German prosecutors are investigating a man who allegedly procured a gun and brought a hitman into the country to kill a dissident from the Russian republic of Chechnya.
They identified the suspect, who is being held in pre-trial detention, as Russian citizen Valid D, German media reported on Friday.
He is accused of “making a declaration of readiness to commit murder, preparing a serious act of violence endangering the state and violating the weapons act.”
Authorities said the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office assumes that the order for the murder “came from the environment of the regime of the Chechen republic.”
Valid D. was arrested in January in the northern city of Schwerin. Ahead of the planned killing, which was to take place near Munich, the suspects carried out shooting exercises in northern Germany.
According to German public broadcaster MDR and the news magazine Spiegel, which first reported on the investigations, the murder plans targeted Chechen dissident Mokhmad Abdurakhmanov.
Valid D. was allegedly told to bring both the murder weapon and the contract killer to Germany. He was also reportedly ordered to spy on the intended victim and act as a driver during the assassination.
Prosecutors said he has successfully smuggled the intended hitman into Germany and managed to obtain a firearm with a silencer.
The apparent assassin had accepted the order but then, according to reports, turned himself in to the authorities.
The man is believed to have been approached in prison by an agent of the Chechen government, who offered him €500,000 (almost $600,000) for the hit..
He claimed to have only accepted the contract as a pretense, and authorities reportedly believe him.
These women in Pankisi Valley are taking English lessons, and getting a whole new perspective on life. Many of them fled the Chechen war, while others lost relatives and loved ones in the Syrian war. This school is supported by the Roddy Scott Foundation, named after a British journalist who died in the second Chechen war.
Local women gather after a traditional Sufi reception. The Pankisi Valley, which is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) long and 5 kilometers wide, is a Muslim enclave in an otherwise largely Christian Orthodox country. It is home to the ethnic group of Kists, who have Chechen roots.
As a young girl, Leila Achishvili (center) was abducted and taken to Chechnya by a man. But she was later able to divorce him and return to the Pankisi Valley, where she started a new life. Today, the 53-year-old runs a guesthouse with her daughter Mariam in the town of Jokolo. It’s frequented by visitors from Poland, Bulgaria, Belgium and other European countries.
Leila and her daughter prepare khinkali — Georgian dumplings — for their guests. Leila once had two sons, but they became radicalized by the “Islamic State” group and died fighting in Syria. She tries to not dwell on this and instead looks to the future. “These days, I am happy to be independent,” she says.
For Leila’s daughter Mariam, this valley has little to offer. “It often gets boring here,” she says. “Girls do not go outside at night because they are embarrassed.” Life in Pankisi Valley is still largely patriarchal. Mariam says she misses going for walks in the evenings: “I like nights.” Her dream is to one day live in the mountains — “maybe in Switzerland.”
Things get a bit more fun when Mariam’s cousins from Grozny come to visit. Since the 1990s, thousands of people have fled from neighboring Chechnya to the valley. Those who moved here still have close ties to those who stayed behind. But because some extremist fighters also sought safety in the valley, the Russian government has repeatedly threatened to attack the area.
The women in Pankisi Valley are yearning for more freedom. One of Leila’s acquaintances, whose husband died in the Syrian war, opened this gym. She needed something to keep herself busy. Not many locals use the gym, but Leila does. This is one of the few public places were women can meet.
Mariam shares a small room inside the guest house with her mother and grandmother. Mariam’s mother wants her daughter to have a better future. “I want to support her in everything she does,” Leila says. “I will try to help her study abroad, because here in Pankisi Valley there is no future for her.”
The purported target of the attack is the brother of exiled Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who lives in Sweden.
Tumso Abdurakhmanov’s YouTube channel, which has about 318,000 subscribers, is critical of Chechen strongman ruler Ramzan Kadyrov.
In February last year, Tumso was struck in the head with a hammer while he was sleeping in his apartment. He overpowered the assailant, a Russian citizen who a Swedish court in January convicted of attempted murder.
Kadyrov — a former Chechen separatist who became an staunch Kremlin loyalist — is one of Russia’s most powerful men. He is accused of building his own fiefdom in Chechnya built on widespread human rights abuses.
The alleged plot prompted comparisons with a similar case last year. Another Russian went on trial in Germany in October, charged with the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili. The 40-year-old fought in Chechnya against Russia in the Second Chechen War and was killed in a Berlin park, allegedly on Moscow’s orders.
rc/dj (AFP, dpa)