On the evening of 17 August, rumours spread in social media that famous Chechen singer Zelimkhan Bakayev was dead. Bakayev disappeared on 8 August in Grozny, which he was visiting for his sister’s wedding.
However, a source in a major Russian rights group active in Chechnya who is familiar with the case told OC Media that the rumours were false.
‘At first a rumour was spread that he was alive and had left Chechnya. Then information spread that he was dead. It is not true. We know that Bakayev is alive and that he is still in Chechen detention’, the source told OC Media.
‘Someone is intentionally disseminating these rumours in order to evade suspicion’, the source added.
Asked who could profit from such rumours, the activist replied that ‘most likely the people who have Bakayev now — some high-ranking official in the republic’.
One of Bakayev’s relatives told OC Media that on 17 August his parents reported his disappearance to police.
‘My mother had addressed the police too. But there was information that he had gone from Nalchik [the capital of Kabardino Balkaria] to Moscow. At first they were trying to verify it, but this rumour wasn’t confirmed. And so yesterday his mother filed a report with police’, the relative said.
An employee of the press service of Chechnya’s Interior Ministry hung up the phone and stopped answering OC Media’s calls after being asked about Bakayev.
Russian news outlet RBC reported that Chechnya’s minister for national policy, external relations, press, and information, Dzhambulat Umarov called media reports of the singer’s abduction ‘stupid’.
‘The guy is not a Wahhabi, not a terrorist, he isn’t involved in any cases. No structures took him, for a hundred years no-one will need him’, the minister said, adding that Bakayev ‘would reappear soon’.
According to Kavkaz.Realii, Bakayev was abducted by Chechen security forces and is currently being held in a secret prison.