Security forces of Chechnya ‘behind attack on dissident blogger’ last year

Tumso Abdurakhmanov assault traced to Russia, says spy agency report examined by Swedish TV

A secret European intelligence report has concluded that Chechnya’s security services most likely stand behind the attempted murder in Sweden in 2020 of a dissident Chechen blogger.

Tumso Abdurakhmanov, an exiled critic of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s leader, barely survived the hammer attack last year in a bizarre assassination attempt that investigators said they traced to Russia.

The intelligence report, obtained by the Swedish broadcaster SVT as part of its investigation into the attack, joins growing evidence that Russia has ordered a series of assassinations in Europe that have targeted dissident and other perceived enemies of the leadership of Russia and of Kadyrov.

At least a dozen people have been targeted, including Sergei Skripal, formerly of the GRU military spy agency, in an attack with the nerve agent novichok, in Salisbury, England, during 2018. The Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was also targeted in a similar assassination attempt during a trip to the Russian city of Tomsk.

“In conclusion, we find that Russia today has the same capacity as the Soviet Union once had to carry out assassinations sanctioned by the state,” said the report, which SVT said was produced by one of Europe’s intelligence agencies. “Several signs point toward the same direction. And the conclusion is that the instigators, organisers, co-ordinators, and operatives of extra-judicial executions are most likely to be found in the special units of the National Guard of Russia, especially in SOBR Terek [a spetsnaz unit based in Chechnya].”

The Swedish security service, known as SAPO, told the broadcaster that the assassination was planned during a meeting in Moscow in 2019 and that the country was seeking a suspect with ties to the Chechen government who had helped organise the attempted murder. Interpol has issued an international warrant for his arrest.

Bellingcat, the online investigative collective, shared travel records that showed that the man, Imran Khaskanov, left Sweden and went to Moscow and then Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, shortly after the attack took place. In its investigation, SVT said that Khaskanov had ties to one of Kadyrov’s top enforcers. His current whereabouts are unknown and he could not be reached for comment.

Abdurakhmanov survived by turning the tables on his attacker, streaming live on Instagram from his bloodstained bedroom in eastern Sweden while he interrogated his attacker. “Who sent you?” he repeated.

Two people have been sentenced to prison for the attack. Ruslan Mamaev, the attacker, was given a 12 year prison sentence. Elmira Chapiaeva, an accomplice, received a 1.5 year prison sentence.

In the report, which was shared in advance with the Guardian, Abdurakhmanov was filmed gaining political asylum in Sweden more than six years after fleeing Chechnya.

Contributor

Andrew Roth in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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