Novaya Gazeta: Chechen man, 19, abandons police job, gets detained while trying to leave Russia

Yasin Khalidov, a 19-year-old young man from Chechnya, has been detained at the Isilkul border checkpoint in Russia’s Omsk region. Khalidov has been serving in the police since the age of 17 and was recently sent to the war in Ukraine, Novaya Gazeta reports.

Yasin Khalidov

Yasin Khalidov

After Khalidov was detained, he was interrogated by officers of the FSB border service for five hours, and then was handed over to criminal investigation officers in Omsk. After that, Khalidov was allowed to speak with human rights activists; he told them about his detention.

Novaya Gazeta’s reporters have contacted the Omsk police for a comment, and got to speak to the police officer who interrogated Khalidov and then took him to the city. The officer confirmed Khalidov was at the local police station, and said that he would soon be handed over to the Chechen security forces. The man also said that Khalidov was detained as Chechen police had put him on the nationwide wanted list.

Novaya Gazeta says Khalidov was sent to serve in the Chechen police while he was still 17, despite the lack of specialised education and even a school leaving certificate. Formally, the young man worked as a department security guard, but senior colleagues actively involved him in operational activities to identify and detain residents of Chechnya, including alleged “extremists”, Novaya Gazeta says.

In September 2022, when Khalidov was 18 years old, he was sent to the war in Ukraine, where the young man spent four months, Novaya Gazeta says. According to its journalists, Khalidov tried to resign from his service, but was not allowed to quit, and was unofficially detained upon returning home as he was suspected of disloyalty. The young man faced threats to have a criminal case opened against for terrorism if he continued to try to quit his service, Novaya Gazeta reports.

Novaya’s reporters say Khalidov managed to escape the Chechen police unit in which he was illegally detained, and leave the region in late January. After that, he contacted Chechen bloggers Ibragim Yangulbaev and Baysangur Yangulbaev, who run the Adat telegram channel. They promised to help the former policeman leave Russia in exchange for information. Khalidov told them everything he knew about serving in the Chechen police and participating in the Ukraine war, but demanded that the bloggers publish this information only after he was safe.

However, the Yangbulaevs immediately announced an investigation in their Telegram channel, after which the Chechen law enforcement officers came to Khalidov’s relatives, detained them and subjected them to mental and physical pressure, demanding to reveal the whereabouts of the escaped young man.

The bloggers then published their investigation and blocked Khalidov so that he could no longer contact them. “From that moment, the detention of Khalidov and his transfer into the hands of the Chechen security forces became virtually inevitable,” Novaya Gazeta’s article says.

The bloggers themselves published a detailed commentary on this situation in their Telegram channel. They claim that at first they genuinely wanted to help Khalidov and contacted Elena Milashina, a journalist for Novaya Gazeta who wrote this article. “It was the very beginning, when we had not yet figured out what was happening. But, as they say, trust, but check things up. As a result, in addition to the information we received from him, we also found out who he really was,” the post says.

The Yangbulaevs call Khalidov “Kadyrov’s rat” and accuse him of torturing Chechens and humiliating Ukrainian civilians.

“If Kadyrov’s guys kill Kadyrov’s guy, it would serve him right,” the bloggers said in a comment for human rights defenders.

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