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A recording of a phone conversation between a Chechen dissident blogger and the chair of Chechnya’s parliament, Magomed Daudov, has led to speculation about Daudov’s political ambitions. In the video, which went viral online, Tumso Abdurakhmanov mocks Daudov’s safety guarantees if he were to return.
Abdurakhmanov, a blogger and an active critic of the Chechen government, published the recording on his YouTube channel on 26 August. Daudov, known locally as Lord, is claimed by observers to be close with Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Abdurakhmanov escaped to Georgia with his family in 2016 after he claims he was threatened by Islam Kadyrov, a nephew of Ramzan Kadyrov and now the head of his administration. According to Abdurakhmanov, he accidentally cut-off Islam’s car while driving, after which Islam accused him of being a ‘Wahhabi’, a derogatory term for Salafi Muslims.
Abdurakhmanov said he was later detained by Islam Kadyrov’s bodyguards and was brought to a house where Islam was waiting for him. ‘Islam Kadyrov told me that if I wanted to escape he would give me three days, but then he would find me and kill me’, he told Interpressnews.
Abdurakhmanov appealed to the Georgian Government for political asylum but was rejected, and now resides in Poland.
During their conversation, Daudov is heard admitting that Islam Kadyrov initiated Abdurakhmanov’s persecution. He then expresses dissatisfaction that Abdurakhmanov had criticised him in his videos for being inactive and ‘vicious’. Daudov then attempts to find out from the blogger his address.
[Read more about the ‘insults’ of officials and the practice of public apology on OC Media: Public humiliation — the political trend sweeping through the North Caucasus]
Daudov is also heard trying to persuade Abdurakhmanov to return home, guaranteeing he would be safe and would be given a job. Abdurakhmanov rejects the offer giving examples of others persecuted for criticising Kadyrov.
In an interview with Kavkaz.Realii published on Tuesday, Abdurakhmanov said he was confident the phone call was an attempt to silence him.
‘We see the situation with [human rights activist] Oyub Titiyev, who had drugs viciously planted on him, a person held in prison. We remember the situation with [sportsperson] Murad Amriyev, who was given all the guarantees and was brought home, it was aired on TV, they held a press conference saying that he is all right, but then they began systematically pursuing him, and he was forced to flee the country. There are a lot of such moments and this is why I have a zero trust in what they are saying’, Abdurakhmanov remarked.
Kadyrov’s right hand
Abdurakhmanov has in recent years been one of the most ardent critics of the Russian authorities in Chechnya, and frequently releases updates about significant events in the republic and the wider Caucasus. He is also one of the few Chechens to publicly criticise the Chechen authorities.
After releasing the conversation with Daudov, Abdurakhmanov’s YouTube channel became one of the most popular in the Russian segment of the site. As of 30 August, the video had over 1.2 million views.
The recording caused speculations in Chechnya that the conflict with Abdurakhmanov was used to raise Daudov’s profile, and that he may become the next head of Chechnya.
Kadyrov’s term as Head of Chechnya expires in three years and many have speculated he will move to become the chairman of the Chechen parliament, with Daudov taking over as head.
Kadyrov's nephew, Adam Delimkhanov, an MP in Russia’s lower house the Duma, is considered by many observers to be currently Kadyrov’s closest ally.