Russia, Kadyrov’s forces? ‘Not more than 500 men’

Chechen dissident Abubakar Yangulbaev debunks the myth of the Kadyrovtsy: “we counted them from the images posted on social media during the operation in Ukraine. Before the war it was thought that Kadyrov had super powers, but now we know that’s not the case”

Ramzan Kadyrov’s forces? “The Chechen leader cannot count on more than 500 men. We counted them one by one, after recognizing them in the photos of the posts that they themselves have published on various social networks from the front in Ukraine. We have compiled lists”. In an interview with Adnkronos Abubakar Yangulbaev, lawyer, dissident, son of a former federal judge in Chechnya, victim of persecution, as well as his entire family, debunks the myth of the ‘kadyrovtsy’ artfully constructed, he underlines, from Russian sources. “No one has asked the Chechens for information”, he denounces from a European city, where he has been since last February.

“Before the war in Ukraine, even in Chechnya it was thought that Kadyrov had super powers, 20,000 but also 50,000 men, a force without limits. But now everyone has realized that there are only a few men under his orders. That it was false information. Kadyrov has set up an effective public relations campaign, but he does not have an army, his power is based on the approximately 100,000 Russian soldiers stationed in the Republic of the Caucasus”. “We also know that now in Chechnya the police stations are empty, without personnel”. While Kadyrov continues to repeat, as he did in recent days, his version of him, namely, that 20,000 Chechens fought in the Ukraine, nine thousand of whom are at the bridge today.

“Kadyrovtsy are policemen for Moscow, like when the Nazis invaded Poland and used the premises to terrorize civilians. Russia just needs Chechnya to be quiet then whatever Kadyrov’s doing, whatever it is, it’s fine in Moscow “, adds Yangulbaev, recalling the case of his mother, Zarema Musaeva, who was kidnapped in Nizhni Novgorod at the beginning of the year by men who spoke Chechen, in cars with Chechen license plates, and taken, against her will, to Grozny, where he has been on trial for defrauding and assaulting a police officer since last summer. “Her story is exceptional only because she is a woman, who was previously spared – as well as the wife of a judge”, adds the activist.

When you speak of ‘us’, of the Chechen leader’s work of identifying men, who are you referring to? “Me and the people I’m in contact with. Soldiers from Chechen battalions fighting for Ukraine, volunteers, Chechens in the Ukrainian army, friends in Chechnya and activists abroad,” explains Yangulbaev, who has 29 years and in the past, in Chechnya and in Pyatigosk, in the Caucasus, he worked for the Committee against torture, following about twenty cases, including kidnappings, torture and assassinations by “forces in contact with the government”.

“The Chechen opposition is strong. It includes young people, including Tumso Abdurakhamov – victim in Sweden of an attempted murder by the Chechens – Khasan Khalitov – refugee in Turkey, where he received a photo of his sister stripped naked after being kidnapped in Chechnya- and my brother Ibrahim, and people with a history behind them, such as the independence leader Akhmet Zakaev. They are all abroad. No one is left in Chechnya”, he adds, speaking of the search for support from Western countries after “the betrayal ” of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who are now “friends of Kadyrov.”

His story as a dissident began in November 2015, when he was kidnapped together with his brother Ibrahim and his father, until then a federal judge, therefore not an opponent, but a prominent and independent personality. However, the judge had disagreements with members of the Kadyrov clan “which at the time had not yet taken control of the judiciary”. Instead, Ibrahim had published a post against the regime on VKontakte: “They kidnapped us, interrogated us and tortured us, even by Kadyrov himself, for a whole night”.

“Later the Chechen president ordered that we be transferred to a police station, where my father and I suffered further abuse. The arrest was not made official. They wanted me to say that my father was corrupt and my brother a terrorist We were also interrogated by two generals, one of whom, Apti Alavdinov, fought in Ukraine in this operation. Then they let me and my father go, who was fired. My brother, on the other hand, was transferred to a special forces department Sobr “Terek” is kept in a cellar for six months,” he says.

In 2017, history repeats itself: police officers kidnap Ibrahim and formally arrest him on charges of inciting hatred towards the Russian military. They released him on January 1, 2019. without a trial, without a conviction. My colleagues from the Committee Against Torture and I immediately took him to Nizhni Novgorod, along with the rest of the family.

“Things didn’t work out in Russia. I knew that sooner or later I would be kidnapped or arrested on orders from Kadyrov who can do whatever he wants with the Chechens in Chechnya and outside Chechnya, whether it’s in the rest of Russia, in Europe or in a other country. There are many examples, in Austria, Germany and France. And if in Chechnya he can do what he wants at any time, in the rest of Russia he acts more carefully, but he acts the same and sometimes not only with the Chechens but even with people of other nationalities”. Examples? Dagestan pharmacist Aleksei Kardashov, kidnapped and tortured and then killed. In this case, in 2017 we managed to have a conviction in a Chechen court of two police officers Aslan Dukayev and Bekkhan Abdurashidov, the first conviction of an officer in Chechnya.

“I left Russia in October last year, after being arrested and released after three hours. I escaped to Georgia and from there came to the Czech Republic. I was working for the Committee Against Torture in Pyatigorsk, 300 kilometers from Grozny , after working as an assistant in a law firm in the capital of Chechnya, but I was also an activist for the defense of human rights and against the Chechen President”. “I worked hard to collect information directly in Chechnya, in the villages, as a Chechen it was easy for me to gain people’s trust and this is the sensitive issue for Kadyrov”.

“People in Chechnya live a different life than the rest of the Russians. Ordinary rights and laws that work in Russia don’t work in Chechnya. But the kadirovtsy can do whatever they want in the rest of Russia too. going to Moscow, kidnapping someone is taking them to Chechnya. And Kadyrov doesn’t hide it but says it openly on Chechen television, ‘I can take whoever I want, anywhere, and do anything'”, he concludes.