“We are the only Chechen organization that openly helps people who are being pursued by the Putin’s regime represented by Kadyrov,” says Mansur Sadulaev. Founded in Sweden, VAYFOND helps refugees from Chechnya, collects information about people abducted by Kadyrov’s intelligence services, and provides legal support to Chechens who are at risk of deportation from European countries at the request of Russia.
One of the activities of the fund is to expose the “Eurokadyrovtsy” – “Kadyrov’s supporters, underlings, sycophants and snitches, who due to misunderstanding and due to deficiencies of international law settled in Europe under the guise of refugees”.
Mansur Sadulaev and his colleagues define such people through their profiles in social networks, and then publish information about them on their website and pass it on to the law enforcement agencies in European countries.
Among the Chechen emigrants, there are people who do not hide their pro-Kremlin views. Athlete living in Hamburg Timur Dugazayev and his associates openly support Kadyrov and hold public events – for example, on May 9 they gathered in Berlin with Russian and Chechen flags.
Dugazayev adressed to the Chechens in Europe and, if there are such daredevils, called upon them to tell him in person that Akhmat Kadyrov and his son are traitors to the Chechen people. In response, Mansur Sadulaev recorded a video in which he announced that he was ready to say it in person to Dugazayev and any Kadyrov’s defender.
Sadulaev asks not to be called an oppositionist, but a supporter of Chechen independence. In 2000, during the second Russian-Chechen war, his father died, although he did not participate in the hostilities. “The feds entered the city. Father stayed to look after the house. In April we found out that father was killed. We were told that the feds threw grenades into the basement where he stayed. In the morning, people saw that smoke was coming out from our basement, it was too late, no one was left alive. Only bones and ashes were found there”.
In 2009, Mansur Sadulaev was arrested and sentenced to two years under article 208 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, participation in an illegal armed group, sent to serve his sentence in the Kirov region. “I got very sick. The prisoners were deliberately taken to the cells where the patients with tuberculosis were kept. Then they changed regime for me – replaced the penal colony settlement with the general regime colony. And I was sent to Chernokozovo. I spent the rest of the term there. In the spring of 2011 I was released. But the persecution of me by the authorities did not end there.
They began to call me for interrogations, to recruit, to demand cooperation. When I tried to object, the security officials told me: “You were imprisoned under an article for participating in an illegal armed formation, in the future no one will even ask about you, you are completely in our hands”. They threatened me that they would imprison me again, they would attribute the crimes to me, or they would kill me as a terrorist who resisted. They told me to check in every two weeks, to keep the phone on, to come when they call”.
Sadulaev decides to emigrate to Austria. But even in this country, political emigrants from Chechnya were in danger. Umar Israilov, 27 years old, Ramzan Kadyrov’s former security guard who received political asylum in Austria, has filed a lawsuit against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights. Israilov accused Kadyrov of using torture and abduction to pacify dissent. In 2009, Israilov was shot dead in Vienna when he left the supermarket. In 2011, an Austrian court sentenced three Chechens living in Austria for the murder. Lecha Bogatirov, who was considered the direct executor of the crime, was able to return to Chechnya.
In 2016, Ramzan Kadyrov appeared on television addressing emigrant opposition: “Then, in ten, five years from now, when you come to your senses or when you are expelled from Europe and you have nowhere to go, then we will hold you responsible for every word you said. I know all the youth websites in Europe. We write down every word from every Instagram, every Facebook and any other things there. We know the data of everyone we need. Now it’s modern time, we can recognize you at any place and find you. Therefore, do not harm yourselves”.
Those bloggers who were in Chechnya experienced the worst. Adam Dikayev from the village of Avtury dared to ridicule on his Instagram Ramzan Kadyrov, who trained listening to the song “My best friend is President Putin.” The teenager was found and forced to run without pants with the same song. “Thinking that they wouldn’t find me, I wrote on Instagram what I shouldn’t have written. They found me, took off my pants. I realized that I’m nobody. Since then – Putin is my father, grandfather and tsar,” says Adam Dikayev on the video.
Mansur Sadulaev and his friends held a campaign in Austria in support of Adam Dikayev.
The consequences were not long in coming.
Mansur Sadulaev spoke about this and the activities of his foundation in an interview to Radio Liberty.
– In December 2015, we organized a protest in support of people like Adam Dikayev. There I openly spoke out against tyranny. After a month and a half, the Austrian police informed me that they had received information that Kadyrov ordered my assassination, but they did not know who had received the money, who was the executor, and while the investigation was ongoing, I had to be guarded. They transferred me to another apartment, which was under guard. After this incident, when the Austrian authorities themselves confirmed that I was in danger, I received political asylum. A little later we moved to Sweden.
When did you set up a foundation?
– It began with the situation that in 2016, Chechen refugees gathered in Brest near the border with Poland in Belarus. The Polish authorities stopped accepting refugees, people ran out of money, they began to ask for help, and organized protests. We organized a gathering among compatriots, announced that we want to help at least children who are starving. We started to collect these funds, but encountered a problem since it was impossible to accept donations to personal accounts. In 2017, we registered an organization to help our compatriots in such situations.
Unfortunately, there are many such situations with the compatriots. This is primarily due to the Putin regime in the Chechen Republic, from which people flee to European countries. They also face problems after leaving the Chechen Republic. For Chechens it turned out that they persecute us even after we emigrate to other countries. Russian authorities are requesting through Interpol, falsifying cases. Most often this is a charge of participation in terrorist organizations in Syria, but there are other charges related mainly to terrorism. We help such people to get rid of these problems, choose a competent lawyer, and provide legal assistance. Initially, we established the organization as a charitable foundation to help the sick. A lot of sick people, especially after the war. But we do not hide our position, we openly say that we are against the occupation regime in the Chechen Republic, therefore, people who are persecuted by this regime began to turn to us. We are the only Chechen organization that openly helps people who are being pursued by the Putin regime in the person of Kadyrov. It turned out that the organization began to specialize not just in charity, but also in human rights protection.
– In addition, you expose the “Eurokadyrovtsy” – Kadyrov’s agents in Europe and just the people who support him. Are there many of them?
– This is a very big problem. Unfortunately, there are a lot of them. First of all, these people harm real refugees in the EU countries. They surrender under the guise of refugees, tell stories that they are being persecuted. However, after receiving political asylum, they begin to visit the Chechen Republic, which does not correspond to the stories about the persecution. Of course, this becomes known, and the authorities of European countries cease to trust refugees who really need help. Because of these Kadyrov’s supporters, other refugees who cannot return to the Chechen Republic suffer.
In addition, these are the people who commit crimes in the territory of European countries. The media is talking about the Chechen mafia, Chechen criminal organizations … However, in reality these people are either Kadyrov’s people or supporters of Kadyrov’s regime. I’m not saying that there are no criminals or people committing offenses, among people who are supporters of independence and opponents of Kadyrov, no, criminals, unfortunately, are everywhere, but the person who came to Europe to save own life and family, a person who cannot appear in any way on the territory of the Chechen Republic or in Russia, this person will not commit crimes here, he will not risk being deported.
This is primarily done by people who have nothing to lose. If they are detained, they will be deported to the Chechen Republic; this does not threaten them. Therefore, it is these people who first of all take the criminal path. Again, this affects all Chechen refugees, because the authorities of European countries do not know these kinds of subtleties, they speak generally about all Chechens. Therefore, we consider it is important to implement our project on identification of Kadyrov’s people and supporters in Europe.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that Chechen refugees who are interested in the absence of Kadyrov’s supporters in Europe did not do anything against these people, these people began to open up slowly, show themselves openly, and display videos praising Kadyrov. They began to move to another level. We decided to fight it, because if we don’t fight it, then very soon we, Chechen refugees, will have to hide even in European countries. In fact, we already have to do so.
– Do you think that these are real agents of Kadyrov or just crooks who impersonate refugees for the sake of material wealth?
– There are both. But people whose main aim is a material goal, they are potential killers. These people need money, and Kadyrov has enough money. For Kadyrov, finding executors for any business in Europe is not difficult. If they can find a person even for the murder, then for other matters too and it is even easier. These people can stand in a queue for this if necessary. But there are other people, such as Timur Dugazayev, who is the official representative of Kadyrov in Europe.
Most likely, they will not be executors, but they play the role of communicators. For example, “the Patriot” Abuzayd Wismuradov arrives in Europe. Who greets him, who drives him in a car, where does he spend the night, whom does he visit? Exactly those people who are here as official representatives. Meanwhile, some of the same Kadyrov’s supporters are also supporters of Baghdadi, the head of the ISIS terrorist organization. We see yesterday’s supporter of Baghdadi in the Chechen Republic with Akhmat Kadyrov’s shirt, he supports this regime. Then he comes back to Europe, here he supports something else. It is not clear which side he is on.
Terrorist attacks in European countries play into the hands of Russian intelligence and Kadyrov.
After such attacks, the European authorities establish a better contact with the Russian authorities, it is enough that the Russian authorities convey the alleged evidence of involvement of particular person in a terrorist organization. In most cases this is falsified, but the European authorities, who are frightened by terrorist organizations, do not particularly clarify the situation and extradite those people whom Russia requests. Unfortunately, this happens very often. We have to fight this, to prove that the person is not guilty. Of course, if a person really belonged to some terrorist organizations, we cannot help him.
– You recently found yourself in a similar situation when you were detained at the Stockholm airport. What happened there?
– I was informed there that I am on the Interpol wanted list at the request of Russia. This was not a surprise to me. I was informed that I am wanted based on the articles of terrorism, that I am a terrorist and that I call for terrorism. In around a day I was released when the prosecutor decided not to send this case to court. He immediately refused to extradite me to Russia, and decided to release me right away.
– Why was that not a surprise for you?
– As I said, the people whom Russia wants to get, are accused of committing terrorist acts. They cannot tell Interpol that this person is a supporter of Chechnya’s independence, because these are already political motives. Therefore, we have to prove that everything is falsified. The first case was with our compatriot Aminat Akueva, who was detained in Germany in 2017, she was threatened with extradition to Russia, it was written that she helped the participants of the illegal armed group. The case was falsified.
Thanks to the work of our lawyers, Germany refused the extradition. Then we received an answer from INTERPOL that they removed her from the list of wanted people. This was the first case our organization took up, and the first case we won. Over the past year or two, we have succeeded in removing more than ten people from this list, mostly our compatriots. More than 20 people are still in the queue, we are handling their cases. This requires considerable financial costs which, of course, also slows down the work. But everything is getting better gradually.
– Let’s come back to the question of the activities of Kadyrov’s agents in Europe. Could you give examples of their disclosures?
– For example, we learned that in Austria there was some Muslim Tsibaev, supposedly a Chechen refugee. We found photos: a picture where he hugs with Abuzayd Wismuradov, “The Patriot”. Then we rummaged around a bit and found information that he was detained in Austria as a member of some gang that was engaged in extortion, robbery, and so on. We had information that this person often visits the Chechen Republic. Recently, we learned that in Belgium there is a man who calls himself a Chechen refugee, but applied for the status under other person’s data.
He also admitted that he fought on the side of Russia, participated in special operations, served in the special police unit (OMON), was close to Musa Gazimagomadov, who was then the head of the special police unit, and he is, by the way, his nephew. As far as we know, he is waiting for an answer from the authorities. The information that we collect, we record and send to the competent authorities of those countries where these people are located.
– So, are you the orderlies of the Chechen emigration?
– Yes, you could say that.
– Pretty dangerous activity. Certainly you get threats?
– I have long ceased to pay attention to this. It is clear that this activity impedes them. Of course, they will make attempts to stop all this, either by physical elimination, or in another way – by requesting through INTERPOL.
– Are there many cases of extradition of Chechen refugees to Russia?
– There are such cases. Azamat Baiduev was transferred to Russia from Poland and a few days later was abducted in the Chechen Republic. Aslan Yandiev was extradited from Slovakia last year at Russia’s request. Timur Tumgoev was also extradited from Ukraine.
– Emigration from Chechnya comes in waves. You mentioned the crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border in 2016. Is the number of refugees growing or reducing?
– If the number is reducing, it is not because something in the Chechen Republic has changed for the better. Just there are less ways to get to European countries. There is the possibility of crossing the Polish border from Belarus, however, not everyone is able to cross there and those who can are facing difficulties. A lot of people contact us, asking for help, they are writing from the Chechen Republic: could you help with the trip, with the money to go to European countries? Of course, we cannot help with this – it is also against the law.
– Do you consider yourself an enemy of Kadyrov? How were your political views shaped?
– Kadyrov is just a pawn, a man who was assigned by the Russian occupation administration in the Chechen Republic. Anyone could be in his place. My only enemies are the Russian authorities and Putin. All my childhood was spent during these wars: I was 8–9 years when the first war took place, 13–14 years when the second Russian-Chechen war began. In my understanding, back then everything was very simple: Russia is an enemy, the Chechen Republic is my country, an enemy has attacked our country, we must defend ourselves.
Since then, everything related to the occupation of my country has been hostile to me. I do not hide the fact that I participated in the struggle for the independence of the Chechen Republic, the struggle for freedom. I protected my people not because I liked the war, a normal person cannot like war – it is murder, it is destruction, children lose their parents. I lost my father in 2000, I was 14 years old when he was killed. However, when they attack you, I think it is normal that a person defends himself. We have a saying: even the mouse bites when it is being killed. Therefore, it is normal that we defended ourselves. I defended my people. It can be said that I was a human rights activist even back then, only this struggle was waged with other methods. I defended the right of my people to freedom, to self-determination.
– You were a teenager back then…
– Yes, in 1999 I turned 14 years old, from that moment I did my best to help the fighters for independence – with information or with something else. Today I continue the same struggle, only this struggle is conducted already with other methods. I see that we need to completely change the strategy of the struggle, it must be conducted by non-violent methods. Our people lost a lot of persons, and these were the best persons. To continue the armed struggle or to start it again – this, I think, is wrong. The best method is a non-violent struggle. No killings or attacks, but protests, demonstrations and attracting the attention of the international community, the media.
– You said that Kadyrov is a pawn, however, many people have the feeling that he is an independent politician, and Putin can not do anything about him, because he is afraid of Kadyrov himself.
– This is just a game. This impression is created intentionally. I think Putin even makes him do it. Kadyrov – a man who is just a Russian official, the governor – in his statements he threatens America, Georgia, Turkey, Ukraine. Putin could stop him very quickly. On local television, Kadyrov once let slip, saying that if he took a step in the wrong direction, they would call him from the Kremlin and say: what are you doing there, come on, calm down. This means that he admits himself that he can not do anything without the Kremlin knowing about it. It only seems that Kadyrov is independent in order to blame everything on Kadyrov at the right time, and so that comparing to Kadyrov Putin didn’t seem so scary, so that the Russians saw the problem in Kadyrov and not in Putin. Kind of a lightning rod. By no means do I want to say that Kadyrov is good, but Kadyrov is just a consequence, not a cause.
– The Chechen authorities are painfully reacting to any criticism. The other day, Chechen television showed the remorse of a 16-year-old blogger who was sobbing in front of the camera. Why do they react like that to every little thing?
– This is another proof that non-violent methods of struggle are the most effective. It would be very easy for them if this young man came out with weapons in his hands and began to fight against them – this is what they need, this is a game according to their rules. They can show the people: you see, they are terrorists, bandits. Kadyrov, and, of course, Moscow, profits from showing such people: that means we are doing everything right, we are fighting terrorism. But they cannot shoot people for writing comments, they cannot storm the house where the person who spreads the truth has settled down. Here they already have to take such measures. Because they understand that if the people see that there is an opportunity to fight against this power by such methods, they risk losing this power. We see that every year there are more critics. Of course, this takes time – not just one month, but years.
– You do not expect quick changes?
– The expectations that everything will change soon, Putin will die or leave, prevent people from taking action. I think such sentiments are even beneficial for the Kremlin, because they calm people, people just wait for good times. I believe that there is no need to wait, everything must be done so that good times can actually come.
– For such changes, a leader is needed, like Dzhokhar Dudayev. Is there such a leader now?
– I don’t see him yet. We still need time for such a leader to appear. Maybe a few years, maybe a little more. Tumso Abdurakhmanov is the only person, in my opinion, who could become such a leader. But he says that he does not want to get into politics, he has already found his place as a blogger. So far, the Chechens are very fragmented. The people have great distrust of any person who begins to act. And this is understandable: there are a lot of persons who let the people down.
– Do you miss Chechnya, do you want to return or you feel comfortable in Sweden?
– I really miss Chechnya. This is the land of the fathers, where I grew up, this is homeland. The more time passes, the more difficult it becomes. However, no one said it would be easy. The struggle is not easy, you have to give up something, you have to endure. According to the Quran, verily with hardship there is relief.