Two Russians detained in Sweden over hammer attack on Chechen blogger

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Two Russians are being held in Sweden suspected of the attempted murder of a prominent blogger and critic of the Chechen government last month, authorities said on Friday.

Tumso Abdurakhmanov, who fled Russia several years ago, said he survived the Feb. 26 attack in the town of Gavle by overpowering an assailant armed with a hammer, according to local prosecutor Therese Stensson.

It was the third attack this month on a critic of Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, after the murder of blogger Imran Aliyev in France and an assault on journalist Yelena Milashina in the Chechen capital Grozny.

Abdurakhmanov live-streamed the aftermath of the attack, standing over a bloodied man on the ground, asking him in Russian: “Who sent you? Where are you from?”

The man replies: “From Moscow … They have my mother.”

Stensson told Reuters the prosecution was working from the video, which was widely shared on social media but could not be independently verified.

A 29-year-old Russian man has been detained since Sunday on suspicion of attempted murder, the prosecutor said, while Gavle District Court remanded in custody on Friday an alleged accomplice, a 30-year-old woman also from Russia.

In online posts and videos, Abdurakhmanov has been highly critical of Kadyrov for oppressing opponents.

A former executive at an electricity company, he 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.

The blogger could not be reached for comment.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last week played down the incident and the attacks on critics of the Chechen leader, saying: “We are not inclined to draw parallels.”

The incident was first reported by a Chechen rights group, though it had given the location as Poland.

Human rights workers have accused Kadyrov of widespread abuses in the region, allegations he denies. Supporters credit him with bringing relative calm to a region dogged for years by a simmering insurgency following two wars between Moscow and separatists after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

Reporting by Colm Fulton in Stockholm; Additional reporting by Alexander Marrow in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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