On February 15, we published the first part of our long-term investigation into the unlawful execution of 27 Chechens. All of them, who were mostly very young men, were arrested by the Chechen security forces in December 2016 and in January 2017. In the article titled "Postmortem Execution", we told about the fate of 12 people from our "List 27", wo were detained at the end of December 2016 and put in an illegal prison based at the facilities of the Russian Special Police Force "Terek" (SOBR).
We also announced the second part of the investigation, in which we planned to publish the testimony of Suleyman Usmanovich Gezmakhmayev, an officer of the Police Patrol Regiment n.a. Akhmat Kadyrov of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic (hereinafter referred to as the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov), who earlier served in this regiment as a former Senior Police Sergeant and a Police Rifleman.
Suleyman Gezmakhmaeyv participated in the special operations conducted in December and January, when hundreds of Chechnya residents were arrested. He guarded about 56 detainees in the basement of the Regiment n.a. A. A. Kadyrov. (According to the "Law on the Police" and other laws and regulations of the Russian Federation, the scope of job duties of officers of the Police Patrol Regiment n.a. A. A. Kadyrov does not include conducting operational and investigative activities. Police Patrol officers are not authorized to arrest or interrogate citizens, nor may they keep anyone in custody in the regiment's premises). He also was familiar with the circumstances of the execution of at least 13 people from our "list of executed" that was conducted in the territory of the regiment at night on January 26.
The next day after the publication of the article "Postmortem Execution" on February 16, 2021, the staff of the of the Regiment n.a. A. A. Kadyrov arrived in the village of Achkhoy-Martan. They came to the family of our witness. The military said they were sent by Zamid Chalayev, the regiment commander. First acting peacefully, then with threats, the police officers tried to ferret out the place where stayed Suleyman Gezmakhmayev and his brother, the only close male relative of him who left after the death of his father.
The Novaya Gazeta and our partners, the "Memorial" Human Rights Center (ed. note: we have to point out that the Ministry of Justice has put this organization on the register of foreign agents), and the Russian LGBT Network movement, which did a lot to bring the investigation of extrajudicial killing of Chechen residents to light, decided to suspend the publication of the second part of the investigation in order to evacuate the relatives of our witness, Suleyman Gezmakhmayev, from Chechnya and the country.
Now, we are finally able to publish his testimony. The first evidence of the mass arrest and extrajudicial killing was given by a Chechen police officer who directly executed illegal orders. But it was the extrajudicial execution of the detainees that pushed him to escape from Chechnya. He did not want to have anything to do with the Chechen police any longer. And most importantly, he wanted to tell the world about the terrible crime that he had witnessed. All these years, the grand coalition of the Novaya Gazeta's partners have taken joint efforts to protect this man and his family. But it wasn't a security-for-testimony contract. The key moment of this story was the own intention of Suleyman Gezmakhmayev to give testimony, without concealing his face and name. We just helped him in that and tried to protect him from revenge.
"The confidence of innocence"
On September 17, 2017, in two months after the publication of the article "It Was Execution" in the Novaya Gazeta, in which the list of the 27 executed in January 2017 was published for the first time, my long-time friend Musa Lomayev, who featured in publications by Anna Politkovskaya and acted as the applicant of the "Anti-Torture Committee", forwarded me a letter he received from a Chechen who fled Russia in May 2017 and seeked asylum in Germany. I will cite this letter with small cuts, since it contains details that had been never published as of September 2017 and therefore could not be known to anyone other than the eyewitness to the events described (the spelling and punctuation of the original letter have been completely preserved).
FROM the letter, sent by a Chechen who fled Russia in 2017
"Approximately on January 12, 2017, we were on military alert. During the formation, we were assigned an operational task to detain and deliver to the Police Patrol base persons suspected in the preparation of an attack against the 42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division (Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation) located on the outskirts of the city of Shali opposite a psychiatric hospital.
Iriskhanov (note by E.M.: Aslan Iraskhanov, then the commander of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov) obtained the addresses of the suspects, at which we detained them. In total, 56 residents were detained and taken from the city of Shali and the Shali district, as well as from the Kurchaloy and Grozny districts…"
(This text is followed by the list of the detainees, indicating the villages where they lived. This list had never been published before, that is, until September 2017; some of the names from this list were unknown to the journalists of Novaya Gazeta).
"All the people were detained within 3 days. From the first days, the detainees were interrogated. The interrogation was conducted by both the officers of our regiment (Zaur, Ilyas) and the officers of the Federal Security Service, being both Chechen and Russian by nationality (5 or 6 people), who arrived at the regiment.
All the detainees were tortured with electricity, beaten with truncheons, rubber hoses. They also were tortured by dipping head down into a 100-liter blue plastic barrel of water, suspended by legs on a hook fixed on the ceiling.
For the tortures with electricity, a special device is used with a size of 25-30 cm, brown in colour. Electricity is generated mechanically by rotating the handle; household sockets are used as well. The execution continues for several hours, then the tortured is allowed to have a "rest".
If the detainee does not confess, the torture is resumed again in an hour or two. This continues until the detainee confesses or dies.
The detainee's diet consists of two cookies and a glass of tea in the morning, and nothing else.
It should be noted that the operatives who detained the so-called Amirs (combatant leaders — Novaya) were the same persons who conducted interrogations and executions.
The execution was preceded by the following procedure.
An operative calls the name of a detainee, who is brought from the basement compartments by our officers. Then the detainee is proposed to sign a blank form of the "Travel Restriction", after which the detainee is taken out of the gym building, put in a UAZ van and taken alone to a barracks building, which is the closest to Copernicus Street. Moving on the left side, the van brings the detainee to the barracks building, where he is lowered into the basement and led down the corridor to the penultimate room on the right side with a dark brown door. There was a tennis table in the room. All 13 so-called Amirs were present in the room. On the left side of the room, the suspects were lined up in handcuffs, standing on their knees in a crescent manner. At the moment, Tamerlan Musayev, head of the Shali District Police Department district police department, played table tennis with Aslan Iriskhanov, Akhmat by nickname (note by E.M.: call sign). In the process, both police officers insulted the detainees with obscene words. Then the guards of Musayev and Turpal-Ali Ibragimov, head of the Shali District Administration, Bystry (Quick) by nickname (note by E.M.: call sign), took the detainees one by one from the "tennis room" to the next room, which was the last one in the barracks basement… That was a compartment like a storage room or a technical room. There was a ventilation hood in that room.
In this room, there was Turpal-Ali Ibragimov and four his security guards, who were in charge of executing the detainees.
Aslan Iriskhanov proposed to execute the detainees by asphyxiation in order to conceal the crime. So the rest were strangled with a rock climbing rope. The execution was conducted in the following manner: a detainee was laid on his stomach with several officers holding his legs and back. A rope was thrown around his neck with its ends pulled up with two hands, while the executioner put his leg on the victim's neck or back of the head.
All 13 people were executed in that room.
I'd also like to note that Abuzayd Vismuradov, the commander of the Russian Special Police Force "Terek" (SOBR) and the president of the sports club "Akhmat", Patriot by nickname, is a friend of Aslan Iriskhanov. He occasionally visited our regiment. During that period of about three weeks, from January 12, 2017 … Vismuradov came almost every day… I believe that Iriskhanov would not have dared to execute the detainees without a direct order from above, since Vismuradov was aware of everything that was happening. It was clear that Vismuradov oversaw all the operations, from detention to execution. Likewise, Vismuradov could not issue an order for execution without the approval by Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic.
…We had previously heard that detainees were subjected to extrajudicial killing, but it was always attributed to terrorists and discussed only at the rumor stage. After that crime … believed in the innocence of those people…
was definitely sure that those people were not terrorists, as I had a lot of contact with some of them
"They tell you that you must go and torture somebody"
With little hope, I asked Musa Lomayev to find out if the author of the letter was ready to talk in person with me. Supported by Aslan Artsuyev, a well-known Chechen blogger who was personally and intimately acquainted with the author of the letter, Musa managed to persuade him to meet with me. Both Lomayev and Artsuyev knew Politkovskaya well. And they knew that the newspaper Anya worked for could be trusted.
At the end of September 2017, I flew to Hamburg. The meeting was arranged at the entrance to the hotel, across the street from the central railway station. As I understood it, my informant had to come by train from the refugee camp located in the suburbs.
Exactly at the agreed time, a tall, fit, light-eyed young man approached me.
I offered him a hand, and he shook it and said confusedly,
"I am Suleyman Gezmakhmayev".
We found a Middle Eastern diner nearby and bought shawarma there. That was how we got off.
…At the end of April 2017, the Gezmakhmayevs (Suleyman, his wife, and their two children, one of whom was an infant) left Chechnya on the Grozny–Moscow train and after that crossed the Russian-Belarusian border on the Moscow–Brest train. By that time, Suleyman Gezmakhmayev was already wanted in Chechnya as his colleagues reported to him. They said that
several officers of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov went to Belarus to detain and bring him back to Chechnya.
In fact, the Gezmakhmayevs family miraculously managed to cross the Belarusian-Polish border. Polish border police collected their Russian passports and put them in a refugee camp. But the Gezmakhmayevs did not stay in Poland, since for several years, the Polish authorities had actually refused to grant humanitarian asylum to the residents of Chechnya, and it was dangerous for them to stay waiting for deportation to Russia as there was a large Chechen diaspora in Poland, part of which actively cooperated with henchmen of Ramzan Kadyrov.
In early May, the Gezmakhmayevs arrived in Germany, and on May 16, 2017, they surrendered to the local migration authorities and seeked the status of refugees.
On June 2, 2017, Suleyman Gezmakhmayev was interrogated by a German migration service officer on the reasons that forced him to escape from Chechnya and Russia and seek the humanitarian asylum.
Gezmakhmaeyv told him in great detail about the mass arrests of Chechen residents in January and the killing of at least 13 detainees. He only did not mention the names of the executioners,
because he was afraid that if he was not granted the refugee status and deported to his home country, his testimony would be forwarded to the Russian special services.
Here is a quote from his interview (we received the original record on the official letterhead in German personally from Gezmakhmayev, and other documents confirming the Gezmakhmayevs' seeking humanitarian asylum and their personal documents (birth certificates of the children, marriage certificate and official documents about Gezmakhmayev's service in the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov) were requested from the Migration Service of the Federal Republic of Germany by the German Embassy in Russia and transferred to the Novaya Gazeta).
Quotes from the interview to a German migration service officer
"Question: What was the reason for your intention to quit?
Answer: These thirteen people who were tortured and killed… When I became aware of the tortures and killing, I didn't want to serve there anymore… They tell you that you must go and torture somebody. They watch if you're holding his head under water, if you're torturing him with electricity properly. If you don't follow their instructions, they will either do away with you or, in the best case scenario, will invent something to accuse you of. For example, of collaborating with militants…
Question: Have you ever thought about going to the police if it's all against the law?
Answer: They control everything. No one would dare to stand up against. They hold such a high position that it would be too dangerous…
Question: Why didn't you just left Chechnya for Russia
Answer: They would have found me and killed, one hundred per cent.
Question: Did your parents have problems because of your desertion?
Answer: I didn't desert. I'd be talking about desertion if I served in the army. But I was a police officer and I didn't want to kill people…"
The German Migration Service refused to grant Suleyman Gezmakhmayev the refugee status, and both judicial instances (the primary court and the appeal court) approved this refusal and rendered a decision on the deportation of the Gezmakhmayevs to Poland. That decision was purely bureaucratic and was based on the so-called "Dublin Rule", according to which the asylum seeker shall be granted asylum by the authorities of the country through which he arrives in the territory of the European Union. Hundreds of Chechens are being denied asylum in Europe today on the basis of the "Dublin Rule". Such a depersonalized approach does not account for the specifics and criticality of the reasons forcing people to escape from Chechnya and Russia.
The interview with an employee of the migration service dated June 2, 2017 is an absolute proof of the fact that Gezmakhmayev told about the events personally witnessed by him.
This is just because he could not have become aware of them in any other way. At that time, there were no public reports on the detention and execution of people in the territory of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov in January 2017. This information became publicly available only on July 9, 2017, when the Novaya Gazeta published an article titled "It Was Execution".
Perhaps, if the German migration agencies had been less bureaucratic, and Suleyman Gezmakhmayev's migration lawyer had been more qualified, this publication in the Novaya Gazeta would have helped convince the German authorities (the migration service or the court) that Suleyman Gezmakhmayev was really telling the truth. Would we have lost a valuable witness if Germany had granted the Gezmakhmayevs the refugee status? I'm not sure. This terrible crime in which he was also involved did not let him go. He searched for Internet accounts of Chechens detained and killed in January 2017 and once came across the Instagram account of the wife of Adam Dasayev, one of the 13 executed. On the woman's Instagram account, he saw a photo of her and her children with a desperate plea below to tell her something about her husband's fate.
Suleyman Gezmakhmayev could not help himself and wrote to the woman, "Soon you'll find out what happened to your husband". However, after that he deleted the account from which he wrote to the woman. But he wouldn't have been able to live with that knowledge for a long time without letting it out.
That is why, I believe, Suleyman came out so easy and trusted the Novaya Gazeta and human rights defenders. He trusted us, even though he was faced with the fact that he would have to go back to Russia in order to find a new country of asylum.
The international protection system is based on one seemingly logical principle: to be granted it, you have to stay in a country and in conditions that threaten your life or health. Most often it is a war. Or a political system that maliciously violates human rights.
Suleyman Gezmakhmayev stayed in Germany when I met him. And although Germany refused to protect him on formal grounds, he could have waited quite a long time for being deported to Poland or, alternatively, he could switch to an illegal stay in another country of the European Union. Could he at the same time openly act as a witness in the case on mass detention and execution in Chechnya? No, he could not. This would be too dangerous, because nobody protected Gezmakhmayev, and the threat of deportation to Russia was quite high.
Therefore, we had to find a new country that would not only grant him asylum, but also would apply state protection measures to him (as a minimum, provision of individual housing, change of surnames and names, guardianship). But it was the point where we were confronted with the very central principle of international protection, which, in relation to our situation, looked completely absurd. No country in the world would even consider granting protection to the Gezmakhmayev family, because they formally stayed in safe Germany.
And in order to get off the ground the process of finding a country that would grant him asylum, Suleyman had to return to Russia voluntarily that was dangerous for him.
In December 2017, I flew again to one of the countries of the European Union. I was assigned a completely non-journalistic task: I had to smuggle the Gezmakhmaevs across two European borders, avoiding occasional border patrols as possible.
- I had to transport the Gezmakhmayevs to Poland, obtain their passports from the migration authorities, so that the Gezmakhmayevs were not put in a Polish prison for the violation of the migration regime,
- fly with them to Russia, pass Russian passport control and transfer the witness and his family to the staff of the Russian LGBT Network.
Today, this organization is the most effective operator of shelters for Russians who are at risk either from state agents (for example, the Chechen police) or from relatives.
The mission to return the important witness to the dangerous country was completed successfully, except for a scene I made at the Polish migration office. Just like we feared,
they refused to give us the Gezmakhmayevs' Russian foreign passports and detained them all, including Suleyman's wife, who was pregnant with her third child, and his two little daughters, in order to put them in a Polish prison.
To be honest, I don't remember what miracle helped me to reverse this process. I only recollect that I had raised the whole human rights protection community of Poland and the European Union. When Suleyman and his family went out the gate of the migration office with their passports in their hands, I was sitting on a bench completely exhausted and eating the last cup of baby food from the food parcel (not accepted from me by the authorities, which gave me an excuse to accuse the Polish migration authorities of inhumane treatment of children).
I have to say that after spending several hours in a jail cell, the Gezmakhmayevs were in a much better psychological state than I was.
"I didn't even hesitate you'd get us out," Suleyman said carelessly.
I had nothing to do but just wave my hand and joke that it is difficult for Chechen refugees to get to Europe, but it is even more difficult for them to return back from Europe. An acquaintance of mine, a German diplomat, who was aware of the whole story and helped with obtaining the Gezmakhmayevs' personal documents that had left in Germany, laughed at this joke for a long time and since then called me nothing but "the best human trafficker ever"
The Gezmakhmayevs had lived in Russia for a year and a half. And all this time I personally felt like a jailer, and I called the "life", the Gezmakhmayevs were condemned to, voluntary house arrest.
It really was like an imprisonment within the four walls with two small children, who couldn't even be taken to the playground, as that was too dangerous. Just imagine that persistent fear that you and your family could be found and kidnapped at any moment by your own former colleagues from the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov.
Imagine the complete impossibility to talk and meet with relatives, who had not received any news from Suleyman for four years. That was all about security. That was a life without the right to use a smartphone and access the Internet (a mandatory, albeit cruel condition to be observed in order to ensure the maximum possible security in Russian conditions). That was a life with minimal means of subsistence, when there is not enough money even for cigarettes or a mascara for the wife, because the cost of cigarettes and cosmetics are not provided for in shelters' budgets.
That was the funeral of their daughter, who was born dead, at the St. Petersburg cemetery. Just imagine the pain when you are the father and the only Muslim among the mourners, holding the farewell ceremony.
And the only thing you can do is to ask that your child sooner or later be reburied in the Chechen land at the family cemetery. Imagine the funeral of your father, who had been suffering from an oncological disease for a long time, whom you had not seen for many years and whom you had not even a chance to talk to. That was all about security.
I pay tribute to our "prisoner": no matter how hard it was, Suleyman Gezmakhmayev had never freaked out and had not failed us in any way. And most surprisingly, he continued to insist that his testimony was finally published under his name.
Only now do I understand how useful it was the return of Suleyman Gezmakhmayev to Russia for the common cause. With his arrival, our lagging investigation of mass detentions and extrajudicial killings found its second wind. It was then that we eventually had a well-developed plan and gained an understanding of where and how to search for evidence of the most terrible crime committed in post-war Chechnya. And the source of that understanding was those numerous hours of video interviews with Suleyman Gezmakhmayev conducted by the best analysts on this topic, former lawyers of the "Anti-Torture Committee", who previously worked in the well-known Consolidated Mobile Group in Chechnya, organized by Igor Kalyapin, a famous Russian human rights defender, after the murder of his Chechen colleague Natasha Yestemirova.
In March 2018, the Russian Investigative Committee rendered a final desicion on refusal to open a criminal case on the claim about extrajudicial killings in Chechnya lodged by the Novaya Gazeta. But simultaneously with rendering the decision on the refusal, the investigation allowed us (the applicants) to familiarize ourselves with 18 volumes of pre-investigation review that contained, frankly speaking, priceless materials.
Studying them, we found a huge number of tips and leads that the investigation tried to hide, and we began to dig them up.
But without Gezmakhmayev's testimony, we would not only have been unable to find out and restore all the circumstances of the execution of the detainees. We would have been unable to catch the investigation red-handed in very fundamental moments.
Back in April 2017, the Novaya Gazeta submitted to the Investigative Committee details on the extrajudicial execution of 27 Chechen residents detained in December 2016 — January 2017. One of the very first actions that the investigators performed during the pre-investigation review was to inspect the buildings in the territory of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov.
By the way, Suleyman Gezmakhmayev became aware of the arrival of the investigators much earlier than we did. He learned about that from his colleagues back in May 2017. The inspection was carried out by the investigators of the Central Investigation Department for the North Caucasian Federal District on May 11, 2017. On the eve of this inspection, the last of the detainees (at the time of Suleyman Gezmakhmayev's departure at the end of April 2017, 14 detainees of those that had been detained in January still were held at the basements of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov) were transferred to other secret Chechen prisons, and the basements were renovated.
But the investigators decided to self-insure even more seriously against revealing traces of the crime that they wanted to conceal.
In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation, they had to inspect absolutely all the buildings and basements in the territory of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov without any exceptions. However, as follows from the records of inspection and comparison with the layout of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov attached to the records (volume of inspection No. 1, case sheets 165-171), the investigators somehow "failed to notice" and passed by a huge building indicated with number 8 at the layout.
We could determine what that building was only with the help of Suleyman Gezmakhmayev, when we familiarized him with the materials of the pre-investigation review. Building No. 8 was the gym in the basement of which 56 detainees were held. It was there that Suleyman Gezmakhmayev and other staff of the fifth and ninth companies of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov guarded the detainees illegally held in basements, including even a shower room. It was there that they were interrogated and tortured.
It was in this basement that almost in every room, a hook was mounted in the centre of the ceiling to hang detainees head down and dip them into a barrel of water until they start convulsing.
We could learn these and other important details only from Suleyman Gezmakhmayev. The detainees, who survived and subsequently gave evidence to the investigating authorities and in court, knew that they were held and tortured in the territory of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov. But they did not know the plan of arrangement of the buildings in the regiment's territory, because all of them were brought there with bags on their heads.
The testimony obtained from witness Gezmakhmayev in accordance with the "Law on Lawyers" and the Russian Federation Code of Criminal Procedure is officially notarized and consists of 37 pages.
Today, the Novaya Gazeta publishes a monologue by Suleyman Gezmakhmayev, in which he tells not only about the crime he witnessed, but also how young Chechens, entering the service of the Russian police, eventually become executioners.
"I was born in 1989. My ancestral village is Achkhoy-Martan, the Chinhoy teip. When Dzhokhar Dudayev came to power, I was one year old. When the Chechen war began, I was five years old. During the first Chechen war, my father was in the militia and fought with Dudayev and Maskhadov. He was acquainted with Akhmat Kadyrov. After the second war, my father took a clear position: to have as little as possible in common with the state. He himself had never worked in government agencies and did not want his children to work there.
My mother divorced my father when I was four and left the republic. According to Chechen customs, the children stayed with their father's relatives.
I studied at Achkhoy-Martan school No. 1 from 1997 to 2007. I tried myself in free-style wrestling, like most Chechen boys. At school, I started working part-time at a construction site. After graduating from the school, I did not go to an institute. The republic was in ruins, and one needed a lot of money to leave Chechnya for Russia. I tried to work for a friend of mine who lived in Russia. He traded currency on Forex, opened an office in the village, and I persuaded my friends to work for him. After a while, he began to cheat them and did not pay them their salary, although he earned some money. I was really embarrassed of him and had to give them promises that would not be fulfilled. I couldn’t go on like that. My father taught me to be accountable for every word and deed. I gave it up.
The army was inaccessible to the Chechens. All the available options were to work at a construction site, in taxi or police.
I was the first in my family to serve for the security forces. My father was categorically against that, but I told him: I could easily get a job as a cop in the Achkhoy-Martan district police department, but I didn't want to be a cop. I wanted to be a Special Forces officer. I wanted to participate in special operations, fight against terrorism. When the Chechen State TV and Radio Company "Grozny" showed the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov in all its uniforms, it was impressive for Chechen guys. I thought that the special forces were not the police and not the traffic cops, they did not deal with tortures and bribes, and I would be able to protect people while serving in the special forces.
When my father realized that he could not dissuade me, he said, "If just one person complains about you, I'll end up with you with my own hands… I won't even look into it."
I trained hard to pass the physical exams and passed them easily. Then there was an interview, plus I had guarantors. They were my friends from the village who have already served in the regiment and in the district police department. In a week after the interview, I was invited to fill out the questionnaire. In 5 days afterwards, I received the order on enrolling me in the regiment as a trainee.
"Prepare for the result"
For the first year and a half, I served in the 7th company of the 14th platoon of the Police Patrol battalion stationed in Achkhoy-Martan. For three months, while we were interns, we were trained by instructors who were trained at the Daniil Martynov's Special Forces Centre.
30-year-old Daniil Martynov, a former employee of the "Alpha" division of the Special Operations Center of the Federal Security Service. In 2013, after being dismissed from the Federal Security Service, he accepted the invitation and became an assistant to the head of Chechnya for the security, defence and law enforcement agencies. He is a member of Kadyrov's closest circle and is his confidant. At Martynov's initiative, a commercial training center (a private educational institution) called "Russian University of Special Forces" was established in Gudermes. The Center is engaged in training instructors for Chechen law enforcement units. In addition, the center regularly sends a Chechen team to participate in international professional competitions of special forces and organizes national competitions in the republic (for example, the Open Championship of the Chechen Republic in Tactical Shooting among law enforcement units, dedicated to the memory of A. Kadyrov).
It turned out that I had a capacity for shooting. My specialty is police gunman & sniper. I worked really hard, I really liked that all.
The main regiment's base was located in Grozny. The regiment had 9 companies. One of them was an engineering and technical department and the rest eight companies were engaged in the regular service. There were 80 to 100 people in a company. Plus the command staff. The total regiment staffing was about 1000 people.
We stood guard at the barrier (checkpoint), towers, participated in blockades. In addition, the regiment's staff always participated in CTO (note by E.M.: counter-terrorist operation).
The service schedule was irregular and you could be called at any time. If you failed to arrive within an hour and a half, you were punished by being deprived of weekends for weeks afterwards. We spent six days at work, two at home. It often happened that you go home, have to stop halfway and go back. They could call you back at any time because there were not enough people in the company. Therefore, when you get a job in a regiment, you definitely need a car. And the car means a loan. That is a strap that binds you to the service.
In February 2012, when I was promoted from trainees to ranks, I for the first time took part in a CTO in the Nozhay-Yurt district. In addition to the regiment, other structures were also involved. The total losses among the staff of the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs were dozens of dead and wounded. In contrast, only six militants were killed.
The wounded militants were all finished off on the spot. It was dangerous to leave real militants alive, since they could say a lot of things under tortures.
The counter-terrorist operation in question took place in Chechnya from 14 to 18 February 2012. The objective was to destroy a bandit group led by Chechen field commander Magarbi Timiraliev. The operation took place in a remote mountainous and wooded area on the border with Dagestan. The Chechen authorities refused the help of the Federal Security Service, the Ministry of Defense, and even the Dagestani neighbors (for the period of the operation, the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Chechnya were put on alert). As a result, the Chechen security forces suffered the biggest losses since the end of the second Chechen war. According to preliminary data only, 17 Chechen policemen were killed and 24 were injured. Some of the militants disappeared.
Some of the militants' weapons, mostly old or unfit for shooting, were handed over officially (note by E.M.: to the investigative authorities) , while we left good weapons for ourselves without any official registration.
These weapons were then used for various purposes, for example, to prolong the CTO regime in Chechnya. It is not profitable for the security forces if the CTO regime is cancelled.
Funding is reduced, performance indicators are degraded. Each head of the Department of Internal Affairs has proxies from among the staff who do the dirty work. They are given the militants' weapons and they fire at some checkpoint or military unit. After that, the military regime is introduced in the republic again.
If any of these people are killed in a shootout, they are retroactively fired and put on the federal wanted list as accomplices of terrorists.
Chechen police officers do other dirty work as well, using improperly obtained weapons. If they are caught, they are also dismissed retroactively.
In a similar situation, for example, was Nemtsov's killer Zaur Dadayev, who served at the "North" battalion of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic. Shortly after the Federal Security Service established his involvement in the murder, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that Zaur Dadayev had written a report on leave on December 24, 2014, at the end of which he resigned from the Chechen police, allegedly of his own volition.
If money is found from a militant, it is taken by the staff of the unit that killed the militant. This is their "result".
Among us, the "result" is a killed militant ("shaitan"). If you achieve the "result", they pay you a reward, promote you or distinguish you in other form.
The "result" can be achieved in the course of a real CTO, but it is easier to catch someone, keep him in the basement until he grows a beard, and then take him to the forest and kill him under the guise of a militant. This is called "prepare for the result". I heard this expression as soon as I joined the regiment.
And faced that myself in the spring of 2012. In early spring, an 18-year-old boy was brought to the base and lowered into the basement. The regiment's location in Achkhoy-Martan was small, just three buildings and a canteen. And it was impossible not to notice that he had been brought in. He was guarded by old-timers, and we, newly recruited, were not involved in that.
About a month later, we were lined up, divided into four groups (five people each), and commanded as reinforcement for four operatives and one FSS officer (they formed the fifth group). We were told to pack our backpacks for three days and were sent to Bamut to participate in a CTO. Our group got the coordinates of its altitude. We were supposed to stay in an ambush. The distance between all the groups was just one kilometer, so that we could hear at once if there was a clash and come for help.
So we sat there for two days, but saw nothing suspicious. We stood guard at night by two-hours shifts. On the third day, the radio said that a car was coming in our direction, and they ordered us not to shoot. The car passed, and a few hours later (it was already dark) the guy who was on duty while we were sleeping heard a loud human scream. And in the morning, heavy shooting began. It quickly stopped, and we were ordered to come down from our point. We came down from the hill, and I saw the man who had screamed. He was wounded in the left eye (entrance hole) and in the chest. It seemed that his legs were broken. He had nothing with him, no belongings, no weapons. We were told that there was a clash, he resisted and was killed.
But it was the same guy who was brought to our basement a month ago. He was very pale and unshaved. They brought him in at night, shot him, and threw him off a cliff.
But we had been told that we would participate in a real special operation! If I hadn't seen him detained at our base, I would have really thought that another militant had been killed.
Suleyman Gezmakhmayev. Screenshot from the film "Not for the sake of words" by M. Magomedov
We then discussed this case among ourselves in the company. Somebody found a video of ablution on the Internet (his body was given to the relatives for burial). It turned out that that guy was from my native village. He had no father and was the only son in the family. He was detained when he left the village for Pyatigorsk, where he studied, after the holidays. And since then, he was searched for extensively, his relatives distributed information about him everywhere they could. And he was kept in our basement for all that time…
That was the first situation when I learnt how to "prepare someone for the result". And at the end of my service, I nearly became the "result" myself. When I escaped and they started looking for me, my relative, the battalion commander of the Achkhoy-Martan district police department, said, "If you don't know where Suleyman is, this means he definitely went to Syria".
He said that because identifying one who went to Syria was also considered a "result". They can even pay you a reward for that at the end of the year.
Who is Kadyrov afraid of?
At the end of 2012, we were transferred to the regiment's location at the address: 17, Staropromyslovskoye highway, Grozny. I served in the 14th platoon of the 5th company of the 3rd battalion as a police gunman. The commander of our company was Ismail Dautov first, and Isa Taymaskhanov afterwards.
Previously, I had always been the first to step forward to participate in special operations.
At the moment, I was afraid that instead of real militants, we could kill alleged ones. I didn't want to participate in that and I started to avoid being sent to CTOs.
Isa Taymaskhanov and Suleyman Gezmakhmayev. Screenshot from the film "Not for the sake of words" by M. Magomedov
I started to train more actively at the base, regularly participated in special forces competitions. They are popular in the republic like MMA fights or horse racing. I still served in the cordon. The regiment is engaged to provide guardianship at all major events in Chechnya, such as football cups, concerts, attended by Kadyrov's guests.
In addition, the regiment always performs security functions when Kadyrov himself goes to the city. When he walks, for example, along Putin Avenue, a sniper and a rifleman are sitting in every house or flat with windows looking at the avenue every 50 meters. During that time, the residents are asked to either leave the apartment or wait in other rooms. I have guarded Kadyrov in this way for many times.
And when he goes to the mountains, his security staff is increased to at least two thousand people. They always engage the Russian Special Police Force "Terek" (SOBR) to act as the first circle of protection. The Special Police Force (OMON) and our regiment act as the second circle. The third circle is the staff of the district police departments.
When the Chechen State TV and Radio Company "Grozny" shows how Kadyrov leads a special operation to destroy militants, it is just a performance. First, the militants are killed, the territory is cleared and cordoned off, and only after that Kadyrov arrives accompanied by personal guards and cameramen.
In December 2016, I was among the regiment's staff who was engaged in the destruction of a group of ISIL militants (note by E.M.: an organization banned in the Russian Federation) who had attacked police officers in Grozny. We advanced in armored UAZ and Ural vehicles, plus armored personnel carriers. But we didn't even get out of the vehicles. Because actually it could not be called a special operation. Four of the detainees were brought to Karpinka unarmed, were ordered to run from the hill and were shot like rabbits. But even then Kadyrov arrived after they had already been killed. We were needed to guard him as he drove the armoured car back and forth before the cameras.
Kadyrov rarely came to our regiment that happened only on holidays or anniversaries.
A wooded area near the village of Karpinsky Kurgan of the Zavodskoy district of Grozny. On December 18, 2016, a special operation was held in the area of the Karpinsky Kurgan, which was officially led by Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya. During the special operation, four young Chechens were killed, who, according to investigators, committed attacks on Chechen police officers on December 17 and 18, 2016.
I think he's afraid of the regiment named after his father. Before his arrival, we removed the strikers from the service weapons and took out the bullets from the magazines.
We were very scrupulously screened for several times before his arrival.
When thousands of Chechen policemen gathered at the Dynamo stadium and everyone was talking about Kadyrov's army, in fact, this army was unarmed. Only Kadyrov's personal guards had weapons. And maybe the Russian Special Police Force "Terek" (SOBR) had. Kadyrov is not afraid of it. The SOBR is led by his childhood friend Abuzaid Vismuradov, Patriot by nickname.
Incentives and exactions
Chechen police officers are encouraged to catch "shaitans". Once we were promised a million rubles and a Toyota Camry. How actively everyone rushed to look for the militants! They asked for a leave of absence or, on the contrary, for being sent to the CTO. They called the regiment, raised two or three crews per night for arrests. But I haven't met a single officer of the regiment who has received a million dollars or a Toyota Camry.
The head of Chechnya himself recently spoke about the fact that employees of Chechen law enforcement agencies are stimulated by promises of large cash bonuses. On January 21, 2021, he visited the staff of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov in a hospital, who were injured during the operation aimed at the destruction of an arged gang led by Aslan Byutukayev. At the same time, Ramzan Kadyrov told the Chechen State TV and Radio Company "Grozny" journalists that he promised 500,000 rubles to a person who would be the first to reach the militant base and kill the leader. After the telegram channel "Adat" drew the attention of its subscribers to the words of Kadyrov, the story about the visit of the head of Chechnya to the hospital was adjusted. However, a video recording of Kadyrov's words has been saved on the Adat channel (see the video below).
When I joined the service, the regiment was still under the command of "Jihad" (Vakhit Usmayev). Under his command, if someone brought a person forced to confess in terrorism under tortures, then Vakha interrogated him personally. And when he realized that the person was innocent, he personally beat the officer who tortured the detainee.
"Jihad" is the call sign of Chechen security officer Vakhit Usmaev, who is a member of Ramzan Kadyrov's close circle. Usmayev commanded the Police Patrol Regiment n.a. A. Kadyrov for ten years, then held various positions in the republic government, and finally was appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya in March 2020.
In August 2014, Aslan Irashanov, a friend of Vismuradov, was appointed the commander of the regiment. He recruited new staff in the regiment in the following manner. Once several detainees were brought out of the basements,
Iraskhanov took a gun from his guard and told those newly recruited, "Could you kill a man to join the regiment?"
"What did he do?", one guy asked.
"He's a shaitan!"
And that guy took the gun, pointed it at the head of the detainee, and pulled the trigger.
previously, Iraskhanov's guard had taken all the bullets out of the magazine. But the guy didn't know that. This is how people behave who were cowards for their friends and fellow villagers. If such a person is given weapons and power, he will start to feel almost like a god.
In a month after the appointment of Iraskhanov, 2000 rubles were collected from each employee. This is about 2 million rubles a month from the entire regiment. We were told that the money was collected allegedly to pay for gasoline and spare parts for vehicles used during the operations.
My salary, the largest amount that I had ever received as a senior sergeant, was 43,000 rubles.
But we were no longer paid, although they had to pay us extra premiums for each participation in a CTO. I once spent 27 days in the woods on a special operation. They never went down to the village, but killed Abu-Muslim, the personal guard of Doku Umarov. No award was given to any of the enlisted staff.
Doku Umarov's personal security guard Rustam Saliev, Abu-Muslim by nickname, was killed in the Shatoy district of Chechnya in July 2013. The operation was carried out jointly with the FSS and lasted about a month.
Irashanov owns a gas station located next to the traffic police department in the Chechen Republic. The gas station's name is "Saturn-S". It is managed by Iraskhanov's father Salman. The regiment staff was allowed to refuel at this gas station on credit, so most of them do that due to lack of money. On the days when they are supposed to receive a cash allowance, the lists of debtors come from the gas station, and petty officers immediately deduct the debt from the employees.
The gas station "Saturn-S" is managed by Iraskhanov's father Salman
In the register of investment projects of the Grozny city district (Decree of the Government of the Chechen Republic No. 70-r dated 30.03.15), entrepreneur Salman Zhansoltanovich Irashanov is listed as a representative of Saturn-S LLC. A person with the same name, patronymic and surname appears in the appeal of the Council of Deputies of the Centaroy rural settlement (Kadyrov's family village) submitted to the chairman of the Chechen parliament Magomed Daudov. The appeal is dedicated to the unanimous decision of Kadyrov's fellow villagers to rename the village of Centoroy to Akhmat-Yurt (in honor of the father of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya). The appeal also includes Kadyrov's family tree attached to it on 12 pages. Salman Zhansoltanovich Irashanov appears in the appeal as a resident of the village of Centoroy, who was one of the first to support the initiative on the village renaming.
Even by the standards of Chechnya, Iraskhanov's guards were numerous. Six people served as the personal security staff, ten people guarded his home. Personal guards were formally listed as deputy commanders of battalions and companies, which means that their salary was higher than that of rank and file (its size was from 55 to 90 thousand rubles). In addition, every night, two crews from among the staff (8 people) went on armoured "UAZ" vans to guard the house of Irashanov.
Kadyrov did not know about that until once our crews were stopped by traffic policemen on Putin Avenue (the avenue was blocked for Kadyrov's motorcade passing). So it turned out that Iraskhanov was engaging extra security staff every night, although previously Kadyrov had ordered all the police chiefs to dismiss their guards, saying, "You are not in danger!"
I do not know what Kadyrov's reaction was, but we continued to guard Iraskhanov. Then the company commander told us, "Go around Putin Avenue, and if they stop you, say that you are going on a special operation to the forest".
I saw a lot of detainees in the regiment. They were detained on charges of drugs, illegal armed groups (note by E.M.: participation in illegal armed groups ). All of them, of course, were detained illegally.
Once they detained several 17-18-year-old boys in Grozny. They drove a car with "burner" license plates. "Burner" license plates are a separate topic. We often use them in special operations. More often, we remove the license plates from regimental vehicles such as buses, "UAZ" vans or cars of drug addicts whom we detained, and put them on the vehicles that we use for going to special operations. In addition, there is a collection of "burner" license plates removed from broken cars. In Ingushetia, generally, you can buy any license plate for 1500 roubles. Those guys did just that. We detained them because they had the licence plate number K 769 RA 95 on their car, and that was Irashanov's number. They didn't know what the number was, they just liked it. The boys were taken to the regiment, beaten, and released a day later.
The regiment staff has a collection of stripes and chevrons of various agencies including "SOBR", "OMON", "Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia" and their own regiment. Before the start of an operation, the commanders announce what uniform to wear and what stripes to use when going to the operation. At all official events, the regiment's officers wear their own uniforms with the stripes and chevrons of their regiment.
But they went for detentions, wearing the uniform and stripes of other units. During the detentions, we usually called ourselves by other people's names, so that the detainee did not know our real names. Sometimes we only spoke Russian to pass ourselves off as feds.
But I remember only two mass detentions before January 2017.
In 2015, people from my district were detained. In the village of Katyr-Yurt, there was a group in WhatsApp consisting about 30-35 participants. I don't know what kind of group it was. The detainees were kept in the basement, but then all of them were released.
In 2016, a lot of detainees were brought from the villages of Benoy and Oiskhara (the Nozhay-Yurt and Gudermes districts). All the detainees were accused of the preparation of an assassination attempt on Kadyrov's life. Then explosives were planted in his residence in Benoy/
assassination attempt on the life of Kadyrov
In the spring of 2016, one of the most serious attacks on the leader of Chechnya was prevented. In the attack, people from the Kadyrovs' native village of Centoroy participated, as well as residents of the villages of Benoy, Oiskhara and others. A large number of people were involved in the preparation to the attack, which was organized by Kadyrov's enemies, the Yamadayevs' clan, once influential in Chechnya. Hidden explosives and weapons were found in Kadyrov's residence in the village of Benoy.
The Novaya Gazeta published information about the failed assassination attempt on the life of Kadyrov in the autumn of 2016. Firstly, representatives of the Chechen authorities categorically denied that fact, but then it was recognized by Kadyrov and confirmed by Daniil Martynov, the assistant to the leader of Chechnya for the security, defence and law enforcement agencies.
I know exactly that at least two of these detainees are dead. One of them had his kidneys knocked out and he died in Dzhalka, the family village of Delimkhanov. The second one was named Umar. He was interrogated personally by Vismuradov. During the interrogation, he insulted the detainee, addressed him pejoratively, as a woman. Umar replied: "Who are you to talk to me like that and turn your back on me!" Vismuradov grabbed a sledgehammer and swung it at the detainee's arm, shattering his hand.
Umar was beaten to death and buried secretly near the regiment. I know the place.
In early January 2017, company commander Isa Taimaskhanov informed us that detentions would be carried out. As I understood it, the FSS was watching Uzum-Haji Madayev ](https://novayagazeta.ru/hyper/#_ftn1)[and his contacts. Initially, there was no full list of people to be detained. The FSS and the operatives presented the data of the first detainees, who surrendered someone else under tortures, and so on, again and again.
Uzum-Khazhi Madayev, a resident of the village of Kurchaloy, was sentenced to 12.5 years in 2004 for participation in operations of illegal armed groups. He served his sentence in a strict regime colony in the Pskov region. After his release, he returned to Chechnya and was placed under covert surveillance by the FSS for the Chechen Republic. The mass detentions in January 2017 actually began with an unsuccessful attempt by Chechen security forces to detain members of Madayev's group at their places of residence in Shali and Kurchaloy on January 9.
It was a custom in the regiment that when even just one person is caught, we should be already preparing for the next detentions. Because
even if the detainee was innocent, he had to surrender someone else, and we would detain those he named.
For the week, we delivered 56 detainees to the regiment, many of whom met each other for the first time only in our basement.
And by January 9, four more people were brought to our regiment. Among them were Rizvan Dubaev, completely gray-haired, 45 years old (it turned out that we have common relatives with him), and Salambek Pataeyv. His arm was broken. He surrendered a lot of people.
On January 9 or 10, we were ordered to line up and prepare to leave in an hour. Assault groups were formed from the regiment's staff. All the staff was wearing the "tsyfra" uniform, chest rigs, helmets and bulletproof vests. That is, in full gear. We went out mainly in the evening and at night. Detentions were conducted in the Gudermes, Kurchaloy, Shali, Grozny districts and in Argun. We had to provide military support to the operatives, but none of the detainees resisted.
I participated in the detentions from January 9 or 10 to January 13, mainly in the Kurchaloy district (the villages of Mayrtup, Tsotsi-Yurt) and in the Shali district. Only our group (consisting of four employees) conducted 6-7 detentions a day. In total, about 50 officers of our regiment participated in the detentions.
I personally participated in the detention of Mansur Jamalkhanov, a resident of the village of Mairtup.
We came to Jamalkhanov's house in two carriages, accompanied by operatives of the criminal investigation department of the Kurchaloy district police department on Lada Priora cars, and a district police officer. He was waiting for us at the entrance to the village, showing us the way. He said that Jamalkhanov would not resist.
We arrived, cordoned off the houses, the gates were not locked. At the knock on the door, Jamalkhanov came out, wearing home clothes and slippers. His mother jumped out after him, shouting. We said that her son would be taken to the police department, asked a few questions and brought back. The first crew, together with the operatives, searched the house. The phones were taken away, no weapons were found. After the search, he was allowed to put on a jacket and was taken away right in his slippers.
Jamalkhanov was put in our "UAZ" van. Inside, we handcuffed him and pulled his jacket over his head.
He was very scared and kept asking us, "For what? For what?" We tried not to talk to him.
First, we brought Jamalkhanov to the police department of the Kurchaloy district. Then we waited until he is interrogated by the operatives. He was severely beaten. Then we took him to the regiment and immediately lowered Jamalkhanov into the basement of the gym. There were already 8 or 9 detainees chained to the battery. Jamalkhanov refused to confess, and asked to bring the person who named him as a gang member. They brought in detained Soltakhmadov. He was in such a state that would call even his own father a militant. Jamalkhanov was crying and asking Soltakhmadov to tell the truth. Later, when they were sitting in the same cell, Jamalkhanov persuaded Soltakhmadov to confess to the slander. All the detainees' phones were taken away, as well as the phones of their relatives found during searches in the course of the detentions. The detainees unlocked their phones themselves. The operatives kept their phones in the regiment switched on, on charge in the flight mode.
In addition to the operatives of the regiment, the detainees were interviewed by the FSS officers.
In January 2017, they spent about a week in the territory of the regiment, ate in our canteen, and slept in their cars. I remember well four of them. One was a Chechen named Ilyas, another one was Russian and two of them were Dagestanis.
They interrogated the detainees after their "treatment". They didn't beat the detainees themselves. The "treatment" was conducted by the regiment staff and the operatives. The operatives were local ones, some from the Russian Special Police Force "Terek" (SOBR) (Terek commander Abuzayd Vismuradov often visited the regiment in January 2017) and some from the district police departments.
The detainees were beaten as soon as they were put into the basement. They were beaten mainly with polypropylene hoses, on the legs and on other parts of the body, except for the face, as they were photographed for orientation. If the detainees had traces of severe beatings on their faces (note by E.M.: most likely, after being tortured in the district police departments), they were not photographed in the regiment.
All the detainees were first tortured with electricity. For this purpose, they used a field telephone,
but if the detainee did not confess, they used a wire with terminals at one end and a plug at the other end. It was inserted directly into the socket.
After that, the detainees were handed over to the FSS officers and interrogated in offices where no one might enter.
The records of the interrogations of the detainees conducted by the staff of the Federal Security Service for the Chechen Republic in January 2017 were made available to the Novaya Gazeta.
After the FSS officers, the detainees were interrogated by the officers of the regiment. I personally interrogated them, too. This is not kind of interrogation like an investigator conducts. I wasn't trained to conduct interrogations and ask the right questions. I was just figuring out how it got to the point where they joined the terrorists. I asked them why they were against the state, some general information: who they were, where did they come from, what teip and family they belonged to, whether they thought about their relatives before doing all that.
Our commanders told us that they were preparing an attack on the Chechen police. The detainees themselves said that they wanted to attack the Russian military. But being tortured with electricity, one would say anything. After all, they had already been detained as terrorists, so they had to confess at least to something.
On the territory of the regiment there are five barracks, a rehabilitation centre, a club, a headquarters, a gym, garages for special machinery, storage facilities, a football field and a stadium. Under all buildings there are basements, but not each of them is used for the "work", that is, tortures.
Most of the detainees were kept in the basement of the gym, where they were tortured. In the basement of the fifth barracks, the weakest ones were put, those who could no longer walk.
From January 14, I was sent to guard the detainees who were in the basement of the gym. The basement was divided into ten compartments, with a corridor in the middle. The passageways to the compartments were closed with doors; two of which were metal, and the rest were wooden. There were no feeders at the doors.
Every day, six officers were assigned to guard the detainees on a shift basis. Each shift consisted mostly of two or four officers. The new guards received food for the detainees in the canteen. The detainees were fed twice a day. They received ten mugs, plates and spoons, two buckets of tea, cookies in cardboard boxes, bread, and sometimes soup for 56 detainees. The guards chose one of the detainees to distribute food among the compartments. The detainees were given a cup of tea, one or two pieces of bread and one cookie. These cookies were always given to us for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room of the regiment. We could eat as much as we want. And the detainees collected even crumbs from the floor…
They were not specially fed, they were very hungry, weak, could not walk, fell while walking. They slept on the bare floor, having put their clothes and shoes under them.
We were on duty in twos: a four-hour shift, a four-hour rest, then you go back to the basement again and don't hear anything but screams. The detainees were continuously interrogated and tortured. During our shift, one of the detainees named Abdulvahid Jabihadzhiyev tried to open his veins. He broke a tap on a radiator and cut his wrists on the sharp metal edges.
My friend Suleyman Saraliyev was always with me on the shift. He was, like me, a police sergeant who served in the 14th platoon of the 5th company. When we were on duty at night, we had the opportunity to take the detainees to the shower. We bought them shampoo and soap, brought them nail clippers, allowed them to pray, asked the canteen staff to give us more food for them, talked to them.
Among the detainees, 13 ones were "Amirs", militant commanders. I remember Imran Dasayev, Makhma Muskiyev, Ayub Tsikmayev, Sayd-Ramzan Abdulkerimov, Ahmed Tuchaev, Muslim Shepiyev very well… They were all killed. Only Imran Dasayev was left alive.
Of the hundreds of Chechen residents detained in January 2017, 14 commanders so-called Amirs*, local combat cells, were "identified". In that capacity, they were indicated in the operational documents of the Federal Anti-Extremist Centre of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic and in the interrogations conducted by officers of the Administration of the Federal Security Service for the Chechen Republic (these documents at the disposal of the Novaya Gazeta). According to the operational version, there were 10 people under the command of each "Amir". It was these "commanders" who were executed in the premises of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov. Subsequently, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic officially denied the fact that those people had ever been in operational files. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic provided official documents (these documents at the disposal of the Novaya Gazeta) in respect of two alleged "Amirs", Makhma Muskiyev and Said-Ramzan Abdulkerimov, confirming they had never been members of the underground and had never been detained on suspicion of terrorist activities, especially in the capacity of "Amirs".
I interrogated Makhma Muskiev. He was detained right at the construction site. He was wearing his work clothes contaminated with cement and galoshes on his bare feet. He was very thin, quiet, and pathetic. He was beaten severely, and he cried and agreed with everything that he was accused of. He was identified as "Amirs". He was accused of involving 10 fellow villagers in the gang. Personally, I didn't believe in that at all. How could someone like Makhma convince even one Chechen to go on a "jihad" with him? I just wouldn't listen to him… I think he was detained because he was the nephew of the Muskievs, who were at odds with the Kadyrovs in the 90s.
During the detentions in January, Kadyrov could not stop talking the Muskiyevs, called them enemies of the Chechen people, and demanded that they be expelled from Chechnya.
On the same days, the Chechen TV broadcasted a large gathering in the village (note by E.M.: Tsotsin-Yurt, the ancestral village of the Muskiyevs ), where the villagers condemned the Muskiyevs and evicted them.
Magomed Musayev was 17 years old. He was terribly beaten in the Shali district police department, before he got into the regiment. His face and one ear were like a solid purple bruise. He was accused of financing the gang. He was the son of the deputy head of the Shali administration, and then he was released because he was a minor, or maybe his father agreed on buying him out.
Tamerlan Muskhanov was a barber. He had an Audi car, which was taken away during the detention and handed over to Iraskhanov's nephew. Tamerlan was also called an "Amir".
Adam Tuchaev worked as a driver in the Shali military unit, in a tank regiment, on which the detainees allegedly prepared an attack. He was accused of giving the militants a flash drive with information about the regiment: where the tanks are parked, where the guard posts are located, how many staff is in the regiment. Adam Tuchaev's daughter suffered of a very rare disease. Her case was the only case registered in Russia. Adam was her only donor.
Yusupov Shakhman was put into the boiler room. He was from Shaly, but his relatives were accused of setting fire to ziyarat (note by E.M.: a holy place), and their family was evicted from the village. Shahman with his wife and children moved to Argun. There he was detained.
Said-Ramzan Abdulkerimov said to me: "Well, how can I be an Amir with two brothers policemen? I just went to the same mosque with some of the detainees." Abdulkerimov's brother was a police major. His second brother, also a former police officer, had the call sign "Patsanchik". Said-Ramzan himself wanted to get a job in the police, but both of his brothers were against it. Then the second brother, who worked as a security guard for some big shot, managed to arrange that the body of Said-Ramzan was given to the family for burial.
Adam Dasayev was detained on January 11 during a special operation in Geldagan. He was shown on the Chechen TV on January 11. He was a member of the Uzum-Haji Madayev's gang, who was really wanted by the FSS. They monitored him and tapped his phone. But most of those who were detained during this special operation in Geldagan and put in our basement, did not even know who that Madayev was. Adam was tortured severely, and he went insane. He had seizures, and sometimes at night he screamed just like a real madman.
His cousin Imran Dasayev was detained on January 14 and was also shown on the Chechen TV. He was brought to our basement with a wounded leg. Those who brought him in forbade pulling the bullet out of the wound. They wanted the gangrene to start. Imran was held handcuffed to the door bars with the hand. His leg was swollen, and he suffered severely. When he screamed in pain, we called Anzor, the company paramedic, to make a dressing. He couldn't sleep at night, and I often sat with him. I brought him tea and a "Sneakers". Imran told me that he wanted to escape to Syria. When they were surrounded in Geldagan, he run away by back yards, because he didn't want to kill anyone, and he didn't want to die either. In two days after the special operation, he surrendered to a police officer on Minutka Square in Grozny.
After his arrest, he was taken to Kadyrov's residence, where he was shot in the leg. He shouted to Kadyrov, why was he on the side of the Russians who had killed his father, Akhmat Kadyrov?
This infuriated Kadyrov, who snatched the gun from the guard and fired several shots into the floor at Dasayev's feet.
Imran Dasayev tried to hang himself while sitting in the basement. He made a rope of his underwear, tied it to the bars, and hung on with his whole body. He was interrupted by his cellmates, who made a fuss.
The Novaya Gazeta has in its disposal the testimony of Imran Dasayev, who confirmed the testimony of Suleyman Gezmakhmayev.
About the end of January, in the evening, several operatives of the Shali district police department came to the basement of the gym. Our shift had just ended. One of the operatives began to call all the "Amirs" on the list. They were brought to him one by one and signed a paper. I was wondering what was going on and asked one of the operatives about that. We were told that the "Amirs" had to sign a travel restriction, after which they would be released.
I was quite surprised: why were the "Amirs" released, but the ordinary gang members weren't? I asked about that, but they told me it was none of our business.
After the "Amirs" signed the paper, they were taken out of the gym one by one. Suleyman Saraliyev and I volunteered to bring out Said-Ramzan Abdulkerimov. A regimental "UAZ" van was waiting for us near the gym. We got into it and drove all the way to the sixth barracks building. We were told to take Abdulkerimov to the basement of the barracks. We took Said-Ramzan Abdulkerimov to the recreation room with a tennis table, which was located next to the technical ventilation room.
Tamerlan Musayev, the head of the Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Shali district, Aslan Iraskhanov, the regiment commander, and four their guards were in the rest room. Musayev and Iraskhanov were playing table tennis. All the "Amirs" who had been brought from the basement of the gym were kneeling along the walls in the same room with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Some of them begged for clemency, saying they were innocent. Musayev and Iraskhanov responded by mocking and insulting them.
Here in the basement the chechens were killed
I was about to tell Suleyman that we had better get out of here quickly, but at that moment the door of the ventilation room opened, and we saw the head of the administration of the Shali district, Turpal-Ali Ibragimov, Bystry by nickname. In the ventilation room, except for him, I also saw Ibragimov's guards and the bodies of two "Amirs" lying on top of each other.
They were not handcuffed. From the position of their bodies, I understod that they were dead.
I recognized one of them to be Adam Dasayev. Turpal-Ali Ibragimov ordered us to bring the next detainee to the room. Then he saw Makhma Muskiyev, laughed and said, "Bring him here, he'll tell us everything now." Suleyman Saraliyev was standing next to Makhma, and he was ordered to lift him up and lead him into the ventilation room. Mahma was crying. I could see by Suleyman's face that he was very confused. But he could not disobey the order. He led Makhma into the ventilation room, and Ibragimov closed the door.
I realized that I would be the next one to be ordered to bring somebody to the ventilation room, so I told Aslan Irashanov, the regiment commander, that my shift was over and I was going to sleep. No one was surprised, since the sixth barracks was the barracks where we lived (the sleeping quarters for the staff was on the first floor) and studied. I went out quickly. I was followed by the driver of the "UAZ" van, by which we brought Said-Ramzan Abdulkerimov to the execution.
I didn't go to bed and was waiting for Suleyman. He came in about two hours later and was very scared. I asked what had happened. He said he would tell me in the morning, and went straight to bed. The next day, in the morning after the lining-up, Suleyman said all detainees who were brought to the basement of the sixth barracks were killed.
According to him, the first one or two "Amirs" were shot by Ibragimov, after which the commander of the regiment Irashanov came into the ventilation room and said that they should not kill them like that as the room was stained with blood.
Blood is difficult to clean out, and the smell remains. So the rest of "Amirs" were strangled with a sports rope.
One was laid on his stomach with handcuffs behind his back. From below, a sports rope was passed under the neck and one of the staff, stepping on the back of the head, tightened the rope on the neck from above, while the second officer held the detainee's legs. The guards killed Ibragimov.
Suleyman Saraliyev was also forced to participate in the murder of Makhma Muskiev. Suleyman told me that he couldn't forget Muskiev's face when he was killed. After the execution, the corpses were taken out of the basement, put in the "UAZ-Patriot" of the security staff guarding Tamerlan Musayev, the head of the Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, and taken away. I do not know where exactly were they taken, but I know that the body of Said-Ramzan Abudulkerimov was given to his family for burial.
On February 16, 2017, Tamerlan Musayev, the head of the Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Shali district, was awarded the Order.
Suleyman Saraliyev joined the regiment in 2014. He originated from the village of Shaami-Yurt, like all the Saralievs, including the State Duma deputy
He kept saying that he dreamed about Makhma Muskiev at night, couldn't sleep normally, and was hooked on Lyrica (note by E.M.: an anticonvulsant that is popular among drug addicts in Chechnya).
He became obsessed with telling someone about the execution. He was afraid that the relatives of the murdered Mahma would come to him and take revenge. Finally, I agreed to go with him to a meeting with his friend, who worked either in the prosecutor's office or in the Investigative Committee, I don't remember exactly. His name was Minkail. We met him near the Berkat market in Grozny. Suleyman talked to Minkail alone. I stayed in the car. I knew how dangerous it was, but I couldn't stop my friend. I told Suleyman that we should leave Chechnya and then tell everything. Then I submitted documents for issuance of foreign passports for my whole family and took a sick leave. I had already decided that I would not return to the service.
The meeting of Suleyman with Minkail took place in early March 2017. Suleyman told me that Minkail asked to give him a week to consult with the management. Minkail didn't get in touch again. That was the last time I saw Suleyman. He continued to serve in the regiment, while I was on sick leave. In the second half of March, my deputy platoon commander called me for several times, but I didn't pick up the phone. I thought I was being called to the regiment for a mission, but I didn't want to go there. And then Suleyman called me. He was terribly frightened and said that he was now with his cousin Hassan, and asked me not to believe anyone, no matter what would they said about him…
Two hours later, I called him myself, but he didn't answer. I called a mate from my platoon and asked him where Suleyman might be. He replied to me very rudely, "Never call me again about this pederast Saraliyev!"
I started to ask other mates about what had happened, and learned that Vismuradov had come to the regiment and brought a drug addict with him. Suleyman was brought in from the gym. The drug addict pointed to him and said that he had been with him at an apartment in Grozny and that Suleyman was allegedly a gay.
After that, Vismuradov summoned Suleyman's cousin, Hasan Nazirov, to the regiment and asked him, "Will you kill him or shall we do that?”
And the next day, Suleyman was buried almost secretly, without customary condolences and commemorations. I don't think Suleyman was a gay. I've known him for many years. But they could have end up with him as a gay because he told about the execution of detained Chechens.
…After that, as soon as the passports were ready, I bought tickets to Brest and left Chechnya forever."
The murder on suspicion of homosexual orientation of an officer of the Police Patrol Regiment n.a. Akhmat Kadyrov had been known to Novaya Gazeta long before we met Suleyman Gezmakhmayev (we had received this information back in April 2017). It was difficult to verify this information, but we managed to establish the victim's first and last name, place of service, date of death, circumstances of death, and the identity of the probable executioner.
On September 6, 2017, during an additional interview, I handed over the personal data of Suleyman Saraliyev to the investigator of the Central Investigation Department for the North Caucasian Federal District, Vladimir Kozhev, who was conducting an investigation on our application for extrajudicial killings of gays and persons suspected of terrorism in Chechnya. I also shared with him the information that a relative of Saraliyev, who served in a Chechen law enforcement agency, might be involved in the murder of Saraliyev. In addition, on September 6, 2017, I handed over to the investigation the details of another resident of Chechnya, Zelimkhan Bakayev, who had recently been detained in Grozny on suspicion of belonging to the LGBT community.
At the time of the interview, Zelimkhan Bakayev was still alive and could have been saved.
On September 12, 2017, investigator Kozhev requested from the commander of the Regiment n.a. Kadyrov Aslan Iraskhanov information about whether Suleyman Saraliyev served in the regiment. He also requested information about his whereabouts.
On the same day, investigator Kozhev attached the response received from Aslan Iraskhanov to the investigation materials. It should be noted that this response does not has any attributes of an official document (there is no official "head" of the Police Patrol Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic, no date, no outgoing reference number; the signature opposite the name of Iraskhanov does not match his signature on other official documents that are at the disposal of the Novaya Gazeta).
The response of Irashanov, the authenticity of which is highly questionable, contains the following information. "On March 17, 2017 the police officer of the 14th platoon of the Regiment of the Police Patrol Service Named After the Hero of the Russian Federation A.A. Kadyrov of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic, police sergeant S.S. Saraliyev was dismissed from service in the internal affairs body of his own volition".
After that, investigator Kozhev, having taken no actions to establish the location of Suleyman Saraliev, came to the conclusion in September 2017 that Saraliyev was alive, although "his location is unknown".
This clearly shows how negligently Vladimir Kozhev, the investigator of the Central Investigation Department for the North Caucasian Federal District, conducted an "investigation" on the information provided by the Novaya Gazeta on the possible murder of Suleyman Saraliyev. Otherwise one cannot explain why investigator Kozhev failed to establish the fact that Suleyman Saraliyev died on March 17, 2017 and was buried in the family cemetery in the village of Shaami-Yurt. (Novaya Gazeta has photos of his grave taken in March 2017 and in March 2021).
On September 28, 2017, investigator Kozhev wrote to the head of the Central Investigation Department for the North Caucasian Federal District, Lieutenant General of Justice O.A. Vasilyev a report, in which he stated the following: "Being interviewed during the inspection [on the circumstances of the mass murder of gays, as well as suspected of terrorism in the Chechen Republic], journalist of the Autonomous Non-Profit Organization Editorial and Publishing House "Novaya Gazeta" E.V. Milashina reported on the possible murder of the officer of the Regiment of the Police Patrol Service Named After the Hero of the Russian Federation A.A. Kadyrov of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic Suleyman Sulumbekovich Saraliyev [on suspicion of homosexual orientation].
This fact is not relative to the events, the circumstances of which are being established in the course of this investigation…"
On September 28, 2017, on the basis of his own report, investigator Kozhev handed over all the information about Suleyman Saraliyev provided by the Novaya Gazeta to the Chechen Investigative Committee, which suspended the investigation "due to the inability to establish the location of Suleyman Saraliyev".
In a similar manner, the Central Investigation Department for the North Caucasian Federal District "torpedoed" the investigation in respect of other residents of Chechnya who were killed and detained on suspicion of homosexual orientation.
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