In his first press interview following the murder in Moscow of his brother, former State Duma Deputy Ruslan Yamadaev, former Vostok battalion commander Sulim Yamadaev rejected the theories put forward by investigators and others – including Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov – that his brother was killed as the result of a blood feud or a business dispute.
In the interview with Kommersant, which was published on September 29, Sulim Yamadaev complained that he was unable to attend the funeral of his brother – who was also known as Khalid – in Gudermes because he had been warned that the murder might have been a ploy to get him to return to Chechnya so that he, too, could be murdered. Yamadaev said his murder would have “very bad consequences,” adding: “Not everyone in Chechnya understands that, especially people who serve in federal structures.”
Asked whether his brother could have been killed as the result of a vendetta, Yamadaev said no one has declared a vendetta against his family. “We have the same enemies that Ramzan and the federal servicemen have,” he said. “These enemies are the Wahhabis. Everyone knows that I have many enemies. I have fought the Wahhabis since 1998, and now many of them are serving in the [Chechen] law-enforcement bodies, have official IDs, weapons and the ability to travel to any part of the country.”
Yamadaev also denied that his family is involved in Chechnya’s oil business or that his brother had any business in Moscow that might have gotten him killed. Asked whose car his brother was driving when he was murdered, Yamadaev answered: “It was my car, but I gave it to Khalid at the start of this spring and it was he alone who was driving it during the last half year. It can be ruled out that [the killers] confused us. They wanted to kill Khalid. They followed Khalid for more than a week. He himself knew he was being followed, but didn’t attach any significance to it. He thought, they are following me in order to watch me.”
Sulim Yamadaev refused to speculate about why his brother was murdered. However, when asked to comment on the theory that his brother’s murder was connected to his conflict with Kadyrov, he answered: “Many people tell me Ramzan did it. But I don’t want to believe that Ramzan resorted to murdering members of my family. He’s not a no-one; he’s president of the republic. I knew his father. I was like a son to Akhmat-khadzhi. We are from the same teip. How could he resort to such a thing? Such murders are very dangerous in Chechnya. And Ramzan knows this. And I think that many people knew this. They knew that we’ve had a conflict with Ramzan lately, knew that the murder of a person like Khalid would lead to nothing good. And those people killed Khalid in order to cause a clash between me and Ramzan. And you know why that thought occurred to me? The day after Khalid’s murder, I read a report on the Internet that I was at my brother’s funeral in Gudermes and said: ‘I will kill Ramzan after the end of Ramadan’. I couldn’t believe my eyes: I did not speak with journalists at all after Khalid’s death; my telephone was turned off; I can be reached only through my people. You are the first [journalist] I have spoken to. And I didn’t go to the funeral. These are the kind of lies that someone has deliberately planted … After I read this information on the Internet, I thought that someone really wants to set me up, to set me against Kadyrov.” Yamadaev denied that he has declared a vendetta against Kadyrov.
Yamadaev denied that his brother could have been the target of relatives of victims of the Vostok battalion, and also denied that the battalion was involved in kidnappings for ransom. He confirmed that his brother had planned to attend a meeting in the Kremlin the day of his murder, but said he did not know whether his brother made it to the meeting or who the meeting was with. (Kommersant’s interviewer cited a rumor that Ruslan Yamadaev was supposed to meet on the day of his murder with Vladislav Surkov, first deputy head of the presidential administration.)
Asked about criminal charges that the Chechen authorities have brought against him, Sulim Yamadaev said: “I, of course, am not an angel and I’m not going to justify myself. But where will you find an angel in Chechnya? And why haven’t criminal cases been brought against those who shot Russian soldiers and blew up Russian [military] columns? Why have these people today become officials and deputies in Chechnya? If they are forgiven for everything, why aren’t we forgiven? And thus it turns out that all of those who were in the woods [fighting alongside the rebels] are now in power and all those who fought for Russia are on the wanted list. Do you know the situation that Vostok battalion fighters are in now in Chechnya? Criminal cases are constantly being brought against them, people are breaking into their homes and taking them away somewhere, and the ones who are taking them away are those who were with the Wahhabis, who were shooting at us. Only now they have shoulder boards.”