A Chechen blogger living in hiding in Poland has said the blood feud declared against him by a close ally of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is nothing less than a death threat.
Magomed Daudov on March 9 called Tumso Abdurakhmanov "an enemy to me and my brothers" after the blogger called Kadyrov's late father, former Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, a traitor on his YouTube channel.
Daudov, the speaker of the Chechen parliament, said he was "not going to kill" the blogger, but vowed to track him down and retaliate, using the Chechen term for "blood feud."
"Let's settle this according to Muslim laws," Daudov said in an Instagram Live broadcast on March 12 as quoted by the AP news agency.
"Daudov has issued a veiled threat: 'We will find you and kill you, punish you, kill you.' There's no other way to interpret the Chechen word 'chir,' which translates as 'blood feud,'" Abdurakhmanov told Current Time.
Speaking from an undisclosed site in Poland, Abdurakhmanov said the threat resonated louder given his uncertain status there.
"I have no kind of stability, I don't have any status, in fact, I'm illegal: at any moment they can apprehend me and expel me from the country, handing me over to Russia. It's a very dangerous situation. I struggle with it," the popular blogger explained.
Having fled Chechnya in 2015, the 32-year-old has been unsuccessful in his attempts to be granted asylum in Europe. He has twice filed for asylum in Poland and has been turned down once already. He could face deportation if his current asylum application is rejected, despite strong opposition from human rights activists who warn he will face torture or death if he returns to Chechnya.
'Watch Your Back'
Abdurakhmanov has continued to criticize the Kadyrov regime from abroad, focusing on human rights violations and corruption in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia's North Caucasus. His YouTube channel has more than 140,000 subscribers.
Daudov warned the blogger to be vigilant in his Instagram message. "From now on, when you go to bed, make sure that you lock the door with a key. When you go outside, be vigilant. If you get a kick in the back, know that it's no accident," he said.
It's not the first time the blogger has attracted Daudov's attention, according to Abdurakhmanov. In 2018, he claimed to have received a phone call from the Chechen official trying to convince him to return to Grozny. The blogger later released recordings of the conversation.
Daudov has been described as a top ally of Kadyrov and has been linked to the 2017 "gay purge" in Chechnya. He and other Chechen officials deny any such suppression ever took place.
Abdurakhmanov told Current Time that he was convinced Daudov's threat has the backing of many in Kadyrov's government. "I was threatened, and then I see how Kadyrov's officials comment among themselves, supporting the threat. High-ranking Kadyrov officials write about how they won't regret the means, or the forces, or the time needed to carry out this blood feud," he said.
Abdurakhmanov said he had no plans to issue any apologies for his remarks, as Kheda Saratova, a member of Chechnya's human rights council, suggested he should in comments to Current Time.
"I didn't say anything that I need to apologize for. I only said what I think, I didn't insult anyone and didn't do anything for which I need to apologize," the blogger countered.
"As for my insults, as they call them, I only expressed my opinion, I didn't offend anyone or call them names," Abdurakhmanov continued. "I called Akhmat Kadyrov a traitor, and I will repeat those words again: Akhmat Kadyrov and any of his followers serving the Russian authorities is a traitor to my people. And I don't plan to apologize for saying that."
Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated by Chechen separatists in May 2004, was a controversial figure, having fought against Russia in 1994-96, but who later sided with Moscow.
Asked about Daudov's threat, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on March 12 that there was "no such thing" as blood feuds in Russian law, although it is still widespread in Chechnya, according to an AP report on Peskov's comments. Peskov did not directly criticize the Chechen official.
For his part, Daudov said his words were misinterpreted.