Yamadaev versus Kadyrov: a Sign of a Larger Battle Between the FSB and GRU?

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 79

Some Russian observers suggested this week that the latest accusations by Isa Yamadaev against Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, may be part of a larger ongoing power struggle between two Russian intelligence agencies –the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

On April 20, the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets published an open letter from Isa Yamadaev claiming he had video evidence that Kadyrov was behind the murder of two of his brothers –Sulim Yamadaev, the former commander of the Russian military’s Vostok battalion, who was shot in Dubai in March 2009, and Ruslan Yamadaev, the former State Duma Deputy shot to death in Moscow in September 2008. Isa Yamadaev also claimed that Kadyrov was behind an attempt on his life in July of last year (EDM, November 20, 2009). In his open letter, Yamadaev included a transcript and links to a video of a confession made to police by the alleged attacker, Khavazh Yusupov, who worked as one of Yamadaev’s bodyguards.

In the video, which Isa Yamadaev claimed he obtained from the investigative committee (it can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym6CcwuwVlI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol-RtC0z8Z8), Yusupov says he was summoned to Kadyrov’s home in Tsentoroi, where the Chechen leader ordered him to shoot Isa Yamadaev, threatening to kill members of his family if he refused but promising him $1 million if he murdered Yamadaev. Yusupov says Kadyrov bragged about having ordered the murders of Sulim and Ruslan Yamadaev and added, “I will kill their family.” Yusupov says that a Kadyrov aide, Shaa Turlaev, provided him with a pistol in Moscow to use for the murder, and that he fired at Isa Yamadaev but missed, and was then overpowered.

Isa Yamadaev concluded his open letter in Moskovsky Komsomolets with an appeal to the Russian Prosecutor-General’s office, asking it to investigate the alleged involvement of Kadyrov and his close associate and handpicked successor, State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov, in the attempt on his own life, the attack on Sulim Yamadaev (Isa Yamadaev continues to insist that Sulim was not killed in the March 2009 attempt on his life and is alive in Dubai, a claim authorities there deny), the attempted murder of retired Colonel-General Sergei Kizyun (who was in the car with Ruslan Yamadaev during the September 2008 attack) and the murder of Ruslan Yamadaev (https://www.mk.ru/politics/article/2010/04/20/472252-kto-zakazal-yamadaevyih-video.html).

Earlier this month, a Dubai court convicted two men, Makhsood Jan Asmatov of Tajikistan and Iranian Mehdi Taqi Dahuria, of aiding and abetting in the murder of Sulim Yamadaev and sentenced them to life in prison. Dahuria is Kadyrov’s former horse trainer (The Moscow Times, April 22; Reuters, April 12).

It is worth noting that last November, Moskovsky Komsomolets published an open letter from Isa Yamadaev to President Dmitry Medvedev claiming that hit squads had been sent from Chechnya to the Russian capital to kill him and asking the Russian head of state for protection (EDM, November 20, 2009).

Responding to Isa Yamadaev’s latest open letter and the accompanying video, Kadyrov’s press service said in a statement released on April 21that Khavazh Yusupov was never in Ramzan Kadyrov’s house, could not have discussed “any matters” regarding the Yamadaev’s with him, and questioning the authenticity of Yusupov’s putative confession to police. The press service said it was Kadyrov’s opinion that standing behind Isa Yamadaev’s allegations are “people or forces” who may have “committed various types of crimes” together with Isa Yamadaev (who was also a member of the Vostok battalion, which was accused of numerous human rights violations in Chechnya) and are now portraying Isa Yamadaev as a “victim” out of fear that they will wind up “in the dock” along with him. “For them it is important to create the appearance of a sharp conflict between Kadyrov and Yamadaev,” the statement alleged, adding: “After that, any incident with Yamadaev can easily be imputed to Kadyrov” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, April 22).

Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) quoted an unnamed “Chechen expert” as saying: “In my view, the information compromising Ramzan Kadyrov that is periodically tossed out by Yamadaev shows that certain influential persons and services are standing behind him. Considering the close links between the Yamadaev clan and the GRU, one can conclude that this special service is using the conflict between the Yamadaev’s and Kadyrov for its own ends.” According to the website, the expert said that what is taking place is not so much a conflict between the Yamadaev’s and Kadyrov’s, but rather the “traditional confrontation between the GRU and FSB,” which existed even during the Soviet period, but has now come out into the open.

“It is clear that there is no way Isa Yamadaev himself could challenge Kadyrov, with his huge administrative and other resources,” the expert said, adding: “It is also hard to imagine that Isa Yamadaev is simply trying to take revenge on Kadyrov and his entourage for the deaths of his older brothers. He does not look a kamikaze, even though he is behaving like one. We are seeing only the visible part of the iceberg in this conflict” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, April 22).