Confused court verdicts; Krasnodar Kray terrorism; Wagner dead

Threatologist Eurasia: 1 June 2023


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This week's main stories:

  • Court verdicts that don’t quite make sense
  • Terrorist attack prevented in Krasnodar Kray
  • Dealing with the Wagner dead
Court verdicts that don’t quite make sense

A court in Rostov has convicted a Nalchik resident for pledging allegiance to the leader of a proscribed terrorist group. The only problem is that the group ceased to exist many years before the supposed pledge (1).


The Southern District Military Court found Khabibulla Isaratov guilty of recording a pledge of allegiance to the leader of the Caucasus Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz, IK) and uploading it to the internet. It sentenced Isaratov to ten and a half years in a maximum security colony, with the first two and a half to be spent in prison.


So far, so mundane. The peculiar part of the story is when this pledge was supposedly made: 21 March 2022. It’s not clear who Isaratov is alleged to have pledged allegiance to. But the last known IK leader was Magomed Suleymanov, who was killed in August 2015, and the IK died as a functioning organisation with him. Isaratov is reportedly a 19-year-old Orel native, meaning he would have been about 11 when Suleymanov was killed. The last confirmed IK leader was Zalim Shebzukhov, killed in August 2016. Probably the last recognisable insurgent leader to be killed in the North Caucasus was Aslan Byutukayev, who was killed in January 2021; however, he defected to the Islamic State (IS) in 2015.


There is a long-standing issue with Russian court cases, which pay scant attention to group names and proper attribution of activities. This has been particularly evident in convictions related to the conflict in Syria and Iraq, where courts would occasionally convict people of membership of one group when they were definitely involved with another. In this case, either Isaratov pledged allegiance to a group that no longer existed or the court has paid scant regard to facts. Which is another long-standing issue with Russian courts.


The court’s website was not accessible at the time of publication to see if further details/sense could be found in the full statement on the case.

Terrorist attack prevented in Krasnodar Kray

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have claimed that they prevented a Ukraine-linked terrorist attack in Gelendzhik, Krasnoday Kray (4).


According to the FSB, a Russian citizen who supports “Ukrainian neo-Nazism” planned to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) at a law enforcement facility in the city. The FSB detained the man and, across searches in woodlands and his property, seized a ready-made IED, IED components, and instructions.


The detained man faces charges under Articles 30 ¶1 and 205 ¶ of the Russian Criminal Code (5).

Dealing with the Wagner dead

Russia’s State Duma has authorised the burial of killed volunteer fighters, including those from Russian Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner, in military cemeteries — in the same week that Wagner owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin has confirmed that there are a lot of them.


The State Duma approved at the third reading a legislative proposal that allows for the burial in military cemeteries of those who have fought with volunteer formations and/or signed contracts with organisations that are assisting the Russian military (10).


Meanwhile, Prigozhin claimed that, of 50,000 prisoners recruited to fight with his group in Ukraine, approximately 20% have been killed. He asserted that a similar number of contractors had suffered the same fate. According to Prigozhin, a further 20% had been wounded seriously enough that they could not fight for three or more months. However, the question '20% of what?' arises in regard to this latter figure, since in Prigozhin’s statement grammatically it should only refer to recruited convicts, not overall group losses. Prigozhin claimed that Wagner currently has 35,000 people fighting around Bakhmut (11).

Other stories of interest
  • Russia’s Investigative Committee has reported on the detention of three Kabardino-Balkarian residents accused of participating in an attack on Pskov paratroopers in Chechnya in 2000 (2).
  • The Southern District Military Court has sentenced a Sochi resident to eight and a half years in prison for twice transferring money to IS (3).
  • Russia’s FSB and National Guard have detained an Ingushetian resident on suspicion of terrorism and illegal arms trafficking (6).
  • Four people have received prison sentences of between seven and 10 years for membership of a “prison jama’at” established by an IK member in a Kalmykia colony (7). A related case was covered in the 2 February edition of Threatologist Eurasia.
  • The Southern District Military Court has sentenced a Crimean Tatar activist to 18 years in prison for membership of Hizb-ut Tahrir (8).
  • Russia’s Supreme Court rejects the appeal of four Dagestanis sentenced to between 15 and 17 years for insurgent activity. The men claimed that they were tortured and evidence in their case was fabricated (9).
  • The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on Ivan Maslov, whom it described as Wagner’s leader in Mali; claimed Wagner “may be attempting to obscure its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine, including by working through Mali and other countries where it has a foothold”; and accused Wagner of supplying a Sudanese militia with surface-to-air missiles (12). For more on earlier media reporting about Sudan, see the 27 April edition of Threatologist Eurasia . 
  • The US State Department, meanwhile, accused Wagner of transiting military equipment through Mali — an allegation Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova dismissed as “a hoax” (13).
  • In an interview with Russian daily Izvestiya, Central African Republic Ambassador to Russia Leon Dodonu-Punagaza expressed support for Russian “military instructors” in the country; called for Russia to build a military base capable of holding 5-10,000 soldiers; and accused France of being behind the attack on Russian House head Dmitriy Sytyy, who has previously been linked to Prigozhin (14).
  • Investigators claim to have discovered a cell of the banned group Arestantskoye ugolovnoye edinstvo (Prisoners’ Criminal Unity) in prisons in North Ossetia (15). Kalmykia’s Supreme Court has also sentenced a native of the republic to six years three months for creating another cell in a local prison colony (16).
Source list

1. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 23 May. Житель Нальчика осужден на длительный срок за присягу лидеру "Имарат Кавказ”.

2. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 26 May. Три жителя Кабардино-Балкарии арестованы по делу об атаке на псковских десантников в Чечне.

3. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 26 May. Житель Сочи осужден по обвинению в финансировании ИГ.

4. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 26 May. ФСБ отчиталась о предотвращении теракта в Геленджике.

5. RIA Novosti. 2023, 26 May. ФСБ предотвратила теракт в Геленджике.

6. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 26 May. Житель Ингушетии задержан по делу о терроризме.

7. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 25 May. Четверо заключенных калмыцкой колонии осуждены по делу о "тюремном джамаате”.

8. Kavkaz Realii. 2023, 24 May. Ростовский суд приговорил к 18 годам колонии крымского татарина по делу "Хизб ут-Тахрир”.

9. Kavkaz Realii. 2023, 25 May. Осужденные за терроризм жители Дагестана заявили о пытках и фальсификации дела.

10. Nastoyashcheye Vremya. 2023, 24 May. Госдума разрешила хоронить на воинских кладбищах участников добровольческих формирований, в том числе наемников ЧВК "Вагнер”.

11. Nastoyashcheye Vremya. 2023, 24 May. Пригожин заявил о гибели 20 тысяч наемников ЧВК "Вагнер" на войне в Украине, половина из них – завербованные заключенные.

12. US Department of the Treasury. 2023, 25 May. Treasury Sanctions the Head of the Wagner Group in Mali.

13. Reuters. 2023, 25 May. US warns Wagner Group seeking arms, slaps sanctions on group's head in Mali.

14. Izvestiya. 2023, 29 May. «Нам нужна российская военная база».

15. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 28 May. Ячейка АУЕ* раскрыта в колониях Северной Осетии.

16. Caucasian Knot. 2023, 30 May. Заключенный калмыцкой колонии осужден за создание ячейки АУЕ.


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