Russian Investigative Committee Takes on Kadyrov’s Chechnya

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 205

Chechen laywer Murad Musaev (Source: Caucasian Knot)

The conflict between the Russian Investigative Committee and the Chechen authorities has come to forefront of late. News of this conflict started to circulate in connection to the unexpected resignation of one of the best known Chechens in the Russian government, Vladislav Surkov, from the post of Russian deputy prime minister this past May (http://www.aif.ru/politics/russia/43368). His resignation was triggered by a lecture given in London, in which he defended Russia’s Skolkovo innovation fund and criticized the Investigative Committee for statements about corruption in the fund (http://lenta.ru/news/2013/05/08/surkov2/). This did not go unnoticed in Moscow. The only official who dared to say something against the seemingly omnipotent Surkov was Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin (http://www.gazeta.ru/politics/news/2013/05/07/n_2895321.shtml), who upbraided the deputy prime minister, much to Surkov’s surprise. Surkov thought he was being attacked with the consent of influential people in the Kremlin, and perhaps the greatest surprise for him was the fact that Vladimir Putin did not intercede on his behalf, despite Surkov’s many years of loyal service to the Russian president.

The second confrontation between the Investigative Committee and Grozny took place during the summer–fall 2013. This time, the Investigative Committee demanded the resignation of the head of Chechnya’s Shali district. It would not have been an important episode had the dismissed official not been one of the closest associates of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Relations between the Chechen police and the head of the Chechen branch of the Investigative Committee, Sergei Bobrov, are reportedly extremely tense. A telephone conversation between the head of the Shali district police, Ruslan Ireziev, (http://chechnya.gov.ru/page.php?r=168&id=592)  and the special investigator of the Investigative Committee’s branch in Chechnya, Rashid (an ethnic Chechen whose surname is unknown), has become one of the biggest scandals in the republic in recent memory (http://www.kcblog.info/2013/10/vs.html). The tone of the conversation was extremely coarse and accompanied by threats of reprisals against those who do not investigate criminal cases “correctly” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m312agAM-RA&noredirect=1). The website of the North Caucasus armed resistance reported that Ireziev was taken into police custody along with his deputy (http://chekhlayzer.blogspot.fr/2013/09/httpbitly1etdeds.html), but this has not been confirmed by independent sources. The incident is interesting because the “all-powerful” Kadyrov was again challenged by the Russian Investigative Committee.

In the latest incident, the start of November saw an open confrontation between the Investigative Committee and the most famous Chechen lawyer in Moscow, the managing partner of the law firm Musaev and Partners, Murad Musaev, who has participated in many famous criminal court cases and has proven his independence. Brave and well-versed in Russian law, Musaev has tried to restrict court hearings to the cases themselves, resisting attempts to politicize the proceedings or heed the authorities’ opinion (http://ria.ru/spravka/20131107/975267545.html). On September 7, the Investigative Committee announced that two criminal cases had been launched against Musaev, for allegedly bribing witnesses in the case of the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, in the case of murders in the Krasnodar town of Kushchyovskaya and in the case of the murder of former Russian tank commander Colonel Yuri Budanov (http://ria.ru/incidents/20131107/975229208.html).

The authorities are apparently trying to discredit Musaev, who has become not simply the best known Chechen lawyer, but also one of the most prominent lawyers of Russia. Musaev claims he learned about criminal cases against him from Facebook (http://tvrain.ru/articles/advokat_murad_musaev_sledstvennyj_komitet_zhivet_po_zakonu_dzhunglej-356215/). Investigators assert they informed Musaev officially. It is possible that criminal cases against Musaev were leaked to the press prematurely and that is why the Investigative Committee does not even want to show the materials of the case to Musaev yet. At the moment it appears that Musaev is on the offensive against the Investigative Committee, while the latter is awkwardly trying to defend itself.

Many Chechens responded to Musaev’s troubles, rallying to defend their famous countryman. A support group was set up in the republic under the auspices of Chechen human rights ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiev (http://chechnyatoday.com/content/view/275906), and Chechen academics, writers, poets and journalists signed up to join the group. Most importantly, Ramzan Kadyrov himself spoke out against the Investigative Committee’s decision to move against Musaev, saying in a statement on Instagram that everything going on around the Chechen lawyer was nothing but an attempt by the Investigative Committee to intimidate Murad Musaev. Kadyrov attached a pair of side-by-side photographs of Musaev and the Investigative Committee spokesman Markin to his Instagram statement (http://instagram.com/p/gebRZZiRka/). The fact that Kadyrov posted the picture of Markin and not of Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin himself showed who Kadyrov considered to be his personal adversary.

Murad Musaev himself asked his supporters via the Internet to stop any mass actions on his behalf, saying he was surprised that in two days he had received thousands of telephone calls from people backing him in his conflict with the Investigative Committee (http://echo.msk.ru/news/1194608-echo.html).

The Investigative Committee is apparently probing the weak spots of a lawyer who the authorities cannot control—something the Kremlin does not tolerate. At the same time, the attack on Musaev may be an attempt to test the strength of Ramzan Kadyrov. The Investigative Committee’s play against Kadyrov goes against the special relationship between Kadyrov and Putin. Even though the Investigative Committee is obviously not taking any steps against President Putin, it probably has some plans to weaken Kadyrov’s positions vis-à-vis the Russian president.