An opponent of Chechnya’s Moscow-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been shot dead in Dubai. The murder of Sulim Yamadayev is the latest in a line of killings of Chechens who opposed the rule of Mr Kadyrov and again raises questions about the nature of his rule.
Mr Yamadayev, like Mr Kadyrov, was a former rebel who fought against Russia during the 1990s and then switched sides. He had been awarded Russia’s top military medal, and until recently was the commander of Vostok, a federal army battalion made up of Chechens that had a fearsome reputation. He led Vostok into South Ossetia during last summer’s war, and the battalion played a major part in the Russian invasion of Georgia.
But despite this success, relations with Mr Kadyrov had already soured. The Yamadayev brothers – Sulim, Ruslan and Badrudi – headed a powerful clan that had a long-running feud with Mr Kadyrov, exacerbated when a convoy led by Badrudi Yamadayev refused to make way for Mr Kadyrov’s cortege in Chechnya last April, leading to a shootout.
In September, Ruslan Yamadayev was assassinated in central Moscow. Many pointed the finger at Chechnya’s President, though Sulim Yamadayev at the time said he did not want to believe that Mr Kadyrov was behind the killing. He then disappeared from public view; according to reports in the Russian press, he had been living in an upmarket area of Dubai for the past four months.
He was reported to have been fatally wounded while getting into his car in an underground car park on Saturday afternoon. There were unconfirmed reports that a Russian citizen had been apprehended as a suspect.
In 2004, two Russian intelligence agents were convicted of assassinating a former Chechen separatist president,
Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, in Qatar. Recently, a new spate of murders has started, with the Yamadayev brothers just two of several Chechens to meet sticky ends far from the Caucasus Mountains.
Chechen exile groups claim that three Chechens have been murdered in Istanbul in recent months, while in January Umar Israilov was murdered in Vienna. Mr Israilov, a former bodyguard of Mr Kadyrov, had claimed to have witnessed acts of torture carried out by the Chechen President himself.
Mr Kadyrov, who has also been mentioned as a possible suspect in the murder of the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, rejected those accusations with the unsettling defence that he did not kill women.
Chechen officials denied that Mr Yamadayev’s killing was related to Mr Kadyrov and suggested that it was a provocation designed to implicate the Chechen President falsely, and cause friction ahead of a visit of the Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, to Moscow.