It has emerged Russia paid millions of euros for a tip-off that enabled it to find and kill the Chechen rebel leader, Aslan Maskhadov. But Moscow’s refusal to return his body to his family has caused an outcry among many Russian human rights activists. His half-naked corpse has been shown repeatedly on television.
The Moscow Helsinki Group – Russia’s oldest independent human rights organisation – said the Kremlin risks radicalising Chechen rebels still further by not treating Maskhadov with dignity. Receiving congratulations from the Russian president, the FSB – successor to the Soviet-era KGB – said it had received a tip-off in response to the 7.5 million euro bounty last September.
But there is mounting media speculation over just how Maskhadov died. Officially he was killed trying to resist capture but local newspapers have cast doubt on this version. Other rebel leaders, including Shamil Basayev, also have multi-million euro rewards on their heads. Basayev claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege that killed more than 330 people. Maskhadov condemned the siege and called for Basayev’s arrest.