President is trying to kill me, says Chechen clan leader

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The Independent Online

A powerful Chechen clan leader, who has seen two of his brothers murdered in the last two years, yesterday accused the Chechen president of being behind the killings and an attempt on his own life.

The Yamadayevs were once one of the most powerful families in Chechnya and were known to have strained relations with Ramzan Kadyrov, the 33-year-old Chechen President and Kremlin-supported "strongman".

Mr Kadyrov has ruled Chechnya with an iron fist since taking over in 2007, bringing some degree of stability to the republic, which was ravaged by two wars with Russia. But he has frequently been accused by critics and activists of human rights abuses, kidnappings and involvement in extra-judicial killings.

Analysts say that the latest allegations could be part of an attempt by groupings in the Russian security services keen to put pressure on Mr Kadyrov or even remove him from power.

The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets yesterday published an open letter from Isa Yamadayev, who survived an apparent assassination attempt last year, claiming that Mr Kadyrov ordered the attack. Alongside the letter was an extraordinary video of an investigator questioning Khavazh Yusupov, the man arrested for the attempt, saying he was ordered to carry out the killing by Mr Kadyrov personally.

Mr Yusupov, who was Isa Yamadayev's bodyguard, says that the Chechen President told him his whole family would be killed if he didn't carry out the order. In the video, Mr Yusupov also claims that Mr Kadyrov told him that he personally gave the orders to kill two of Isa's brothers.

Ruslan Yamadayev, a former member of Russia's parliament, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Central Moscow in September 2008. Another brother, Sulim Yamadayev, was a powerful warlord who commanded the Vostok battalion of elite troops in Chechnya, and led them into battle on Russia's side in the August 2008 war against Georgia over South Ossetia.

Fearing for his life after falling out with Mr Kadyrov, Sulim fled to Dubai shortly after the war, but was gunned down in a car park at the elite Jumeirah Beach Residence in the Gulf state in March last year.

Dubai police arrested two men for the murder, including an Iranian who was a stable hand looking after Mr Kadyrov's horses in the Arab emirate. They also put out an Interpol warrant for Adam Delimkhanov, a Chechen member of Russia's parliament who is Mr Kadyrov's cousin and is widely seen as his right-hand man.

Dubai authorities claim that Mr Delimkhanov masterminded the murder, which was was carried out with a gold pistol that he personally brought into Dubai. Mr Kadyrov has denied that either he or Mr Delimkhanov were behind the murder, though he acknowledged the hatred he had for Sulim Yamadayev, calling him a "criminal". He also said that Mr Yamadayev had previously attempted to assassinate him by poisoning his personal lake.

The assassination attempt on Isa Yamadayev is cloaked in intrigue. He

claims he became aware that an attempt was planned, and realised that Mr Yusupov was going to carry it out. According to some reports, police swapped the bullets in Mr Yusupov's gun for blanks, and waited until he attempted to carry out the attack before arresting him. Prosecutors recently named Shaa Turlayev, an aide to Mr Kadyrov, as the potential mastermind behind the murder.

Mr Kadyrov yesterday denied any link to the murders of the Yamadayev brothers or the attempt on Isa Yamadayev's life. His lawyer called the newspaper reports a "provocation". A statement released by his press service said the media attention was part of a smear campaign against Mr Kadyrov by unspecified enemies, a defence he has used before when he was linked to the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

"Certain forces, knowing the hot-blooded nature of the brothers, are systematically trying to use them in an information war against the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, his team, and... the whole Chechen nation," said the statement.

It is not the first time that Mr Kadyrov has been accused of murders, but the appearance of the allegations in a high-profile Russian newspaper is unusual. Sources close to the government have said for a long time that many in the Kremlin are embarrassed by Mr Kadyrov and would like to see him gone. However, he has long been seen as the best option that the Kremlin has available.

"In Chechnya, power is personalised, there are no institutions," said Sergei Markedonov, a Russian expert on the North Caucasus. "In order to get rid of Kadyrov, there would need to be some viable alternative, and for now there isn't one." However, he did not rule out that this could be the start of a move against the Chechen President. "For now, it's all on the level of rumours. But if the prosecutor general comes out and says that Kadyrov's people are wanted for these crimes, then we can talk of the start of a move against him."

The hunted family

Ruslan Yamadayev

The former member of Russia's parliament was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Moscow in 2008.

Sulim Yamadayev

A powerful warlord and commander the Vostok battalion of elite troops in Chechnya. He fled to Dubai after falling out with Mr Kadyrov but was shot dead in a car park there last year.

Isa Yamadayev

He survived an apparent assassination attempt last year. He claimed the Chechen President ordered the attack.