Photo credit: HROMADSKE
On September 8, a car exploded in central Kyiv. The driver was killed. A woman riding in the vehicle was seriously injured, but the third passenger, a child, escaped largely unharmed.
Shortly after the bombing, the driver was identified as Timur Makhauri, an ethnic Chechen who fought against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east in a largely Chechen battalion. A Georgian citizen, Makhauri had a checkered, complicated past stretching across more than three countries — including a run-in with the law in Ukraine. He also has been credited as the person who killed Shamil Basayev, one of the most infamous terrorists in the history of modern Russia.
Ekaterina Sergatskova, who interviewed Makhauri prior to his death, explains who he was.
Chechenya and Georgia
By his own words, Timur Makhauri was born in Chechnya. In the early 2000s, when Russia went to war with the rebellious region for the second time, he fled as a refugee across the border to Georgia. There, Makhauri settled in the Pankisi Gorge, a region at times called the homeland of Caucasian Islamism.
The region’s mountainous terrain and close proximity to Chechnya made it a convenient base for Chechen rebels fighting for the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. In the gorge, they hid alongside a sizeable population of Chechen refugees.In 2012-2014, between 50 and 200 fighters from the gorge left for Syria to join the ranks of the Islamic State.
Makhauri eventually received Georgian citizenship. During the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili — who would later become governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region — Makhauri began working for the Georgian special forces.
According to several sources with knowledge of the situation, Makhauri’s direct boss at the time was Georgi Lortkipanidze, the country’s deputy interior minister. When Saakashvili was appointed Odesa governor in 2015, Lortkipanidze would become chief of the region’s police. Lorkipanidze declined to answer the author’s questions about Makhauri.
In 2008, when the Russo-Georgian war erupted, Makhauri fought on the side of Georgia. According to his comrade-in-arms, Ukrainian Yuri Kolesnikov, he “fought extremely effectively.”
Makhauri has also been credited by some as the person who killed Chechen separatist warlord and Ichkeria leader Shamil Basayev in 2006. Basayev was infamous for his role in the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis, in which nearly 400 people — including many children — were killed.
Makhauri reportedly sent a truck loaded with contraband weapons to Chechnya. As Basayev was inspecting the cargo, it exploded. But Makhauri said that he took no responsibility for the fate of the cargo after he sent it.
Syria and Turkey
In 2012, Makhauri moved to Syria, where he says he trained people to fight against President Bashar Assad. In November of that year, officers from Turkey’s Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Department detained Makhauri in Istanbul Airport. He and his associates were suspected of murdering four representatives of the Caucasus Emirate terrorist organization on the territory of Turkey. These four men were suspected of organizing the 2011 terrorist attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.
Terrorist Shamil Basayev Photo credit: Natalia Medvedeva/en.wikipedia
Makhauri spent a total of 3.5 years in jail in Turkey. In April 2016, shortly before the failed Turkish coup, he was acquitted in court and freed.
After this, Makhauri came to Ukraine. He joined the Sheikh Mansur Battalion and fought in Ukraine’s east against Russia-backed separatist. According to The Daily Beast, most of the battalion members were Chechens who, between 2014 and 2015, had fought against Syrian government forces in various Islamist brigades.
Timur Makhauri being arrested in Kyiv in January 2017 Photo credit: Kiev Operative
But this was not the end of the fighters troubles with the law. On January 16, 2017, Makhauri was detained in the center of Kyiv. Officially, it was for illegally carrying a weapon. The police found on his person a Stechkin pistol that, according to the Interior Ministry, was stolen from the conflict zone. They also found an unregistered Glock.
This led to criminal charges. The Interior Ministry said that its officers had caught Makhauri “coincidentally,” because he was riding in a car with a Georgian license plate. He spent more than a month in pre-trial detention. Then, he was sentenced to a suspended sentence of three years. In February, he walked free.
Timur Makhauri in a Kyiv court. Photo credit: Ekaterina Sergatskova
After Makhauri was killed, one of his friends came to the scene of the bombing. There, a journalist from Ukraine’s Channel 112 asked him what he thought the motive for the killing was.
“He supported Ukraine,” the man said. “I think there’s a connection to Russia.”
So far, however, the is no concrete information about the organizers of the bombing or their motives.
/By Ekaterina Sergatskova