Vladimir Putin was behind the mysterious August kidnapping and brutal torture of a 68-year-old Chechen exile living in France, the victim — a former Chechen political leader who accuses Putin of war crimes — told Time Magazine in an explosive story published this week.
Said-Emin Ibragimov was a high-ranking official in the anti-Putin Chechen government when Russia invaded Chechnya in 1999. Putin was the Russian prime minister at the time, assuming the presidency of Russia in May of 2000 just as Russia wound down the war with the breakaway republic under Russia’s — and Putin’s — control.
Ibragimov escaped Chechnya in 2001, gaining political asylum in France where he has resided ever since. But he has continued to act as a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin during his exile, staging lonely hunger strikes and sit-ins to protest the policies of Putin in Chechnya.
Most recently, the former Chechen official filed an accusation of war crimes against Vladimir Putin with the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
While the ICC has yet to review his letter — and may not be able to do anything about the alleged Putin crimes anyway, because the Chechen conflict ended before the ICC was established — Ibragimov believes the war crimes accusations are the reason his quiet day of fishing on August 10 was rudely interrupted by a severe blow to the back of his head that knocked him out cold.
The anti-Putin dissident told Time that he was relaxing on the banks of the Ill, a river in Strasbourg, France, attempting to leave his daily stress behind by angling for a few fish when Putin’s secret agents struck.
When he regained his senses, Ibragimov “found himself blindfolded and in the custody of at least three men, all of them speaking Russian,” the news magazine reported. They told him to stop “defaming” Vladimir Putin. But he bravely, or perhaps foolishly, responded, “I do not take orders from thugs.”
And then, Ibragimov says, the torture began — and went on with no real let-up for two whole days.
Though Ibragimov said he does not know the identities of his kidnappers, from their accents he believes they were Russian agents from Moscow, not pro-Russia Chechens — though allegedly Putin has used sympathetic Chechen agents for other black bag jobs against Chechen dissidents.
According to Time, which interviewed Ibragimov 10 days after the alleged secret agents let him go, the torture inflicted on the elderly man was excruciating.
“Deep, yellowing lesions marked his chest—the result, he said, of lit cigarettes being pressed into his skin over and over again… Lifting the hem of his pants, he revealed several holes that had been gouged into his right calf by what had felt like metal spikes. The wounds were still oozing blood into the bandages doctors had applied when he later sought treatment.”
The news magazine asked the Kremlin to respond to Ibragimov’s story, but a spokesman for Vladimir Putin said that Ibragimov may be mentally ill. He added that the Russian government was totally unaware of the Chechen dissident’s kidnapping story or his war crimes accusations against Putin at the Hague.