PW: The "mop-up" of Europe (interview with Magomed Ocherhadji)
- March 6th 2009 · Prague Watchdog
The "mop-up"* of Europe (interview with Magomed Ocherhadji)
On March 4 a video clip was posted to YouTube in which a man named
Ruslan (Aslan) Khalidov tells how he was ordered to assassinate Magomed
Ocherhadji, the unofficial leader of Norway’s large Chechen exile
community. In the video, Khalidov gives a detailed description of
prisons run by various individuals and law enforcement units, and the
torture to which prisoners are being subjected.
Khalidov says he is only one of a large band of assassins who now
operate throughout Europe and are under the control of Shaa Turlayev, a
former bodyguard of President Aslan Maskhadov who is now Ramzan
Kadyrov’s closest proxy. The unsuccessful killer claims that the
operations aimed at the killing of persons who are out of favour with
Kadyrov have been authorized Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and
are being overseen by it.
Magomed Ocherhadji is 29. He has been living in Europe for about two
years. As the commander of one of the military units of the Chechen
Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) he fought directly under Maskhadov’s
leadership. He takes an active public role in supporting the freedom and
sovereignty of Chechnya. We contacted Magomed Ocherhadji and asked him
to answer several questions.
Prague Watchdog: What, in your view, is the reason for the Kadyrov
regime’s interest in Chechens living beyond Russia’s borders? Why has
the shooting of Kadyrov’s political opponents begun during recent months?
Magomed Ocherhadji: It was roughly two years ago that the Kadyrov regime
began to turn its attention to Chechens who had settled in Europe – it
happened just at the time when I arrived in Norway. But back then
Kadyrov’s emissaries acted with more caution. It was a time of great
ferment. Those people who had earlier taken upon themselves the duty of
representing in the West the interests of the Chechen resistance and the
European diaspora began to return to Chechnya. There they surrendered to
the victor’s mercy and received amnesty, in exchange for which they
acquired power, money and Kadyrov’s favour.
In this connection, until quite recently the mood of quite a large
number of the refugees has been very insecure, and many had given up
hope. The masses were demoralized by the flight of their leaders. People
began to think that all was lost, and that no serious opposition could
be successfully organized. "We have nothing," they said, "while Kadyrov
has total support from Russia – both financial and in terms of human
But then the situation began to change. Organizers appeared, who set
about resuming the public activity that had previously been the job of
the people who had fled. This gradually started to show results, and
there was a sort of mobilization – people began to hold rallies again,
and those who’d been doubtful began to return to their former ideals.
PW: So the new activity by Kadyrov’s forces in Europe was caused by the
emergence of politically active leaders of the Chechen diaspora in
Norway. But before that, did you feel that you were the subject of interest?
MO: There were several episodes. Not long ago the Russian Ambassador to
Norway tried to make contact with me.
A little later a professor from Grozny got in touch. We met at a press
conference which he attended solely in order to see me. He proposed that
I should collaborate with the Moscow-backed authorities in Chechnya and
promised that I’d receive a lot of support from them. So I knew that the
interest was there, but I never imagined that someone would try to kill
me here in Norway.
PW: Some people believe that Khalidov just wants to play on well-known
events and add to his own importance by calling himself a hit-man for
Kadyrov. However, most are convinced he is telling the truth. Are you
one of them?
MO: The way he talks and conducts himself shows that he’s deeply
ashamed. He is really cut up about his past and his relationship with
Kadyrov. You need to understand the atmosphere that has developed here.
Most local Chechens take an extremely negative view of Kadyrov and the
Moscow-backed authorities. The status of being Kadyrov’s hit-man
couldn’t possibly add to his importance, especially as he himself
explains that there are a lot of such people, and it’s known as
"unskilled labour" [chernaya rabota].
Khalidov is embarrassed, he’s suffering, doesn’t want to see anyone. You
can also sense that religious faith plays a major role in his
repentance, as if he’s already seeing himself face to face with God.
PW: And why has a person like that been assigned the far from simple
task of killing – whether it’s you or someone else? It’s not exactly a
walk in the park, after all. It needs someone with strong nerves, the
right kind of past.
MO: The fact is that in the eyes of Kadyrov’s lot he was a killer. His
having an inclination for repentance doesn’t mean anything. There are
killers who weep, and killers who moan. There are depressive types.
They’re often found among the snipers.
Actually, we were also taken in by those characteristics of his. We
never expected that he might turn out to be someone with such a complex
double identity. We’ve just begun gathering information about him, and
it transpires that he was charged with the murder of the head of the
ORB-2 police unit in Shali. It was a cold-blooded murder. Shots were
fired at the policeman has he left the mosque. He tried to escape, but
they got him in the back. It was a brutal way to die, even though he
himself had numerous crimes and the deaths of many people on his hands.
PW: So it’s exactly like the killing of Israilov – a man was caught, and
then Kadyrov offered to work on him?
MO: Yes. This man says openly that he was in a terrible state, was
really frightened, although until then he’d never thought he was a
coward. He says that the guys who refused to cooperate were horribly
murdered. Some of the wounded were buried alive. He saw a lot of things
like that – women being tortured and raped.
Yes. He’s visited a lot of places. Kadyrov’s house in Khosi-Yurt, the
base in Avtury, some 6th company or other, and then the Shali ORB-2, I
think, some other places too, and finally ended up with his uncle, Shaa
Turlayev. Turlayev released him, and after that the epic with the
PW: And what does he have to say about life among the Kadyrovites?
MO: What he says is nothing new. Many who have been there tell the same
story. Filthy language and abuse from morning till night, constant
beatings and rape. And they don’t just rape women but men as well.
People are hung up in bags and their feet are beaten to a pulp. They’re
given electric shocks. But he says that was rare, and it was even a kind
of relief, as the other types of torture were much more painful. People
are beaten half to death with the handles of shovels. And there’s also
the psychological pressure, which is kept up constantly.
PW: Khalidov has been in Norway for something like a year. What has he
been doing there?
MO: He’s been openly co-operating with the authorities, acting as a sort
of member of the Norwegian law enforcement bodies. Indeed, he’s had
special equipment – a beacon which calls in reinforcements, including
helicopters when it’s activated. The police used its signal to cordon
off the entire area. And he’s had a lot of police protection as part of
the very expensive witness protection program.
PW: It’s claimed that there’s a special program for the elimination of
politically active Chechens who have cooperated with the underground. Is
MO: We have information from sources that we trust, and we can say that
such a program does indeed exist. There is nothing that will stop these
people. Now they don’t hesitate to carry out killings in Europe.
Khalidov didn’t make a new discovery, this has long been known.
I am certain that all the killings are carried out in one way or another
by the Russian special services.
PW: Do you plan to ask the Norwegian authorities for protection?
MO: I’ve been in contact with them on this matter. They know that
there’s a real threat, and they don’t deny it. So far I haven’t had any
offer of protection from them. Of course, I can’t help noticing the
strange people who follow me back to the place where I live.
The discussion of this subject with Norwegian officials had been going
on even before the Khalidov video appeared on the Internet. They learned
of a possible attack before I did.
* A “mop-up” is a special operation to identify, apprehend or eliminate
members of illegal armed formations.
(Translation by DM)