A Eurasianet partner post from RFE/RL
MOSCOW -- A leaked excerpt from a soon-to-be-released report by the Russian opposition on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov accuses him of amassing a 30,000-strong "private army" that constitutes a threat to national security.
The report, titled Kadyrov: National Security Threat and set for release by the Republican Party of Russia-People's Freedom Party's (Parnas) Ilya Yashin on February 23, is the latest barrage in an escalating war of words between the Chechen strongman and the beleaguered Russian opposition, whom Kadyrov has labeled "enemies of the people" and "traitors."
The opposition-minded New Times investigative magazine published a chapter of the document in which Yashin describes Kadyrov's forces as "possibly the most battle-capable military group in modern Russia."
The report comes almost one year after opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a close friend and mentor of Yashin, was shot dead late on February 27 in an attack that many opposition figures suspect was carried out with the involvement of the Kremlin-backed Chechen leadership.
Five men from the North Caucasus region have been arrested and charged with Nemtsov's killing.
Yashin cites largely open-source information, alleging that Kadyrov sent Chechen forces to eastern Ukraine in 2014 to fight alongside other Kremlin-backed troops against Kyiv. The report also alleges that Kadyrov's men are involved in criminal activities across Russia, pointing to interviews with police disgruntled by the perceived impunity of his forces.
"In recent years, Kadyrov's fighters have become active in Moscow," Yashin writes. "But while they see their main task as defending their boss's regime in Chechnya, they are beginning to see the rest of Russia as potential loot."
Yashin writes that Kadyrov's 30,000 troops are fiercely loyal to the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader, as he pardoned many of them in return for laying down their weapons and abandoning their separatist fight against Moscow. He also suggests that Kadyrov is investing heavily in training for future generations of loyal fighters.
Threatening the Opposition
The Parnas offices where Yashin is due to present the report on February 23 were briefly cordoned off by police on February 22 after officers apparently received a phone call warning of a possible explosive. "They found no bomb," Yashin wrote later on Twitter. "We're trying to agree with the police on intercepting similar provocations tomorrow."
Yashin, who is a Parnas deputy chairman, told RFE/RL that the organizers of the presentation are concerned about security.
In December, a speech via videolink to supporters in St. Petersburg by exiled former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky was interrupted after electricity went off in the conference room and police cited a bomb threat.
Kadyrov has repeatedly denounced and threatened the Russian opposition. He published a photograph on his Instagram account of opposition leader and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov in crosshairs, days before a group of men hit Kasyanov with a cake while he was dining in a Moscow restaurant.
Kadyrov: National Security Threat follows in a tradition of opposition "expert reports" begun by Nemtsov, a former Russian deputy prime minister who authored pamphlets on alleged corruption linked to President Vladimir Putin, former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics, among other things.
Nemtsov had been drafting a report on Putin's alleged involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine when he was assassinated. Yashin completed the report and published it in May.
Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet countries.
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
A Eurasianet partner post from RFE/RL