Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has posted a video of the Russian opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov in a gunman’s crosshairs.
Kadyrov has engaged in increasingly hostile rhetoric towards the Russian opposition in recent weeks. The video was issued weeks before the first anniversary of the murder of Boris Nemtsov, another prominent opposition figure.
Zaur Dadayev, a high-ranking officer in Kadyrov’s security forces, has been charged with gunning down Nemtsov, Kasyanov’s co-chairman of the RPR-Parnas party, near the Kremlin in February 2015. Russia’s investigative committee said on Friday it had closed the case, although Ruslan Mukhudinov, a Chechen security officer who is charged with organising the hit, remains at large.
“Kasyanov has come to Strasbourg for money for the Russian opposition,” Kadyrov wrote as he posted the video for his 1.6 million Instagram followers.
“Whoever didn’t understand will get it,” he added, a phrase that is also the title of a forthcoming self-produced action film starring the Chechen leader, who has frequently been accused of human rights abuses.
Last week, Kasyanov, a former Russian prime minister, called on deputies at a parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg to prepare a special report on the Nemtsov murder investigation and warned that Kadyrov’s comments, labelling the opposition “enemies of the people”, marked a broader crackdown on regime critics. During the trip, he also told the exiled Crimean Tatar leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev, that Crimea would eventually be returned to Ukraine.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Kasyanov called the crosshairs video a “direct threat of a murder motivated by political hatred” and said President Vladimir Putin, who appointed Kadyrov in 2007, “bears personal responsibility for Kadyrov’s actions” and should condemn them.
The RPR-Parnas deputy chairman, Vladimir Kara-Murza, seen walking with Kasyanov in the video, called it an “instigation to murder”.
Kara-Murza said he was the victim of a poisoning attempt similar to that of Alexander Litvinenko after he suffered sudden illness and organ failure in May, as a result of which he now walks with a cane.
The video is the latest attack in Kadyrov’s war of words against Russia’s liberal opposition, which has been increasingly marginalised since tensions with the west began rising in 2014.
In January, Kadyrov employed the Stalin-era phrase “enemies of the people” to argue that opposition activists were puppets of western intelligence and should be prosecuted for treason. Magomed Daudov, the head of Kadyrov’s administration, posted a photograph of his boss with a Caucasian sheepdog named Tarzan, declaring that its “fangs are itching” for opposition activists and journalists.
Kadyrov even held a giant rally against the opposition in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, where Daudov listed Kasyanov as one of many “traitors”.
Putin, who awarded Kadyrov a medal days after Nemtsov’s killing, has continued to condone his actions, praising him at the end of January for “working effectively”.
In response to the “enemies of the people” remark, Konstantin Senchenko, a Krasnoyarsk city council member, called Kadyrov an “embarrassment to Russia” but later apologised after a backlash. Kadyrov posted a video of Senchenko apologising, with the caption: “I accept.”