A video has been posted on YouTube purportedly by missing Chechen singer Zelimkhan Bakayev. Relatives and friends of the singer however, have expressed doubts about its veracity.
Bakayev disappeared on 8 August in Grozny, where he was attending the wedding of his sister. Activists in the North Caucasus suspect that the Chechen special services are involved.
The video shows a man who appears to be Bakayev addressing another man named Islam, and inviting him to join Bakayev in Germany. He claims to have travelled there ‘in the middle of August’.
‘I reached Germany already somewhere in the middle of August, and it’s awesome. I understand the whole coolness of living in Europe, although I’ve come here only recently. I live with my friend’, the man on the video says.
He adds that there is nothing to do in either Moscow or Grozny. The video ends with him inviting the ‘friend from Holland’ to visit him in Germany.
News that Bakayev is apparently alive spread quickly in the media, but friends of the singer say it is too early to celebrate.
‘If he addresses this video to someone in particular, then why did he post it on YouTube? It’s not him. And I think that this has been done on purpose, to divert the attention of journalists’, Media Diana, a close friend of Zelimkhan, told OC Media.
Another friend, Magomed, also thinks the video is staged, noting a number of strange details.
‘Did you notice that the hookah is not filled, and the curtains are drawn? Maybe, this is done to conceal the place. And moreover, the person on the video says intentionally that he “moved to Germany in the middle of August”. Not “a month ago” or “recently”, but he stresses it was in the middle of August. Everyone knows it was precisely in the middle of August that Zelim disappeared. To me it is obvious that this video is a paid job’, Magomed told OC Media.
A number of Russian rights activists working in the North Caucasus told OC Media they have appealed to the European Commission to confirm if Zelimkhan traveled to Europe or not.
Zelimkhan’s mother appealed to the Public Defender in Chechnya, Kheda Saratova, and sent an audio message to the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov asking him to help in the search for her son. Although the singer’s relatives filed a complaint to the police, a criminal case has not been launched.
On 1 September Russian rights activists launched an online campaign with a hashtag #BringBakaevBack.