Turkish authorities have arrested four Russian citizens, one Ukrainian citizen, and one Uzbek national on charges of “military and political espionage” linked to alleged plans to attack Chechen opposition activists residing in Turkey.
The Turkish Prosecutor-General’s Office said on October 20 that the men arrested in the cities of Antalya and Istanbul on October 8 are Abdula Abdulayev, Ravshan Akhmedov, Beslan Rasayev, and Aslanbek Abdulmuslimov of Russia; Ihor Yefrim of Ukraine; and Amir Yusupov of Uzbekistan.
The men are also suspected of buying weapons to use against Turkish-based critics of the Kremlin-backed leader of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.
If convicted, the men face up to 20 years in prison.
Russian officials have yet to comment on the situation.
There have been several attacks outside Russia against Kadyrov’s critics in recent years.
In January, a court in Sweden sentenced two Russian citizens from Chechnya to lengthy prison terms for their roles in the attempted killing last year of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, an exiled Chechen blogger and outspoken critic of Kadyrov.
A year before that, Imran Aliyev, another Chechen blogger known for his criticism of Kadyrov, was found stabbed to death in a hotel room in the northern French city of Lille.
Austria arrested two Chechen asylum seekers as part of an investigation into the killing in a Vienna suburb of another Kadyrov critic, Mamikhan Umarov, in July 2020.
Human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of widespread rights and other abuses in the region, allegations he denies.
Critics say Kadyrov is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of his political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
Defenders claim Kadyrov has brought relative calm to the volatile region following two wars between Moscow and separatists after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.