Prominent Chechen dissident and blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov is missing and feared to have been killed by unknown assailants, multiple sources in the Chechen diaspora close to his family told VICE World News.
Abdurakhmanov, who has lived in Sweden for the last few years, is not known to have made any contact with associates since the 1st of December, multiple sources close to his family said.
The 36-year-old is a prominent critic of Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin. He has been under the protection of Swedish intelligence services since 2020, when he survived an attempted assassination by a hammer-wielding attacker thought to have been acting on the orders of Kadyrov.
Two European security services told VICE World News on the condition of background that the reports of Abdurakhmanov’s death were credible enough for them to take action in their own countries to increase protections for other Chechen dissidents, although Sweden has yet to officially confirm any details.
“Unless this is an elaborate operation to catch would-be assassins – which feels unlikely but is possible – we have to wait on the Swedes. But we are acting to protect Chechen dissidents here,” said a northern European security official who lacks permission to be quoted in the press. “Obviously [Abdurakhmanov] had been targeted before, as has his brother in Germany and extended family in Chechnya.”
The Chechen dissident group Vayfond, which works with Abdurakhmanov, told VICE World News in a statement Monday morning that it could neither confirm nor deny his killing because it has been unable to speak with his younger brother Mohamed, who was taken into protective custody by German police last week after the rumours emerged.
“Although more and more sources confirm this information. Mohamed has not contacted us yet,” Vayfond’s legal team said via Signal. The group said that Tumso was in Sweden on the 30th of November, the day before he went missing, but neither the group, nor extended family or other members of the Chechen dissident diaspora say they have spoken to him since.
“There’s multiple operational reasons to remain silent for a few days about a successful or failed attempt on someone under close protection,” said the northern European official. The official refused to answer a question as to whether there was any indication that Tumso had left Sweden after the 30th of November. He had returned to Sweden from a trip to Germany a few days earlier, according to the Vayfond legal team, which added that it would be unlike Tumso to travel or go into hiding without the cooperation of his Swedish security detail.
Swedish police refused to comment about Abdurakhmanov’s status and have officially reported no new murder investigations in the first two days of December, according to public records checked by Swedish media. A pro-Chechen regime Telegram channel first reported the possible murder late Thursday night and posted photos of a dead body but deleted the post after users argued the body was of another murdered anti-regime Chechen figure.
Other anti-regime Telegram channels initially denied the murder but almost immediately deleted the posts, adding to the confusion.
Chechen opposition figures told VICE World News on condition of background there appeared to be celebrations in Grozny of a successful attack on Abdurakhmanov over the weekend, which added considerable weight to the concerns.
In the 2020 assassination attempt, Abdurakhmanov disarmed and beat his attacker into a confession that he posted online. Two people were convicted in the attack and the attacker confessed to Abdurakhmanov that he had been sent from Moscow by people associated with Kadyrov, who has publicly threatened both Mohamed and Tumso repeatedly for their anti-regime activities.
In December 2022, Tumso reported that at least six members of his extended family had been detained by authorities inside Chechnya and he had been told they would be killed if he did not post an apology to Kadyrov for his anti-regime activities. Tumso refused.
Mohamed Abdurakhmanov was the target of an assassination attempt in Germany in 2021, according to multiple sources involved, where he has claimed refugee status. He was last in contact with associates as the rumours around his older brother came out late last week and said he was being taken into protective custody and has been out of contact since.
Kadyrov and his close allies in the Russian intelligence services have been accused of repeated attacks on Chechen dissidents in Europe over the past three years. Besides the two attempts on the Abdurakhmanov brothers, a Russian later identified by the open source researchers at Bellingcat as an FSB officer, Vadim Krasikov, murdered a former Chechen rebel, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, in a Berlin park in 2019. Kraskiov was convicted in Germany in 2021 and sentenced to life in prison.
In February 2020, Imran Aliev, another Chechen dissident blogger and staunch critic of Kadyrov, was found dead with his throat slit in a French hotel room just over the border from Belgium, where Aliev was living with his family as a refugee. French police identified a 35-year-old Chechen suspect in the case, who was believed to have fled to Russia under a possibly false passport immediately after the killing, French officials said at the time.