French Prosecutors have said that a Russian-born man suspected of murdering a Chechen critical of the Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian North Caucasus region, Ramzan Kadyrov, returned immediately after the stabbing to Chechnya.
The “prime suspect,” who is believed to have stayed at Imran Aliyev’s home in Belgium before murdering him reportedly lives in Chechnya, AFP reported, citing the Lille prosecutor’s office on March 3.
Aliyev, 44, was stabbed 135 times and his body was found in a hotel room in the northern French city of Lille on January 30. He had refugee status in Belgium since 2012.
Authorities in a statement didn’t release the name of the suspected murderer and said, “on the day of the events, having quickly left France, he flew to Berlin to travel to Moscow the day after.”
From the Russian capital, the suspect took a domestic flight to Mineralnye Vody, an airport in Russia’s North Caucasus about 100 kilometers from the Chechen border.
“For the time being, he has not faced any questioning,” the statement said. “Judicial and police cooperation from concerned European countries have already been sought.”
Aliyev and another man with a Russian passport arrived in Lille from Belgium on the night of January 29-30. Both checked into a hotel room near a train station there.
The victim was a popular blogger critical of strongman ruler Kadyrov.
It is not the first time that a critic of Kadyrov has been killed in Europe.
In August last year, 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 maintain 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 allege Kadyrov is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
Kremlin critics say Russian President Vladimir 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.