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Kadyrovtsy (Russian: Кадыровцы, Kadyrovcy, literally "Kadyrov's followers"), also Kadyrovites, is a term used by the population of Chechnya, as well as members of the groups themselves, for former members of the paramilitary units of the former pro-Russian President of the Chechen Republic Akhmad Kadyrov, headed by his son and the current President Ramzan Kadyrov.
- Chechen MVD
- Accusations by human rights groups
- Accusations by government officials
- Conflicts and armed incidents with the forces of former President Alkhanov
- Killing of the separatist President Sadulayev
- Goretz unit mutiny and killing of Movladi Baisarov
Kadyrovites, thousands of personally devoted armed men (estimated at around 5,000), including many former rebels from the First and Second Chechen Wars, have been accused of serious human rights abuses. Human rights activists working in Chechnya have said the group has been involved in kidnapping, forced disappearances, torture and murder to cement Kadyrov's rule; reportedly, this is the group now most feared by Chechnya's civilian population.
After the assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov in May 2004, two Spetsnaz battalions were formed by Kadyrovtsy men: Battalion Sever (North) composed of an estimated 700 men, led by colonel Alimbek Delimkhanov (the brother of Adam Delimkhanov) and Battalion Yug (South) led by Anzor Magomadov. The Second Road Patrol Regiment of the Police (PPSM-2) and the Oil Regiment (Neftepolk) headed by Adam Delimkhanov (a relative of Ramzan Kadyrov) were formed by Kadyrovtsy men as well, comprising around 1,500 to 2,000 men.
The presence of the Chechen pro-Russian forces in Chechnya, who participate in fighting Chechen separatists in the Second Chechen War, has allowed Russia to withdraw a large amount of its troops from Chechnya. Two other Chechen Spetsnaz battalions in Chechnya, Vostok (East) and Zapad (West) were led by Sulim Yamadayev and Said-Magomed Kakiyev respectively, with whom Kadyrov engaged in violent power struggles over who controls overall military authority in Chechnya.
Akhmad Kadyrov began the formation of a milice during the First Chechen war when he fought against Russian armed forces. The Kadyrovtsy, thousands of armed men personally devoted to the Kadyrov clan and including many former rebels from the First and Second Chechen Wars, were initially created as a personal security guard (later Presidential Security Service) of the Moscow-appointed head of the Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, without any formal legal status, and gradually grew into a powerful militia formation commanded from the beginning by his son Ramzan Kadyrov. Gradually, its sub-units were legalized to become parts of different structures of the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). The actual security detail of Akhmad Kadyrov was headed by Movladi Baisarov (later associated with the FSB and in 2006 killed by Ramzan's men in Moscow).
In May 2003, the Kadyrovs established effective control over the Chechen OMON then estimated at 300 men, earlier considered one of the strongholds of the anti-Kadyrov opposition in the power structures led by Musa Gazimagomadov who died in a road accident under "strange circumstances", and now run by his man Ruslan Alkhanov (a rebel commander amnestied just year before, who later became the Chechnya's Interior Minister). In October 2003, Akhmad Kadyrov became the President of the Chechen Republic; by this time his Security Service (SB) was already the largest security body consisting of the Chechens, numbering 3,000 according to Kadyrov himself. According to the next President Alu Alkhanov, in 2005 this figure has grown up to 7,000 armed men. Backbone of this force was made of a former separatist fighters (more than 70% in 2004 according to the Russian military sources). Many of them joined Ramzan due to the pressure upon their relatives, in particular, in the form of hostage taking (including the former rebel Minister of Defence Magomed Khambiyev).
After Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a blast in May 2004, the Security Service was formally liquidated and most of the rest of its units integrated into the system of Russian law enforcement agencies and security authorities. In the Interior Ministry, two units: the "Akhmad Kadyrov" Second Road Patrol Regiment of the Police (PPSM-2, Kadyrov Regiment) and the Oil Regiment (Neftepolk, headed by the Kadyrov's cousin Adam Delimkhanov) were formed of Kadyrovtsy gunmen, by 2005 comprising around 1,500 to 2,000 men. By 2006, the total strength of the Kadyrovites, which by then included the PPSM-2, the Oil Regiment, and so-called Anti-Terrorist Centers (ATCs, then commanded by Muslim Ilyasov), was not disclosed, but Memorial's estimations spoke of around 5,000 people. In 2007 a similar estimation was made by Reuters. Some of the gunmen were completely legalized into structures of the Chechen government's power structures, while others, estimated at least 1,800, continued to exist in the form of paramilitary formations (the ATCs). In 2006, the ATCs were closed down, and some of the members were transferred to the newly formed battalions Sever (North, led by Ilyasov and composed of an estimated 500 men) and Yug (South, led by Alimbek Delimkhanov and composed of an estimated 700 men).
On April 29, 2006, Ramzan Kadyrov officially disbanded his security service, saying on television that "These structures are no longer existent, and those calling themselves Kadyrovites are impostors and must be punished in accordance with the law. Two battalions of Interior Ministry troops, codenamed North and South, have been formed from these fighters; they have their own commanders and generals, and from now on have nothing to do with Kadyrov." Kadyrov's men were rearmed and given heavy equipment, such as armoured personnel carriers, they previously did not possess. As of 2008, Ramzan Kadyrov (as the new President of the Chechen Republic, after he forced Alkhanov to resign) is now controlling all of the Chechen Interior Ministry forces, with the top seats of his government occupied by the former commanders of his militia.
Accusations by human rights groups
A significant number of members of these groups are people with a criminal past, including people who had committed criminal offences in the period between wars. Particularly feared are the PPSM-2, named after Akhmad Kadyrov, and the Oil Regiment. Officially PPSM-2 is responsible for security on the streets and the Oil Regiment for the security of industrial sites. In reality both structures are involved in so-called "anti-terrorist operations," according to human rights groups accompanied by grave human rights violations. Human rights activists working in Chechnya have said the group has been heavily involved in kidnapping, torture and murder to cement Kadyrovs clan rule.
In October 2006 German human rights group the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV), which branded Kadyrov a "war criminal", has alleged that up to 75 percent of recent incidents of murder, torture, rape and kidnapping in Chechnya have been committed by Ramzan's paramilitary forces.
The Memorial group investigator stated in its report: "Considering the evidence we have gathered, we have no doubt that most of the crimes which are being committed now in Chechnya are the work of Kadyrov’s men. There is also no doubt in our minds that Kadyrov has personally taken part in beating and torturing people. What they are doing is pure lawlessness. To make matters worse, they also go after people who are innocent, whose names were given by someone being tortured to death. He and his henchmen spread fear and terror in Chechnya. (...) They travel by night as death squads, kidnapping civilians, who are then locked in a torture chamber, raped and murdered,".
Anna Politkovskaya, a veteran Russian reporter (murdered in 2006; case unsolved as of April 2008) who specialized in Chechnyan reporting, claimed that she had received a video footage of a man identical in appearance to Ramzan. "....On them (the clips) were the murders of federal servicemen by the Kadyrovites, and also kidnappings directed by Kadyrov. These are very serious things; on the basis of this evidence a criminal case and investigation should follow. This could allow this person to be brought to justice, something he has long richly deserved," she said. She was allegedly working on an article revealing human rights abuses and regular incidences of torture in Chechnya at the time of her murder. Some observers alleged that Kadyrov or his men were possibly behind the assassination.
The Kadyrovites are often accused of working as a death squad against Kadyrov's enemies. Ramzan is rumoured to own a private prison in his stronghold of Tsentoroi, his home village south-east of Grozny. Fields around Tsentoroi are reportedly mined and all access routes are blocked by checkpoints. On May 2, 2006, representatives of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated that they were prevented from entering the fortress. They have also begun using cell phones to record videos of them beating and humiliating ordinary Chechens accused of crimes. The videos are later circulated, with the intention of intimidating civilians.
According to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights Places of Detention in the Chechen Republic" report, many illegal places of detention exist in the Chechen Republic; most of them are run by Kadyrovites. In Tsentoroi (Khosi-Yurt), where the Kadyrovite headquarters is located, there are at least two illegal prisons functioning. One consists of concrete bunkers or pillboxes, where kidnapped relatives of armed Chechen fighters are held hostages while the second prison in Tsentoroi is evidently located in the yard—or in immediate vicinity—of the house of Ramzan Kadyrov.
On November 13, 2006, Human Rights Watch published a briefing paper on torture in Chechnya that it had prepared for the 37th session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The paper covered torture by personnel of the Second Operational Investigative Bureau (ORB-2), torture by units under the effective command of Ramzan Kadyrov, torture in secret detentions and the continuing "disappearances." According to HRW, torture "in both official and secret detention facilities is widespread and systematic in Chechnya." In many cases the perpetrators were so confident that there would be no consequences for their abuses that they did not even attempt to conceal their identity. Based on extensive research, HRW concluded in 2005 that forced disappearances in Chechnya are so widespread and systematic that they constitute crimes against humanity.
On March 1, 2007, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group rights organisation, stated "Kadyrov is to blame for kidnappings of many innocent people. Their bodies were found later with signs of torture."
Accusations by government officials
The Kadyrovtsy were accused of a mass kidnappings (occasionally, even members of the Russian security forces have been kidnapped), tortures and summary executions, rapes, racketeering, participation in the illegal oil trade and other crimes even by a Chechen and Russian officials. In October 2003, the former Chechen official and presidential candidate Shamil Burayev, accused the Security Service of "hunting for the dissidents". In May 2004, Russian Presidential adviser Aslambek Aslakhanov acknowledged that the "security guard of the Kadyrovs" was operating outside of the law. In June 2005, Beslan Gantamirov, the former Chechen Prime Minister, accused the SB of "abductions and murder even of the FSB employees" and "gangsterism in the territory of all the North Caucasus". In April 2006, Mikhail Babich, another former Prime Minister of Chechnya and then Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the Russian State Duma on Defense, called the armed formations of Kadyrov "an absolutely illegal structure".
In May 2007, more than 100 members of Britain's political and cultural elite have appealed to President Vladimir Putin of Russia to restore "peace and justice" to Chechnya, calling Kadyrov's presidency "little more than a regime of fear and oppression".
In 2006, a video leaked out in which armed men loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov displayed the severed head of a Chechen guerrilla who was killed in July 2006, separated from his body for public display in the village of Kurchaloi, marking the brutality of the Kadyrovtsy. They mounted the head on a pipe, together with blood-stained trousers and put a cigarette on him. It was displayed for at least a day as they came back a day later to record it again. According to human rights group Memorial as well as Anna Politkovskaya, the Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya Idris Gaibov had orchestrated the atrocities by Kadyrovites in the outskirts of the Chechen village in the Kurchaloy on July 27–28, 2006. Reportedly, he hung the severed head of a killed rebel fighter up as a warning to the rest of the village. As a Chechen state official he had given orders to members of the Russian security forces who were not subordinate to him to decapitate a dead body. Armed men then spent the next two hours photographing the head of with their mobile phones; the head remained there for 24 hours.
On September 21, 2005 a similar incident occurred, as published by Memorial as well as Kavkazky Uzel which described "shocking details" of a special operation conducted by forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov earlier in September in the town of Argun and the settlement of Tsotsin-Yurt. Citing local residents, the human rights group reported that on September 14, a group of kadyrovtsy placed a severed head on a pipe on a footbridge across the Khulkulau River for "general viewing" and intimidation purposes.
In 2005 unidentified men kidnapped separatist field commander Dokka Umarov's father Khamad, his wife, and one-year-old son. Several months previous, his brother Ruslan Umarov, father of four children, had also been kidnapped by masked men in uniform. His wife and son were later freed, but his father and brothers disappeared. According to some sources, Umarov's father, Khamad Umarov, was kidnapped back on May 5, 2008, by the Kadyrovite employees of the Oil Regiment (Neftepolk) headed by Chechnya's First Deputy Prime Minister Adam Delimkhanov. In April 2007 Umarov declared his 74-year-old father was murdered in captivity. His sister Natalia Khumaidova was also abducted in Urus-Martan in August 2005 by "unidentified armed men"; she was released days later after local residents protested for her return. In the past years a cousin Zaurbek and nephew Roman Atayev were also kidnapped; nothing has been heard of these people since. Shortly after the Beslan hostage-taking raid in 2004, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov suggested the practice of taking rebel leaders' relatives hostage. Memorial, who largely condemned such practices, blamed pro-Russian Chechen forces for the abductions. According to separatists, all the kidnapped persons were put into Ramzan Kadyrov's personal prison in Tsentoroi.
Conflicts and armed incidents with the forces of former President Alkhanov
On April 28, 2006, security forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov fought a fist and then gun battle with the bodyguards of then the pro-Russian president Alu Alkhanov. Up to two men were reportedly killed and four injured in the clash at the presidential administration, sparking fears of a broader power struggle between the groups of Chechen men who control the republic in support of the Russian authorities. The exchange of fire happened during a meeting between Alkhanov and a federal official, Sergei Stepashin. The Moskovskij Komsomolets newspaper reported that Alkhanov had banned Kadyrov from bringing more than two men of his private army with him into meetings; it reported that Kadyrov had rung Alkhanov and given him 30 minutes to flee the presidential administration as his men wanted to storm it. The official explanation of the whole incident was that "an ordinary quarrel" had occurred between two men who worked in the security services, and that no shots whatsoever were ever fired. It was the next day that reports came out how Ramzan Kadyrov officially disbanded his security service. On June 4, 2006, President Alu Alkhanov said he would prefer his republic be governed by Sharia law and suggested adapting the Islamic code, as it is championed by Kadyrov; he also dismissed reports of conflicts with Ramzan.
People in Chechnya long ago started talking about the Kadyrov-Alkhanov struggle that already included armed confrontation, murders, and hostage taking; many of these incidents are provoked by Kadyrov's men. In February 2005, for example two of Alkhanov's men were killed and three civilians were injured during an attack in the Kurchaloev region of the republic, which was essentially in Kadyrov's personal domain; the ITAR-TASS attributed the killing to "members of one of the republic's security services currently involved in anti-terrorist operations". In the other incident, members of an OMON unit based at the Grozny railway station exchanged fire with and then jailed a group of Kadyrovites. This incident outraged Kadyrov, who ordered his men to shoot to kill anyone who stood in their way and reportedly called Alkhanov to warn him that there would be a "war" if his men were further provoked. Both sides called for reinforcements and there was further shooting before the situation was defused.
Killing of the separatist President Sadulayev
On 17 June 2006, a group of the Kadyrovites and the FSB officers killed the President of Ichkeria Sheikh Abdul-Halim, whose body was driven to Tsentoroi and presented to Ramzan Kadyrov. According to the FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, two members of the federal forces were killed and five were wounded in a firefight in which Sadulayev and his bodyguard were killed, and two other rebels escaped. In August 2006, rebel commander Isa Muskiev said the federals and the kadyrovtsy lost five men killed in the shootout, one of them shot by Sadulayev personally, and three fighters escaped. The killing of Sheikh Abdul Halim was trumpeted by leaders of the Russian-backed official government of the province, claiming that the separatist forces there had been dealt a "decapitating" blow "from which they will never recover." The next day, June 18, Sadulayev was succeeded as head of the Chechen resistance by the rebel vice-president and an active guerilla commander Dokka Umarov.
Goretz unit mutiny and killing of Movladi Baisarov
The Goretz (Mountaineer) detachment, once spetsnaz unit of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), was formally disbanded and its servicemen were to be reassigned to Chechen Interior Ministry but refused. Goretz was headed by Movladi Baisarov, formerly a close ally to Akhmad Kadyrov, but after the latter death became conflicted with his son Ramzan Kadyrov and was declared an outlaw.
The Guardian in June 2006 detailed a showdown between Kadyrov's and Baisarov's forces that had taken place the previous month. The Kadyrovtsy ended up backing down in that confrontation when another Chechen warlord, Said-Magomed Kakiev, head of the Zapad (West) Spetsnaz GRU unit, came down on Baisarov's side.
Baisarov went to Moscow and appeared in the Russian media saying that Ramzan Kadyrov was trying to hunt him down to get rid of possible competition. He accused Kadyrov of directing numerous political murders and kidnappings. At the same time, he told Kommersant that he was not hiding from anyone in Moscow and was expecting to return to Chechnya soon to become the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of law enforcement. While as for October 2006, Baisarov was in Moscow, it was believed he still commanded 50 to little over 100 men based in Grozny. On November 18, 2006, Baisarov was shot dead in central Moscow by a detachment of the Kadyrovites.