It was reported recently that the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will investigate Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s background before renewing his owner’s license for 2010 in Britain. The international clamor against him in racing circles reached new highs in Australia the last month when his horse Mourilyan was entered in the Melbourne Cup — where he finished third Tuesday.
The pro-Moscow Mr. Kadyrov was a one-time Muslim rebel leader who was installed in Chechnya by Russia’s Vladimir Putin. He has been linked in press reports to the deaths of several of his critics over the years, and international human rights groups and think tanks have consistently graded him poorly across the board, yet he’s raced horses in Britain and internationally with little fanfare until this year — to March 28, 2009, to be exact. That’s the day his main Chechen rival, Sulim Yamadayev (also spelled Yamadaev), was assassinated in Dubai, on Dubai World Cup day no less. The Dubai police chief, Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, quickly implicated Mr. Kadyrov’s cousin and right-hand man, Adam Delimkhanov, as the mastermind. Naturally, the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, took this as a personal affront, and from that point on Mr. Kadyrov’s name has been mud in British racing circles, where Sheikh Mohammed holds lofty status and has widespread influence.
Mr. Delimkhanov is a member of the Russian parliament and has denied all accusations against him and has insinuated that this is a ploy to destabilize the Chechnyan government, but because of Dubai he’s on Interpol’s wanted list and efforts are ongoing to extradite him to Dubai to stand trial. No doubt this has been an issue between Sheikh Mohammed and Mr. Putin, who met with the sheikh in Moscow within 48 hours of the assassination of Mr. Yamadayev.
Before the BHA decided to investigate Mr. Kadyrov, I asked Sheikh Mohammed about two months ago, via email, if Mr. Kadyrov would be allowed to race in Dubai, in 2009-2010. Of course, I didn’t get an answer, but I asked the question because Mr. Kadyrov’s string — Mourilyan included — was stabled at Nad Al Sheba with Herman Brown last winter, and one of the early arrests in the Yamadayev assassination was reportedly a Kadyrov stable groom.
Mr. Yamadayev, a former Chechen commander, had been living incognito in Dubai since late last year, and several press reports have placed Messrs. Kadyrov and Delimkhanov in Dubai last winter. In fact, the Dubai police chief, Lt. Gen. Tamim, has said that the murder weapon, a gold-plated Makarov pistol, belonged to one of Mr. Delimkhanov’s bodyguards and was smuggled into Dubai by Mr. Delimkhanov’s party.
Mr. Delimkhanov is a well-known and influential player in the North Caucasus and one of Mr. Kadyrov’s most trusted lieutenants – if not the most. It’s been written that it’s Mr. Kadyrov’s wish for Mr. Delimkhanov to succeed him as president of Chechnya if something were to happen to him.
For his part, Mr. Delimkhanov has been a faithful friend and soldier to Mr. Kadyrov, and the Yamadayev assassination is not the first instance where Mr. Delimkhanov has been accused of holding the smoking gun, so to speak. An article in Kommersant almost three years ago implicated Mr. Delimkhanov in the murder of another critic of Mr. Kadyrov’s government, Lt. Col. Movladi Baisarov.
The article said: “Former Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya Beslan Gantamirov says that current Chechen deputy premier, Adam Delimkhanov, took part in the special operation. Delimkhanov denies this. Deputy of Russian State Duma Mikhail Markelov tried initiating deputy investigation of the murder. Yet, his initiative was blocked.”
Mr. Gantamirov was quoted later in the article saying this: “’Baisarov was killed from the honorary handgun Grach, belonging to Delimkhanov,’ said former premier. ‘I say that on purpose, so that the investigators verify my version. If Delimkhanov is not guilty, then he should come to Moscow and hand in his honorary weapon for expertise.’”
Mr. Delimkhanov’s response here was the same as it was for the Yamadayev killing. He said that Lt. Col. Baisarov was a pawn for people trying to destabilize the situation in Chechnya.