowed to pray. He also said that the young men simply met to vent to what he termed their “understandable” anger over the cronyism, corruption, and systematic suppression of dissent that characterize the Kadyrov regime.
Kadyrov himself hinted at such motives in an interview he gave to NTV on November 6. He said the young men regarded him as a heretic who had sold out to the Russians, which is what Said Buryatsky, the Caucasus Emirate ideologist who was killed five years ago, had designated him. Buryatsky's homilies are reportedly still popular among disaffected young North Caucasians, which may be one reason why police routinely check what video clips young men whose behavior is considered suspect have viewed on their mobile phones.
Kadyrov has still not said what evidence, if any, has come to light to substantiate his claim that the young men were planning his death. But if solid evidence does, indeed, exist, and Kadyrov chose to ignore it, then he theoretically risks being charged under the Russian Criminal Code with willfully concealing the intent to commit an act of terrorism.
If no such charge is forthcoming, it is logical to assume that either the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office doubts Kadyrov's claim of a plot to kill him, or that its staff has been warned that no matter what Kadyrov says or does, he stands beyond the law and is thus untouchable. Kadyrov concluded his NTV interview with the words: "I am asking that all those who break the law should be punished according to the laws of the Russian Federation."