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Who Was Amina Okueva, The Chechen-Ukrainian Sniper Killed This Week?
3 November, 2017

Amina Okueva (1983-2017) was a representative of political movement Free Caucasus in Ukraine and a participant in Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation or ATO (the official government name for its efforts against Russia-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region). Her husband, Adam Osmaev, was accused of organizing an assassination attempt on Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

On June 1, 2017, Okueva and Osmaev survived an assassination attempt in Kyiv. On October 30, Okueva was killed when the couple’s automobile was attacked outside Kyiv.

Biography

Amina Okueva, née Natalia Nikiforova, was born in Odesa in 1983 and held Ukrainian citizenship. Together with her family, at different periods of her life, she lived in Moscow and Chechnya. In the late 1990s, she worked as a model in Moscow.

Okueva was in Chechnya, when the Second Chechen War erupted in 1999. A year later, she married a soldier named Isa Mustafinov and converted to Islam, changing her name first to Anastasia and then to Amina. The couple has a son Shamil. 

Amina Okueva during a presentation of the charity photo project - BUTEF calendae “Angels among us”, December 12, 2016. Photo credit: Vyacheslav Ratynskiy/UNIAN

After Mustafinov’s death, Okueva married Islam Tukhashev (his legal name at the time was Islam Okuev), whom Russian law enforcement agencies considered “a member of a subversive terrorist group.”

Together they moved to Odesa in 2003, where Okueva went on to study medicine.

“To be honest, at that time you couldn't even live peacefully in Moscow, let alone the Caucasus,” Okueva said in an interview with Radio Svoboda on September 5, 2014. “You had to destroy your personality entirely: reject your religion and social stances, become one of the crowd. And if you have some sort of individuality, some views, the Putin’s system will do everything to break you down and destroy you. There’s xenophobia, religious persecutions and so on.”

After graduating from the Odesa National Medical University, Okueva worked as an intern doctor in the general surgery department of a local hospital.

Euromaidan and the War

In winter 2013-2014, when the Euromaidan protests erupted in Kyiv, Okueva treated protesters in one of the tents. And when violence broke out on Hrushevsky Street, she was there alongside the “Afghan Hundred,” a group of Euromaidan activists made up of veterans of the Afghan war.

Starting in 2014, Okueva fought as part of the Kyiv-2 volunteer battalion against the armed supporters of the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine, She also served as press secretary for the Dhozkhar Dudaev International Peacekeeping Battalion.

At the scene of Amina Okueva’s death, near the railway crossing in Hlevakha, Kyiv region, October 30, 2017. Photo credit: Volodymyr Hontar/UNIAN

In June 2014, Okueva appeared on the Ukrainian talkshow Shuster Live, where she said that there are many people around the world willing to fight against Russian imperialism.

READ MORE: Ukrainian Sniper Amina Okueva Killed in Assassination Ambush

“They are ready to support Ukraine as part of a peacekeeping battalion,” she said. “One such organization is the one I am part of. It’s called Free Caucasus. It was founded by people who went through war, who were injured during the First Chechen War and then emigrated abroad… Due to the latest events with [pro-Kremlin Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov’s bandits going wild in the Ukrainian territories, these people would really like to join the Ukrainian army… We’re talking about 2,000 people willing to leave at any minute.”

Rhetoric

(Quotes from the film “Amina. On Life and War”)

On Russia and Putin

“I wanted to warn people about Russia at Maidan in December. [Ukraine’s former president Viktor] Yanukovych is a puppet that is being twitched. And behind all of this is Putin. I wanted to explain to people who their main enemy is and what is the root of the problems they’re protesting against. Odesa is under threat.”

On wearing a hijab in Russia

“I am Muslim. When I lived in the Caucasus, in Russia, in Moscow, we were seriously oppressed on a state level with regular inspections, detentions. In Chechnya, it was life-threatening to wear a hijab, a Muslim headscarf. It is considered an act of bravery there. [They] scoff at you, tear your clothes off. I do not feel [such treatment] in Ukraine. There isn’t such a problem [here].”

On Kadyrov’s men

“Kadyrovtsy (the Chechen paramilitary loyal to Kadyrov) are national traitors. Treason and aiding the occupier is the worst kind of betrayal. These are the people who stooped to serving centuries-old murderers, the slaughterers of their own nation, who are forced to destroy and humiliate their nation in return for a bowl of gruel — a pittance.”

On Chechnya’s “iron curtain”

“[In Chechnya] there is a total iron curtain. Journalists are only allowed to work there under the guidance and surveillance of the Kadyrovtsy. They can only go and film in specifically designated areas. They realize that if they were to interview someone in a way they wanted to, they would face death.”

On the war in Ukraine

“It is very likely that the ongoing war will spread. Russia is the main terrorist state in the world. This is a war against Russian occupiers, Russian terrorists; in that way, it’s an anti-terrorist operation. They are very well equipped terrorists. Of course, the right thing to do would be to impose martial law.”

On threats

“There is this saying in Odesa that goes “You'll get tired of waiting!” Yes, Russian bloggers call me a “Chechen terrorist.” Virtually every day I receive threats from Russia-based Chechens on Facebook and Twitter. But they don’t scare me.”

“We constantly hear about orders to kill us coming from the Russian special services, as well as Kadyrov’s groups. So naturally, we are always cautious and unable to relax, always equipped and trying to cover for one another.”

Political Career

In 2014, Okueva ran to become a parliamentarian in Ukraine through local elections in Odesa. The decision to nominate her as a candidate for elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine was made by the presidium of the Free Caucasus organization.

She received the support of Isa Munaev, a Chechen military commander who fought for the independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria from Russia.

Amina Okueva (right) in east Ukraine, where she took part in the military action as part of the Kyiv-2 volunteer battalion. Photo credit: Arsen Karapetyan

“We endorse Amina’s candidacy [for the Verkhovna Rada.],” he said at a press conference in Odesa on October 23, 2014. “I think that would be a victory for Ukraine too. She is truly more Ukrainian than she is Chechen, for instance. So support Amina, you won’t regret it.”

Amina Okueva, archive photo, October 2014. Photo credit: Varvara Chernoivanenko

On Facebook and Wordpress, as part of her election campaign, Okueva used photographs of herself wearing a hijab and holding a gun. The campaign posters read “Rescuing Ukraine.” In her appeal to voters, she used anti-Russian rhetoric calling Russia the “evil and insidious enemy” with “imperial ambitions.”

Okueva did not gain the 50% votes required to win.

Assassination attempts

On June 1, 2017, Okueva and Osmaev were hospitalized in Kyiv after receiving serious gunshot wounds. According to Ukrainian Interior Ministry Spokesperson Artem Shevchenko, it was an assassination attempt.

“A daring and insidious assassination made an attempt on the lives of Ukrainian patriots and ATO participants Adam Osmaev and Amina Okueva in Kyiv’s Podil neighborhood. The perpetrator disguised himself as a foreign journalist wanting to interview them...[During the interview,] he fired his gun and wounded Adam. His wife, in a self-defense, opened fire and seriously wounded the assassin. Both of them have serious gunshot wounds and are being treated in hospital. The police are working at the scene. An investigation has been launched,” Shevchenko wrote on his Facebook page.

Amina Okueva with her husband Adam Osmaev. Photo credit: facebook.com

According to our source in the law enforcement agencies, Okueva and Osmaev had “agreed to an interview on Kyiv’s Kyrylivska Street with somebody who posed as a French journalist from Le Monde.” The man posing as a journalist took a Glock pistol out of a box and fired at Osmaev’s chest. Okueva then fired at the perpetrator four times from a Makarov pistol awarded to her [by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.]

READ MORE: High-Profile Attack on Foreign Fighter in Kyiv, Explained

Later Okueva wrote on her Facebook page that “the hitman turned out to be a tricky one. He was responsible for multiple murders of Chechens, including some in Europe.”

The second assassination attempt on October 30, 2017 proved to be lethal for Okueva. She died after her car was fired upon in the town of Hlevakha outside Kyiv, and her husband was wounded.

The police examining the scene of Alina Okueva’s death near the railway crossing in Hlevakha, Kyiv region, October 30, 2017. Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchyk/HROMADSKE

Parliamentarian and Ukrainian Interior Ministry Adviser Anton Herashchenko announced on October 31 that investigators are considering two main versions of Okueva’s murder.

“There are two main versions: the actions of the Russian special services,… [and] the second version is revenge on Adam Osmaev for [attempting an assassination on] Kadyrov,” the parliamentarian said. He added that it is likely that there were actually two perpetrators.

Only a few people attended Okueva’s funeral: her mother, husband, close friends, and comrades. For safety reasons, its location was not disclosed to the public.  

/Translated and adapted by Maria Romanenko