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Austrian authorities probe murder of man identified as Kadyrov critic Mamikhan Umarov

6 July 2020
Still from video uploaded by Mamikhan Umarov's to YouTube on 2 July.

Austrian authorities are investigating the killing of a refugee from Russia, believed to be Chechen government critic Mamikhan Umarov. This is the latest in a series of killings seemingly tied to Russian and Chechen officials. 

Austrian police have said they apprehended two individuals over the fatal shooting of a man, whose acquaintances as well as members of the local Chechen diaspora have identified to be Mamikhan Umarov, a critic of Chechen government residing in Austria.

The case is being investigated by Austria’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism. 

Umarov was gunned down on Saturday, 4 July, outside of Vienna. 

Austrian authorities described the deceased as a 43-year-old who was granted asylum in 2007. According to local officials, he was shot outside a shopping mall in Gerasdorf, a town near Vienna, and died at the scene. 

Local police described the detainees as two men who are 37 and 47 years old, respectively. The 47-year-old, the suspected shooter, was arrested in the town of Linz several hours after the assault while the 37-year-old was initially treated as a witness.

The names of the suspects have not yet been released. 

On Monday, citing members of Chechen diaspora, the Russian news outlet Kavkaz Realii identified both men as former residents of Chechnya.

Mamikhan Umarov, whose acquired name was Martin Beck in Austria, described himself as an ‘ex-mercenary’ and a former officer of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria — the Chechen secessionist government which emerged following the breakup of the Soviet Union. 

Umarov, who moved to Austria in 2005, used YouTube as a platform to criticise the Chechen government, often addressing its head Ramzan Kadyrov with expletive-ridden language.

In his video speeches, Umarov did not hide that he lived in Vienna and challenged Kadyrov to meet him there or send his ‘killers’ for him.

He published his last video in Chechen language on 2 July, two days before his death.

In Austria, this is the second high-profile killing of a member of the Chechen diaspora. In 2009, a former bodyguard of Ramzan Kadyrov, Umar Israilov, was shot dead in 2009. 

In 2011, an Austrian court convicted three Chechens for the killing. 

There have been other high-profile attacks on members of the Chechen diaspora throughout Europe in recent years. 

The perpetrators of the fatal stabbing of Imran Aliyev, a Chechen refugee and political blogger in Belgium in January and killers of Georgian citizen Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin last August are also believed by local investigators to have been from Russia. 

On 18 June, the German Prosecutor General identified the ‘state authorities of the central government of the Russian Federation’ as ordering the murder of Khangoshvili.

In February, prominent vlogger critical of Chechen government Tumso Abdurakhmanov managed to overpower an attacker in Gavle, Sweden. He claimed that the man was an assassin sent by the Russian government.

The Ukraine connection

In February, Malikhan Umarov told the Ukrainian TV channel Svobodnyi that he cooperated with Ukrainian and Austrian law enforcement agencies over contract killings ordered from Russia that were ‘going through him'. 

Umarov also claimed he had been contacted a number of times between  2014 and 2015 by Ramzan Kadyrov's nephew and advisor Adam Delimkhanov. Delimkhabov, according to Umarov, initially suggested the assassination of  Ukrainian MP Ihor Mosiychuk, as well as Adam Osmayev and Amina Okuyeva — a Chechen couple who fought on the Ukrainian side during the Donbass conflict. 

Umarov also implicated Kadyrov’s senior aide Shaa Turlayev, identifying him as the man who had ordered the assassination of Mosiychuk.   

In 2014, Ihor Mosiychuk, who then also was the deputy commander of Ukraine’s paramilitary Azov militia, publicly threatened to ‘visit’ Kadyrov in Chechnya, for sending fighters to eastern Ukraine and shot his portrait. 

On 25 October 2017, Mosiychuk survived an apparent assassination attempt when a parked scooter near him exploded in Kyiv. Mosiychuk survived but a bodyguard and one other bystander were killed.

In a separate attack five days later, the car containing Adam Osmayev and Amina Okuyev was shot at. Okuyeva was killed while Osmayev survived.

Ihor Mosiychuk alleged on his Telegram channel today that Umarov ‘tried to reach out to the American government and media’ to inform them about the alleged contract killings ordered by the Chechen government in Ukraine and Europe after he lost confidence in Ukrainian and Austrian security services. 

Mosiychuk also alleged that Umarov, whom he met in February, asked him for help in purchasing a bulletproof vest from Israel.

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