An anti-Putin blogger had his throat cut in a French hotel

Author : Mitch Prothero

Source : Business Insider

Killing with hallmarks of Russian hit squad causing chaos in Europe
16:27, 7 February 2020

Blogger Imran Aliev

French police believe that the killing of a blogger from the disputed Russian region of Chechnya in a French hotel room last week was "politically motivated," a French police official briefed on the case said.

The official said the police were now hunting for the blogger's traveling companion, who disappeared shortly after the killing.

French investigators wish to speak with the Chechen man who accompanied the blogger, Imran Aliev, 44, from his home in Belgium to northern France via train on January 29, the official said.

Aliev, who vocally opposed the Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead the next morning by hotel staff.

His throat had been slit.

Aliev was from Chechnya, the southwestern Russia region that has seen two brutal wars for independence from Russia in recent decades. The region is controlled by Kadyrov, with approval from Moscow.

Aliev had left Belgium, "where he was under police protection because of threats out of Russia and Chechnya over his opposition blogging," said the senior French police official, who could not be identified in the media because they were discussing an open investigation.

"He was accompanied by another Chechen, who we have tentatively identified based on his travel documents," the official said.

"This identification could be a case of mistaken identity or even an illegal alibi," the official said, adding that the police could not determine anything "until we have spoken with this man we believe is an important witness."

The official refused to identify the man or confirm whether his location had been determined.

European intelligence and law-enforcement officials remain extremely concerned about assassinations of anti-Putin and Kadyrov dissidents throughout the European Union and the UK. At least 15 people have been killed by Russian hit squads in the UK, including innocent bystanders.

These concerns have become more acute since the attempted assassination in 2018 of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England, as well as the daylight assassination of a Chechen dissident in a crowded Berlin park last year.

The suspects in both cases have been linked to Russian intelligence services, as well as an attempted 2016 coup in Montenegro and the attempted assassination of a Bulgarian arms dealer, through photo identification and public access to various Russian government databases.

"Obviously, considering Aliev's history and previous threats, we need to strong examine the possibility of a state intelligence service in this murder, and we are collecting and analyzing evidence from travel patterns, electronic intercepts, and other investigative tools at our disposal," the French police official said.

The official said France had not yet contacted Russia for any assistance in the case.

A Belgian law-enforcement official familiar with the case refused to go on the record but suggested that Belgian authorities found the entire situation very suspicious.

"We had him under police protection for a reason," said the official.

The official said there were "'specific and credible threats' on his life from certain political sectors in Chechnya and Russia, which we could easily verify and concluded that protection was deserved."

The official refused to discuss the identity or movements of the man being sought by France or confirm whether he had also been under Belgian protection.

Asked whether Aliev had notified Belgian authorities of his plan to cross the border into France or of any security coordination with France, the Belgian official refused to comment directly.

"I cannot speak directly to whether anyone knew he planned to travel, but I would suggest that arranging protection for someone just a few kilometers over the border would not have been an issue," the official said.

Read the original article here.

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