Information War around Tumgoev’s Extradition

On the New Year’s eve, some rumors began spreading in the Vainakh Diaspora of the European Union: allegedly, Ingush Timur Tumgoev, who had been extradited by Ukraine to Russia, made a full confession. A source close to the Russian investigation stated that in the Vladikavkaz Pre-Trial Detention Center Tumgoev declared participation in hostilities in the Syrian territory. He was accused of this by the FSB, when they placed him on the wanted list through Interpol. In order to understand to whom the rumors are addressed, it is necessary to recall the history of the trials that a 30-year-old native of the Prigorodniy District had to overcome.

Timur Tumgoev, like many of his age-mates in the Prigorodniy District was summoned for questionings to the Center of Countering Extremism, home searches were also carried out. They did not have enough time to arrest him – in 2014 Tumgoev left for Turkey. Soon after the departure, a criminal case was initiated against him and an international arrest warrant was filed. In May 2016, Tumgoev flew from Istanbul to Kharkiv. At the airport, Ukrainian border guards detained him as a person wanted by Interpol. The Ukrainian court first arrested him for forty days, and then applied an extradition remand. In Kharkiv Pre-Trial Detention Center, Tumgoev spent a year – the maximum term provided by the Ukrainian legislation. The Prosecutor General’s Office decided to extradite him a few months before the end of the arrest, despite the actual war between Ukraine and Russia.

Lawyers of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, who helped the Ingush, twice unsuccessfully appealed the extradition decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Ukrainian siloviki tried to take Tumgoev to the Russian border so that to take him over to FSB officers, but in the car the arrested person, having understood what expects him in the homeland with such an offence, cut his veins. The escort officers had to hospitalize the prisoner urgently. While Tumgoev was treated, the Ukrainian lawyers managed to get the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee (Switzerland) on the immediate suspension of the extradition procedure. Then the Prosecutor General’s Office in Kiev took into consideration the demand of the Human Rights Committee, and Tumgoev remained in the Pre-Trial Detention Center until the end of the term. After his release, he had to inform the Prosecutor’s Office about his movements within Ukraine. Even in the Pre-Trial Detention Center, he appealed to the migration service for asylum, but got the refusal, which he appealed to the court. While the litigation was lasting, Tumgoev lived in Kharkiv, but often went outside the city, informing law enforcement agencies about his trips in time. According to fellow countrymen living in Ukraine, in 2018, he repeatedly visited the combat zone in the East of the country. Thereafter, the Commander of the volunteer battalion “Aratta” Andriy Cherven and the Commander of the battalion named after Sheikh Mansur Muslim Cheberloevskiy publicly confirmed the participation of Tumgoev in the fighting against the pro-Russian separatists. With the certificate of the fighter of a battalion named after Sheikh Mansur with him, Tumgoev was detained by the SBU officers in Kiev, but he was released immediately. By that time Tumgoev lost the case against the migration service, but his lawyer did not have enough time to appeal to the cassational instance.

Upon his arrival to Kharkiv the Ingush was detained by the police – his asylum seeker certificate has expired. In Ukraine for this administrative violation a monetary fine is provided in the amount feasible for a person with small income. But the Ingush was secretly taken to the Russian border and handed over to the FSB. It soon became known that for the refusal to shave his beard Tumgoev was severely beaten in the Belgorod Pre-Trial Detention Center. Meanwhile, in Kiev, the fighters of volunteer battalions indignant with extradition, as well as activists of the nationalist organizations picketed the building of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office with the demand to investigate the circumstances of Tumgoev’s extradition. After several windows had been broken in the office of the Prosecutor General, the agency agreed for investigation of the case by an independent commission. They even promised to suspend Deputy Prosecutor General Evgeny Enin from duties for the period of investigation; Evgeny Enin had signed the decision on extradition. Despite the evidence of Tumgoev’s comrades in arms, representatives of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office denied categorically his participation in the war on the side of Ukraine. And the Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko declared publicly – the Ingush was sent to Russia legally.

It is noteworthy that after the extradition of Timur Tumgoev to Russia neither the media nor Russian officials raised the question of his participation in the fighting in the Donbass. At the same time, the accusation of participation in illegal armed groups in Syria remains.

Rumors of Tumgoev’s confessions are working for the version of the Ukrainian security forces that they handed a “terrorist” over to Russia. The silence of the Russian side concerning the participation of Tumgoev in the fighting in the Donbass confirms the version of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Otherwise, the FSB would not fail to accuse him of this. At the same time, they are trying to show Ukrainian and Chechen activists who defended Tumgoev as liars and accomplices of a “dangerous criminal”. And this is a way to cast a shadow over the lawyer saying that he allegedly protects not just an offender, but a “terrorist”. However, Tumgoev’s Russian lawyer Andrei Sabinin has denied the rumors about his confessions. “I do not confirm the fact of giving a confession on Syria, he did not give evidence, in any case, in my presence,” – said Sabinin.

It is noteworthy that such a step – the preparation of public opinion for repressions by means of rumors – was used in Ukraine. Employees of SBU and Prosecutor General’s Office tried to discredit the Ingush activist Salman Sainaroev living in Kiev. He sought to investigate the circumstances of the extradition of Tumgoev and punish the perpetrators. Attempts of security officers “to reason” him in private conversations had no success. Therefore, first those who stood up for Tumgoev were informed about the alleged involvement of his friend Sainaroev in an armed robbery of a jewelry store, and then they arrested the activist on charges of this crime.

Today Timur Tumgoev is in the Vladikavkaz Pre-Trial Detention Center, and Salman Sainaroev – in Lukyanovsk Pre-Trial Detention Center in Kiev. Special services of Russia and Ukraine prepare convictions on the basis of falsified cases for them. Denis Sokolov, Senior Advisor at the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies, recommends considering the story of Tumgoev’s extradition in the context of the confrontation between the Russian security services and the European bureaucracy and the migrant community. “In relation to migrants, intimidation through criminal networks is used, relations between the FSB and some employees of the SBU are activated. While the RF Prosecutor General’s Office and the FSB are winning round after round…” – believes the expert.

Author: Anvar Chernigovskiy