February 27, 2020 / 3:13 PM / a month ago

Kremlin plays down hammer attack on exiled Chechen critic in Poland

MOSCOW/WARSAW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Thursday played down the significance of an attack on a Chechen blogger living in Poland who has been highly critical of Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, the third such incident this month.

Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who fled Russia after an altercation in Chechnya, was taken to hospital on Wednesday after a man broke into his home and attacked him with a hammer, a Chechen rights group said.

It was the third attack on a Kadyrov critic this month, after the murder of Chechen blogger Imran Aliyev in France and an assault on Russian journalist Yelena Milashina in the Chechen capital Grozny.

“An unidentified man broke into Tumso’s apartment and tried to kill him with a hammer while he was asleep,” Vayfond, a Chechen Human Rights Association, said in a statement on its website.

Abdurakhmanov fought back and called the police, and the attacker was detained, the organisation said. A Polish police spokesman said the force was working to confirm information about the attack based on media reports.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked on Thursday why critics of the Chechen leader were being repeatedly attacked, said: “We are not inclined to draw parallels.”

He said Polish police would probably investigate the attack, but “we don’t think it is an important incident for Russia’s (news) agenda.”

Abdurakhmanov, a former executive at an electricity company, fled Chechnya after a dispute sparked by a road incident when his car accidentally blocked the motorcade of a Kadyrov family member in 2015, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

Abdurakhmanov says another Chechen official, Deputy Prime Minister Magomed Daudov, threatened to take revenge on him.

Chechen authorities denied that at the time, saying Daudov only wanted Abdurakhmanov to take responsibility for his blogs.

In a YouTube video posted by Vayfond, Abdurakhmanov is seen holding a hammer in front of a camera and questioning a man who is lying on the floor with blood around him.

“Did you come to kill me?” Abdurakhmanov is heard asking the man in Russian. The man says he was just told to scare the blogger.

The video was later taken down by YouTube because some users complained about blood in the footage, Vayfond said.

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, additional reporting by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Andrew Osborn and John Stonestreet

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