Russia Raids Dagestan Leaders as Crackdown on Regions Widens

Russian authorities raided the property of two top officials in Dagestan in murder and terrorism-financing cases as part of a campaign by federal law officials to tighten control in the country’s far-flung regions.

The Moscow-based Investigative Committee will issue a warrant for Sagid Murtazaliev, an Olympic champion who heads Dagestan’s state pension fund and is hiding abroad, the Committee said in a statement on Tuesday. Police detained Andrei Vinogradov, the head of the region’s Kizlyar district on Monday, it added.

“This is part of a strong-arm approach to strengthen control over the regional elites in the Caucasus and across Russia,” Grigory Shvedov, the head of the Moscow-based Caucasian Knot, said by phone. “It’s a signal for such leaders as Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who think they have enough resources to be autonomous from Moscow.”

The raids follow rising tension between Russian law-enforcement agencies and regional chiefs including Kadyrov, who was groomed by President Vladimir Putin to run Chechnya after two separatist uprisings. Kadyrov has been given free rein to combat radical Islamists in the largely Muslim region, even as he has recently clashed with federal authorities.

Murtazaliev declined to comment on the preparation of the warrant on Monday, Dagestan-based newspaper Chernovik reported, citing the regional pension fund’s press office. Vinogradov’s detention was arranged by his adversaries, Murtazaliev said, according to website

Regional Tensions

The men are linked to the murders of two officials in 2010, according to the Investigative Committee statement, which didn’t provide details on the allegations of financing terrorism.

Kadyrov raised tensions with the Kremlin in April by warning that police from other parts of Russia will meet with an armed response if they carry out unauthorized raids in Chechnya. That comment came four days after Chechen authorities said federal officers had killed a man while trying to detain him in the capital, Grozny.

Kadyrov has been linked to the main suspect in February’s murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov near the Kremlin. The Chechen leader has described the main suspect in the killing, the former deputy head of an elite police unit loyal to him, as a “real Russian patriot,” angering security chiefs in Moscow after Putin condemned the crime.

Last year, the governor of the Pacific-coastal region Sakhalin, Alexander Khoroshavin, was arrested and charged with corruption after investigators found 1 billion rubles ($16.5 million) in cash at his property.

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