Foe of Chechen leader Kadyrov killed in Dubai

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Chechen man assassinated in Dubai at the weekend was identified by Russian authorities on Monday as a prominent foe of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

The dead man was named as Sulim Yamadayev, an ex-rebel chief who became a decorated Russian officer. Yamadayev had challenged Moscow-backed Kadyrov for control of Chechen security forces until last year, when he was dismissed from commanding an elite battalion and forced to flee.

Russia fought two wars during the 1990s against separatists in mainly Muslim Chechnya and eventually tamed the province by allowing former rebels from the Kadyrov clan who switched sides to take over the local government.

“I just received confirmation from the Dubai police that he (Yamadayev) was killed,” Russian Consul Sergei Krasnogor told Reuters. “We haven’t personally seen any papers or a passport yet.”

Dubai police said Saturday a 36-year-old Chechen had been shot dead. A spokesman said Monday the man died instantly. Russian media said Yamadayev had been killed in an underground garage near his home in Dubai.

Kadyrov’s spokesman said there was “absolutely no basis to include the president of Chechnya’s name in speculation about this event.” “We can rule that out 1,000 percent,” he said by telephone from Moscow.

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum was in Moscow for a previously arranged visit Monday. Neither he nor President Dmitry Medvedev made any comment on the killing at a Kremlin ceremony. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

Last September, Sulim’s brother Ruslan -- a former military commander in Chechnya -- was killed by unidentified gunmen in a busy central Moscow street. Kadyrov at that time rejected accusations he had been behind the murder and said the killers wanted to discredit him and to destabilize Chechnya.

Related Coverage

Chechen exiles say three Chechens have been assassinated in the last six months in Istanbul and one in Vienna. Kadyrov has rejected claims he could be linked to those murders.

Moscow-based political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky said “one could hardly ignore the fact that over the last two years, practically all those who could have challenged Kadyrov’s grip on power have departed this life.”

Commenting on the Dubai killing, he said: “It’s not that easy to arrange a murder like this one -- you need to have resources.”

In Yamadayev’s home town of Gudermes, about 40 km (25 miles) from the Chechen capital Grozny, a group of silent women cleaned the spacious family compound, apparently readying it for funeral guests according to Chechen custom.

Gudermes was the scene of a shoot-out in April 2008 when Kadyrov’s and Yamadayev’s bodyguards opened fire on each other after their convoys met on a road and neither would give way.

Yamadayev fought against Russia in the first Chechen war of 1994-96, when Moscow suffered a humiliating defeat and had to pull out of the separatist southern province.

But like some other leading rebels, including Kadyrov, he switched to the Russian side after Vladimir Putin, then prime minister, sent troops in 1999 to retake Chechnya.

Yamadayev became the commander of the Vostok battalion, a unit of battle-hardened former rebels which played a key role in subduing large-scale separatist resistance. In 2005 he was named a Hero of Russia, the top national honor.

Kadyrov took over as Chechen leader from his father Akhmad who was assassinated in 2004 and has tried to concentrate power in his hands and enforce strict Islamic values. He has drawn fire from human rights groups alarmed at numerous alleged abuses in the province.

Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in 2006 after writing numerous denunciations of rights violations in Chechnya by the military and the local government. The identity of the person who ordered her death has never been established.

Reporting by Tamara Walid, Dmitry Solovyov and Denis Dyomkin, writing by Oleg Shchedrov and Michael Stott; editing by Robert Woodward