fbpx

Videos show families of exiled government critics threatened in Chechnya

10 September 2021
Screengrab from video featuring family members of Khasan Khalitov.

Three videos have been uploaded onto social media networks in Russia showing a group of men, led by apparent former Russian police officer Akhmed Arsnukayev, threatening the families of four prominent Chechen government critics living in exile.

The videos were uploaded on 7 September. The previous day, a video was uploaded on Telegram showing the beating of an apparent Kadyrov supporter — not Arsnukayev —  in Istanbul.

According to an OC Media source, at least two of the families featured in the videos with Arsnukayev were held by police before Arsnukayev and his party arrived. According to the source, the streets leading to the houses of the abducted were blocked off by the police.

In one of the videos, Akhmed Arsnukayev along with a large group of men is seen berating the family members of Khasan Khalitov and threatening to kill them. Arsnukayev also declared that his family had declared a blood feud against the Khalitov family. 

Traditionally, a blood feud is a vow that relatives of a person who was somehow aggrieved, will kill the party responsible — it does not typically mean that relatives will be targeted.

In the Instagram post accompanying the video, Khasan Khalitov, and several other men, including the three other Chechen exiles are accused of threatening Arsnukayev and forcing him to film a video insulting Chechen authorities and threatening his wife and daughter. 

Other critics of the Chechen government who had their families apparently kidnapped and threatened include Rustam Naurbayev, Ali Mamakayev, and Rustam Azhiev.

The alleged attack on Arsnukayev took place on 20 August in Istanbul. According to Arsnukayev, who identified himself as a former police officer, the attackers demanded that he provide them with information about the Russian security forces in Istanbul, who are monitoring representatives of the Chechen diaspora in Turkey.

Arsnukayev said he returned to Grozny on 22 August and informed police about the incident. 

Telegram group

In mid-August, a Telegram channel titled ‘Security Turkey’ was opened with the stated goal of identifying ‘Kadyrov agents and FSB officers’ who threaten the security of the Chechen diaspora in Turkey. 

The channel's authors state that in Turkey, Russian security forces have more than once killed representatives of the Chechen diaspora and that their goal is to protect the Chechen diaspora residing in the country.

On 6 September, a video was uploaded, which featured several unknown men beating a man that was alleged to be a member of the Kadyrov regiment of the National Russian Guard. 

Administrators of the group accused the man of gaining the confidence of participants in the Russian-Chechen war in Turkey and promising to solve problems in Russia for those who wanted to return home — this, according to the channel administrators, was a lie as the men in question either disappeared or received prison sentences upon their return to Russia.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Khasan Khalitov said that the man who was beaten on 6 September was identified by him. 

"I sent a telegram message to the Security Turkey group with photos of several, according to my information, Kadyrovtsy whom I saw in my area,’ he said. ‘After my publication [of information about him] the guys found this Kadyrov agent and talked to him. He said that he did not regret anything, speaking about his work in the security department. And then he was beaten.’

OC Media reached out to the Prosecutor's Office of the Chechen Republic for comment. The Prosecutor’s Office responded that they are not actively monitoring the situation and that they have not received information about these possible crimes and have not seen the videos.

Fierce, independent journalism

Let’s be honest, the media situation in the Caucasus is grim. Every day we are accused of ‘serving the enemy’ whoever that enemy may be. Our journalists have been harassed, arrested, beaten, and exiled. But nevertheless, we persevere. For us this is a labour of love. Unfortunately, we cannot run OC Media on love alone, journalism is expensive and funding is scarce. Our sole mission is to serve the interests of all peoples of the region. You can support us today for as little as $1 a month and join us in the fight for a better Caucasus.

Support Us