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Opposition Calls Kadyrov íPrivate Armyí Threat To Russia

23.02.16 | Tom Balmforth

Ilya Yashin writes that Ramzan Kadyrovís (pictured) 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.

www.rferl.org

The exiled head of the Chechen separatist government says strongman Ramzan Kadyrov is now so powerful that the Kremlin may have difficulty removing him. Akhmed Zakayev accuses the Chechen leader of terrorizing his critics and organizing the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov at the behest of the Russian president.

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-Peopleís Freedom Partyís (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 Kadyrovís 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 Nemtsovís 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 Kadyrovís men are involved in criminal activities across Russia, pointing to interviews with police disgruntled by the perceived impunity of his forces.

"In recent years, Kadyrovís fighters have become active in Moscow, " Yashin writes. "But while they see their main task as defending their bossís regime in Chechnya, they are beginning to see the rest of Russia as potential loot."

Yashin writes that Kadyrovís 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. "Weíre 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 Putinís 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.

see also:
Putin protégé Kadyrov publicly threatens opposition leader with a sniperís bullet
Russian TV: íLitvinenko poisoned himselfí
Putin Honours Chief Suspect in Kremlin Critic Litvinenko’s Killing
The Anti-Semitic Coding in Putinís Telegram to Boris Nemtsovís Mother
Boris Nemtsov: Yes, Iím afraid that Putin will kill me