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High-Profile Chechen Poet Murdered In Moscow

Ruslan Akhtakhanov, a well-known Chechen poet and activist, was gunned down Wednesday night in Moscow. Police suspect the writer may have been the target of a contract killing ordered by Chechen nationalists.

Ruslan Akhtakhanov
Ruslan Akhtakhanov
Sergey Mashkin and Musa Muradov

MOSCOW -- Chechen poet and social activist Ruslan Akhtakhanov has been shot dead outside his central Moscow apartment in what his friends have told Kommersant was a contract killing by Chechen separatists.

Less than an hour before his death, Akhtakhanov, 58, attended a ceremony where he read out poems about the brotherhood between Russians and Chechens. It is believed men were waiting outside his apartment where he parked his Toyota Camry. The assailants opened fire, hitting Akhtakhanov in the chest. The poet fell, and then received a shot to the head.

Police say there were no witnesses but are questioning passersby who found Akhtakhanov on the pavement. Police retrieved cartridge cases and 9mm calibre bullets at the scene of the crime. A few hours later, at the other end of town, police found a burnt-out Ford Focus, believed to be the getaway car for the attackers. It contained a pistol, silencer and stolen license plates.

The case bears the hallmarks of a 2010 killing by Chechen separatists of Russian military officer Yuri Budanov, who was convicted of rape and murder in the second Chechen war.

Akhtakhanov's death is likely to reignite concerns of increased inter-ethnic discord at a time when Moscow continues to face scrutiny over human rights abuses in its restive Caucasus region.

The slain writer's friends told Kommersant he spent his last night at a prize-giving ceremony at an annual competition honoring investigative journalist Artyom Borovik, who died in a plane crash in 2000. They described seeing a suspicious group of young men, possibly in their 20s, leave the theater.

"We took them by surprise and they pulled their baseball caps down over their heads," of the friends recalled. "Walking past them, we could see they were unshaven and looked like they were from the Caucasus rather than Russian. We had no idea that less than an hour later, a tragedy would happen."

Akhtakhanov published collections of poems and was admitted to the Union of Writers of Russia. He set up the Democratic Progressive Party and said Chechnya should develop as an independent, democratic and secular state.

His friends believe his secularism may have been what led to his death as it was at odds with religious extremists and nationalists in the North Caucasus who viewed him as an apostate. Extremists took Akhtakhanov hostage in 1998, holding him for 47 days.

"He was a public figure and one of the most active representatives of the Chechen diaspora in Moscow and for this reason could be the target for the nationalists," said Khamzat Gerikhanov of the Association of Chechen Public and Cultural Organizations.

Read the original story in Russian

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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