The car, inside which were Donbas war volunteers Amina Okueva and Adam Osmaev, was shot near Hlevakha village in the Kyiv region on October 30, 2017. Amina died. On January 12, 2020, law enforcement officers detained the suspected perpetrator of the crime, saying that his DNA was found on the weapon which was used for the murder. It is Igor Redkin, a native of Dagestan and the first suspect in the case. According to the investigation, he headed a group in Ukraine, that engaged in contract murders. We spoke about the investigation, previous assassination attempts, and Amina’s views with her mother Irina Kaminskaya.
Irina, it has been over two years since Amina’s death. I guess, no one knew Amina better than her mother. Can you tell us about her?
She died like a warrior. But for me, she is alive, I’m waiting for that moment when I see her there again. Everyone will be held responsible for their actions in this life.
Amina liked the mountains of Chechnya and North Caucasus beyond measure. There were two elements: the majestic mountains endlessly reaching up and the sea or even the ocean, which merges with the horizon somewhere. That is Amina. There was no place for routine or vanity in her life. She knew her mission and role. Her mission was to fight with absolute evil - the "evil empire," as it was referred to. That’s the last empire in the history of humanity.
God gives people the freedom and no one can take this freedom away. We clearly understand that there is no such thing as “great Russia” without Ukraine. There are a civilization struggle and civilization choice now. Amina processed it all. She understood that with all her soul. The fact that Amina was killed, proves that they could not break her. And when a human is killed, it is not a broken human, but a human legend.
Amina was the speaker of the voluntary battalion named after Dzhokhar Dudayev, "Kyiv-2". What did it mean for her? Was it family or just work?
That was her life. Do you ask why they killed her? Well, because she was the press secretary of the Dzhokhar Dudayev’s Battalion. Her friends were the main people in her life. And her struggle was a part of her life. There was no concept of money, material wealth for her. For her the volunteer battalion "Kyiv-2", which she joined immediately after the Maidan – she didn’t even go home, she immediately started looking for ways to go to war. And, of course, when the battalion named after Dzhokhar Dudayev was created... it was the meaning of her life, a place of her amazing self-realization.
What did you think about her work? She was constantly at risk.
She was no ordinary female, she was a female warrior. In the Chechen tradition, there are female warriors. And she felt that. She was a truly wonderful warrior. Isa Munaev, the head of the battalion, told me this. He also told me that he had never seen a more courageous female warrior. Is it possible to stop the sea, the element? Is it possible to stop a person’s desire for freedom? If you are a good mother, your aim is to help your child. Give him or her the skills so he can fight. I did everything that depended on me.
Irina Kaminskaya, mother of a murdered Donbas war volunteer Amina Okueva, in Odesa, Ukraine, January, 25, 2020. Photo: Valentyna Rodzevska
Could you recall the day of the murder, October 30, 2017? How did you find out? This wasn’t the first time someone tried to take away her life. Did you warn her of the danger, that there could be a second assassination attempt?
I shall start with the first assassination attempt - June 1, 2017. It was probably the happiest day of my life, despite it being very scary. There was an assassination attempt, Adam was very seriously injured, he lost a lot of blood, but Amina was alive. And the first call she made was to me. You can’t imagine what happiness it was for me.
I will always be grateful to [the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs] Arsen Avakov for this Makarov gun, which he presented to her in the spring. A modest gift, but it prolonged Amina’s life by 4 months and 29 days. I’m grateful for that.
Then it became clear that she and Adam would be gunned for. Because they were the symbols of the struggle and opposition. They called things as they were and were not afraid of it. I told her that above all she posed a threat. And she would not be gunned for being a sniper or someone, who worked on the frontline and protected our folks, but for being a speaker, who communicates, because this is an information war. The word is a powerful weapon. And that’s what happened.
[The day of the murder] was a scary day because the anticipation was in the air, this dreading.
Adam called me at 8:20 p.m., I was on the phone at the time. Then I immediately called him back, and he said that someone attempted to murder them, and Amina was bleeding and dying in his arms. That’s what he said, but she died immediately. When I picked her up, I saw that she was shot in the head with such a force that the neck was turned away from the shot. It seems she took 14 bullets. There was one bullet she could not stop, the one that hit Adam's leg.
It is hard to recall this. I went to Kyiv immediately. I was met by Anton Herashchenko (an MP of the eighth convocation of the Verkhovna Rada and an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs at that time – ed.). He helped a lot back then. A lot of people responded, who sympathized and wanted to help.
Amina was a witness in the case of the first attempt, but did they have protection?
They did have security for some time, I think two months. But in fact, there is no law, no money is allocated for this. I can’t blame anyone. It was after this that [an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs at that time Anton] Herashchenko initiated a law to protect witnesses. And this law was named after Amina because her death prompted its development.
Amina Okueva with her mother Irina Kaminskaya and husband Adam Osmaev. Photo provided to Hromadske by Irina Kaminskaya
What did she talk about lately? Did you talk about the danger, the threats before the second attempt?
This was not the second attempt, they just didn’t talk about everything. Some cases were investigated by the police or Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU). She tried not to upset me and did not tell a lot. But after the first assassination attempt, she was so amazed, because this [Artur Denisultanov] Krinari introduced himself as a journalist. And I always taught her “Be good with journalists, be friendly to them, because they spread the knowledge about you to the world. The way they show you is very important.”
Amina loved journalists very much, they also helped us in that first, 2012 fake accusation of Adam [on suspicion of preparing the assassination of Vladimir Putin]. But even then, during the time of [Viktor] Yanukovych, I saw that journalists were pretty free people. And I really value the mass media in Ukraine that held on to their mission of bringing truth to the nation. It’s a wonderful story, there’s no other way of fighting fake information. And she said that Krinari introduced himself as a “Le Monde” journalist. He spoke with a French accent, he seemed a silk-stocking man, but he turned out to be a killer who wanted to kill us. Amina was so shocked. Amina and Adam opened up because of his acting. He was an actor. He also acted in court, and he continues to act now. But he will go down in history as an inadequate killer. This will be a stigma for him among his henchmen. But this perhaps will be his most honorable deed, not killing a person.
Denisultanov was given to Russia during the prisoner exchange in December 2019. What was your reaction?
They handed over not just those, who committed the attempt, but also those, who killed on the Maidan and in Kharkiv, which is a much more serious story. As for the exchange, they did everything right. Moreover, Amina and I discussed this possibility. It was clear before the investigation began that they would try to extradite him. And Amina said that this must be done. We need to use all means to return those who are in captivity because we can’t even imagine what kind of hell it is and how scary it is. And we, like any civilized country, must fight.
Therefore, they did the right thing, the question is: how they did it. I am totally convinced and have the moral right to tell Mr. President that he should have invited the families of people killed on the Maidan and in Kharkiv, to sit next to them and tell them properly: “I cannot return your children, but I can bring other children back in exchange for these killers. Help me, I swear that this case will be completed". And I am sure that the majority would understand. He would ask them not as a president, but as a person, as a father, who has his own children. He has to pass the pain of other people through himself. If this does not happen, we won’t have a decent president.
The fact that he was exchanged, that was the right thing to do. Many do not understand that Denisultanov was not cleared of charges, his measure of restraint was changed on parole. Now let's see his true colors. On April 7, he must come to Kyiv’s Podilskyi Court for a hearing on the ongoing case. If he doesn’t appear, he will be placed on Ukraine’s wanted list. I don’t think the fact that he is wanted by Austria and other countries will go away. It’s just it will also be Ukraine’s wanted list, too.
On January 12, the law enforcement arrested Igor Redkin, a native of Dagestan, who is a suspect in Amina’s murder. The court arrested him without the right to bail. They claim that he had his own criminal group that dealt with contract killings.
I was at the first court hearing, where he was elected a pre-trial restriction. His behavior is very similar to Krinari’s (or Artur Denisultanov's – ed.) behavior. Speech and behavior are very similar. I do not hate this person. I listened to my own feelings. All I know is that there will be a day of reckoning.
There were a lot of opinions about this arrest. Someone says that they arrested a random person just to end this case, others believe that there is sufficient evidence. What do you think?
When I read about this, I immediately asked for a meeting with Minister Arsen Avakov. I believe all information should be received from primary sources. I was recognized as a victim in the first and second cases, so I have a right to monitor how the investigation is going. The following day I had a meeting with Arsen Avakov. The conversation with him was thoughtful and honest, which convinced me that in all likelihood this is probably the truth.
After that, I had a meeting with Andriy Nebytov, the head of the police of the Kyiv region, and he brought me up-to-date. I said that he didn't need to tell me everything because the secrecy of the investigation is an important thing.
Anton Herashchenko, when they first found this gun [in October 2017, with DNA on it], said that it was a huge success. They learned the history of this weapon, there were fingerprints of some people. I won’t say how many people. At that time, Anton was an MP, not an official. The official sources did not confirm, because they couldn’t provide all the information immediately. Information shouldn’t be disclosed that fast, straightaway. The criminals should relax and realize that they are in a comfort zone.
There were other things that convinced me. This is meticulous work, but those brag most who can do least. So when they took fingerprints from all arrested in September (Igor Redkin’s group – ed.), they began to search through the unsolved cases and verify the fingerprints. Why now? Because it’s a lot of work for a big team, it’s more than one day’s work. Avakov said that it was a matter of honor for him. He promised that there will not be any pressure, the first and second cases will be further investigated.
Irina Kaminskaya, mother of a murdered Donbas war volunteer Amina Okueva, in Odesa, Ukraine, January, 25, 2020. Photo: Valentyna Rodzevska
Did you not have questions as to why the investigation has been ongoing since 2017?
Of course, I did. I met with the investigators, they interviewed me a lot. That was a long process. They followed the false trail, there were many provocateurs who spread different wild “Facebook” versions, and they had to check them.
I am a restless person. I regularly visited Kyiv and constantly nagged the investigator at the first court hearings.
What do you know about the paymaster and the motive of the murder?
When they didn’t succeed with Krinari, they understood that they needed to look for other opportunities. And there are millions of orders like this. They just started looking for professionals. And [Redkin’s group] was active, they had numerous murders on their account. I was always interested in the name of the paymaster. Personally, I know who it is. I call it the “mastermind of the evil empire.” You know it is hard to figure out the names. But I think that the investigation has a mechanism for what to do in this situation. And what I was told also gives hope that this can be traced.
Does it mean that the investigation already has the names of the paymasters?
I don't think so, the work continues. We spoke with Anton Herashchenko earlier and he said that everything definitely leads to Russia. This is an open secret.
Ex-MP Ihor Mosiychuk, whose assistant was Amina, said that there is information about the sums, which were given for Amina’s and Adam’s murder. There were $500,000 and $1,000,000.Yes. There are some records with the voices, which are currently being widely discussed. But I haven’t dug into details. Let the people, whose responsibilities it is, do this.
Have you read an interview with Artur Denisultanov, where he accused Arsen Avakov and other people of Amina’s murder, and he also said that Adam and Amina were involved in money laundering and ran into debt?
You understand that these people are liars. Amina and Adam fought for Ukraine, they barely left the front line, for them, it was the meaning of their life. And, of course, people, like Denisultanov, would spread lies about them, because they judge everyone by their own standards. He needs to badmouth them to prove something to people, because of the task he failed.
What was the main idea, Amina’s dream?
She dreamt to come to God as a human hero. She thought that a hero is a person who gives their own life for the idea that he or she supports calmly and consciously, without fear. For her, that was the idea of freedom. Not just the freedom of Ukraine but the absolute freedom of a human being. It is not just its own freedom that Ukraine is currently defending. And I think she became that hero. She had no passing interests that bothered other women. She always dressed so modestly. Her favorite clothes were military, the balaclava became her hijab.
She was an amazingly religious person, even in tough conditions she followed the rules. She shot very well. I think she had this tomboy inside her – she engaged in all the things that are typical for a strong warrior. That was her natural state. She only wore dresses for photoshoots, these beautiful dresses. She got them as gifts. But in reality, she never put them on. When I picked up her things – it was mostly military clothes and some dresses that remained – all in small parcels. And this is the real Amina – Amina the warrior. That’s how she felt most useful in this life. It turned out that the frontline was the safest place for them.
Amina Okueva. Photo of the "Amina Life" exhibition at the Ukrainian House in Kyiv. Photo provided to Hromadske by Irina Kaminskaya
Where did she get this affection for all things military, and danger?
The Second Chechen War in the early 2000s petrified her. I am from the North Caucasus too, we often went there, then she started going there alone. There are people with a heightened sense of justice, conscience and duty. She was shocked by the humiliation and destruction of the people only because they wanted to be free. The events on the Maidan convinced her even more that Ukrainian people are not Russian. That there are a lot of people who are willing to pay for freedom with their lives. She sincerely admired the Ukrainians. She said that these are people who are not afraid of being free. Because those who want to be free need to understand that one day they will need to pay for freedom with their lives. And that’s where many people drift away. Because not everyone can give away their lives for freedom.
She met a lot of wonderful people. You understand that the best people died, especially in these first months of 2014, during the events of Ilovaisk, Debaltseve, where she was present and was encircled.
Amina said that she wanted to drive home that the main enemy is Vladimir Putin.
I needn’t say more. Do you see what is happening in the world? You see how Russia is weaving a cocoon and how it is becoming more and more authoritarian. This is the problem of the Russian people and you understand that no one can change the fate of the Russian Federation, except themselves. Russia can only be destroyed from within, by its people.
She spoke with a lot of people, there are a lot of political prisoners. Adam was on the list of 100 political prisoners of conscience in Russia. So many people are persecuted just for not wanting to live without freedom, for not wanting to be slaves. She saw how they limited human rights, how many were forced to flee. What does it matter that 70-80% agree? But there are 30% who disagree and want to be free.
What problems in Ukraine worried her?
Of course, to overcome a terrible enemy. This is what she directed her energies to and what she fought for. She was worried about the role of women, and gender policy. Just a week before her death, she had a successful interview at the United Nations’ Women' Rights department under our Cabinet of Ministers. I think that she also would have passed the contest. Despite being a Muslim (it’s a myth that women in Islam are not protected, in true Islam they are fully protected), Amina thought that there were not enough women in the army, that women should have equal rights and duties. She was very passionate about this. She gave some examples of women in the armies of Israel and the United States of America. I think she would have even made a wonderful politician, although she was having none of this. She believed that it was all a mess. But I told her that if the "pure people" did not enter politics, then we could not achieve anything.
Do you see Adam?
We do not meet with Adam. He is still being gunned for, and now he needs to be very careful, protected and strong. That’s why I don’t see him. I saw him in Krinari’s trial. Adam is also a man of amazing fate and own mission. He met his other half, Amina. So now it’s very difficult for him without her. He does not want to leave Ukraine, even though, I think, he would easily get political asylum. He lived in the UK for a long time as you know – he has good connections there. But he says that he is staying in Ukraine, that his aim is to continue Amina’s work. In this situation, the country must protect Adam, as he defended this territory with Amina. He does not have citizenship. And it will be a question of justice to present him with the citizenship of Ukraine.