Reports from Russia say a close friend of Ramzan Kadyrov has disappeared and is feared dead amid claims he poisoned the Chechen warlord.
Elkhan Suleymanov, 49, a doctor who served as health minister and deputy prime minister of Chechnya, stopped posting to his 55,000 Instagram followers a year ago and has not been seen or heard from since.
Meanwhile, the health of 46-year-old Kadyrov – who has sent tens of thousands of his soldiers to fight in Putin’s war in Ukraine – has been the subject of deep speculation in Russia, amid claims that he is terminally ill.
Now a Telegram channel known to have ties to law enforcement has made the extraordinary claim that Kadyrov blamed his former ally for his ill health and accused Suleymanov of poisoning him. Some suspect he buried him alive.
Suleymanov once served as personal physician to Kadyrov and his family, while photos posted online suggest the pair had a close relationship.
Previous photos often showed them together in the countryside or at official meetings, with their arms around each other’s shoulders and grasping each other’s arms.
However, Suleymanov – who at one point posted to his Instagram almost daily – has not shared an update with his followers since October 2022.
If tyrannical leader Kadyrov – a top Putin ally with a reputation for cruelty – suspected the doctor of poisoning him, it is unlikely he would have shown mercy.
Telegram channel VChK-OGPU, with ties to law enforcement, said the warlord “blamed the sharp deterioration of his health” on Suleymanov.
“No one there has seen Suleymanov since October 2022, and there are rumors that he was brutally murdered and buried alive in the ground,” the channel said.
“Absolutely everyone says he is no longer alive and died a painful death.”
Other claims are that he has returned to Baku, Azerbaijan – his birthplace – or is quietly working in Moscow, but has not been seen in public.
Further claims suggest he has moved to the Middle East.
Kadyrov – often pictured bloated – became convinced he had been poisoned after receiving unknown injections from Suleymanov, it is claimed.
“He was removed from the position of deputy prime minister overnight in October 2022 and has not been seen since,” the channel said, citing anonymous sources.
Another source said: “If Kadyrov really suspected Suleymanov of poisoning, it is unlikely we will see him alive. If we’re talking about something else, maybe he’s in captivity and they’ll show him on camera.”
Suleymanov was unusual in the warlord hierarchy. Although not an ethnic Chechen, he was seen as exceptionally close to Kadyrov, who believed he had saved his mother.
Suleymanov had worked in the West and was a professor and specialist in cancer.
Similar claims were previously made by another Telegram channel, 1ADAD, which claimed he was beaten when fired.
In July it was claimed he was now working in Moscow at the National Medical Research Center for Radiology, but there appears to be little evidence he is here.
There is also no hard evidence of his death. Kadyrov’s enemies accuse him of committing extrajudicial killings. Several photos show Kadyrov and Suleymanov together.
In early July, amid a swirl of health rumors, Kadyrov said in a lengthy post that he had shot a film to prove that he – the Chechen leader – was “still alive.”
“Somehow we’re still alive,” he said at the time. “Anyway, we don’t want to live long. We will live a short but decent life.”
Exiled Chechen opposition politician Tumso Abdurakhmanov said at the time: “Information is coming in that Kadyrov is almost dead and no longer speaks. His kidneys have completely failed and dialysis is not helping. It’s possible these are his last days.”