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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: January 21, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Kadyrov Doubles Down on Threats Against Opposition, Demonstratively Posts Photo of Himself With Geremeyev
4 years
Investigative Committee's Bastrykin Says Nemtsov Murder 'Solved'; But He Let Organizers Get Away
Yesterday, as the Russian media was filled with stories about the impending interview with Aleksandr Bastrykin today, where he announced that the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was "solved," Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov demonstratively posed with the powerful relative of the man believed by friends and supporters of Nemtsov to have organized the murder -- whom Bastrykin let get away.
On his Instagram account -- Kadyrov's favorite place for posting everything from pronouncements and threats to pictures of his wife and children -- Kadyrov posted a picture of himself with "his dear BROTHER" Suleyman Geremeyev, a member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian 
2016-01-21 19:35:38

Suleyman is the relative of Ruslan Geremeyev, head of the Sever Battalion, the elite unite of the Chechen Interior Ministry's troops in which Zaur Dadayev, the chief suspect of the murder, and the other suspects served. The independent media as well as friends and family of Nemtsov repeatedly pointed out the necessity of interrogating and even arresting Geremeyev, who traveled to Moscow with Dadayev shortly before the murder last February, but in fact Moscow law-enforcers never seemed able to overcome the objections of Chechen officials -- and then Geremeyev fled Russia. Geremeyev's driver, Ruslan Mukhutdinov, who also escaped, was placed on a Russian international wanted list.

By "brother," Kadyrov means "cousin," as Russians use this term not just for immediate family members but more distant relatives. 

It happened to be Geremeyev's birthday yesterday. Kadyrov wrote (translation by The Interpreter):

From the very beginning, he became a faithful comrade-at-arms of the First President of the Chechen Republic, Hero of Russia Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov, and never hesitated on the chosen path, and did everything that was in his power to help and support Akhmat-Khadzhi. At a time when others were still taking a wait-and-see position, doubting in the capabilities of the Kadyrov team, Suleyman Sadulayevich stated that he and his brothers were always together with Akhmat-Khadzi. Geremeyev has always assisted in the resolving of issues, which he brought to Moscow. He essentially acted as an aide to the president of the Chechen Republic. In these years, serious changes have taken place, Chechnya has changed to be unrecognizable. But today he displays principled position, a state approach to defending the interests of the republic in the Federation Council. I congratulate Suleyman Sadulayevich, and wish him strong health, happiness and prosperity!

In other words, Geremeyev is Kadyrov's lieutenant, taking care of assignments given him to perform in Moscow as an influential member of parliament -- a position which gives him immunity from prosecution.

Since Kadyrov made his latest threats to the opposition, and there have been a number of responses, Kadyrov has only doubled down, orchestrating "flash mobs" of dutiful government employees to stage demonstrations with posters bearing various alarming slogans.

As if to underscore his position of power -- and impunity -- Kadyrov also posted a picture of himself at target practice yesterday, and a tag line:

"I am a slave of God, a servant of the people, and Putin's infantryman. Whoever doesn't understand this, will."
Kadyrov's threats -- the responses to them and first the condemnation then the apology of a Krasnoyarsk law-maker after an unnamed prominent Chechen "got to him" have been avidly covered by both official and independent media. 

Translation: Cover of the fresh issue of the Moscow Times.

Kadyrov and his supporters made use of social media as much as their critics.

A hashtag campaign was started on Twitter with various pro-Kremlin figures carrying posters saying "Kadyrov is a patriot of Russia."

Novaya Gazeta reported that United Russia, the ruling party also showed solidarity with Kadyrov by having Sergei Neverov, secretary of the party's general council; Vladimir Vasilyev, head of the United Russia faction in the State Duma; and Irina Yarovaya, head of the Duma committee on security post a photograph with the slogan.

Sergey Neverov - Timeline Photos | Facebook

Sergey Neverov posted this photo on 2016-01-21. 259 likes. 0 comments. 26 shares.

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Jan 21, 2016 23:46 (GMT)
Cadets at the Grozny Suvorov Military Academy spelled out his name and carried the posters.

Translation: Stars, military and foreigners in the flashmob.

Patriotic singers Fyodor Bondarchuk and singer Nikolai Baskoy also posted photos of themselves with the slogans, as did various Chechen state employees. Komsomolskaya Pravda also posted mash-ups making it appear as if President Barack Obama, Sylvester Stallone and other celebrities were carrying the same posters.

Perhaps the campaign was going too far, as yesterday, presidential administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov tried to downplay Kadyrov's campaigns, saying:

"Nothing should be whipped up, you must simply read what is said calmly. The president is in constant dialogue both with the dominant political force and with opposition parties. But if we speak of those who, invoking political activity, speak of the readiness to deliberately go outside the framework of the law, then they at a minimum are not fostering stability and the prosperity of our state."

Ilya Yashin, deputy chairman of the Parnas opposition party, said he planned to release a report on Kadyrov on February 23 on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the murder of his close associate, Boris Nemtsov, RFE/RL's Russian-language service Svoboda reported, citing Vedomosti.

Translation: opposition member Ilya Yashin announced the publication of a report on Ramzan Kadyrov.

The report covers Kadyrov's career since the days when he fought the Russian government with Chechen rebels in the 1990s, then switched sides to become loyal to Moscow. The authors outline allegations of political murders which Kadyrov may be involved. The report concludes that the establishment of Kadyrov's regime threatens the political system of Russia itself.

Amnesty International issued a statement in Russian calling on Russia's federal authorities to "react" to the "barely-veiled threats" aimed at prominent journalists, human rights advocates and opposition politicians coming from Kadyrov.

Amnesty said such threats had to be taken seriously, given the history of the murders of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova and others.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick