Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Political assassination in Dubai

From the "Telegraph" 1 April '09.

THE Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, is facing fresh international scrutiny after a Chechen warlord who fell out with the Kremlin was assassinated in Dubai at the weekend. The murder of Sulim Yamadayev could provoke renewed violence in Chechnya and will cause alarm outside Russia after a series of similar assassinations in Istanbul and Vienna.

Mr Yamadayev, 36, pictured left, the leading rival of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Kremlin-backed president, was shot dead on Saturday in the car park of a housing development in Dubai where he had been living under a false name since December. (The assassination happened at 3pm last Saturday afternoon in the carpark of Rimal 6 Building at Jumeirah Beach Residences. The "Gulf News" reports that two bodyguards were also injured in the attack. According to a security guard at the Rimal Building, and let's face it, those guys know everything that happens in their buildings, there had been previous attempts on Mr Yamadayev's life. A timely reminder to check out your neighbours before you move in. )

Experts alleged that the planning related to the attack suggested the involvement of Russia's FSB intelligence service, once headed by Mr Putin.

Coming only six months after Mr Yamadayev's brother, Ruslan, was shot dead outside the British embassy in Moscow, the murder is another sign that Chechnya's increasingly bloody gangland war is being fought beyond the Russian republic's borders.

According to police officials in Dubai, a lone gunman killed Mr Yamadayev as he walked from his apartment block to its underground car park. Police said it appeared that the "victim had been under surveillance for some time".

Until his removal in a palace putsch last year, Mr Yamadayev was Chechnya's second most powerful warlord, after Mr Kadyrov. Both men were former rebels who fought the Russian government in the first of Chechnya's two rebellions between 1994 and 1996.

They defected to the Kremlin's side in the second war, which began in 1999, and their powerful clans formed the bedrock of an uncertain pro-Russia government, with Mr Kadyrov at its helm.
As head of the eastern battalion and de facto leader of Chechnya's second biggest city of Gudermes, Mr Yamadayev was never happy in his junior role.

Even though Mr Kadyrov has largely succeeded - through a mixture of terror and Kremlin money - in pacifying Chechnya, the death of his rival could destabilise the republic.

The killing could also prompt world leaders to take Mr Putin to task over the various Chechnya-related assassinations.

"The latest events in Dubai will have indirect consequences for Putin's reputation as a world leader," said Alexander Konovalov, a Chechnya analyst.

In the past six months alone, three of Mr Kadyrov's opponents have been shot dead in Istanbul. A fourth was killed in Vienna after telling The New York Times that Mr Kadyrov had ordered executions and personally tortured his opponents.

The murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the outspoken Russian journalist, has also been linked to the Chechen President. Mr Kadyrov has denied all the allegations.

Questions are being asked in Moscow about whether the murders are solely on orders from within Chechnya, or whether they have the FSB's blessing.

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