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How Chechens selling arms to Azeris were killed in London

How Chechens selling arms to Azeris were killed in London

Armenian-style mission

In late February 1993, a high ranking Chechen official, an aide to rebel leader and the first President of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Dzhokhar Dudayev, 38-year-old Ruslan Outsiev and his brother Nazarbek, 20, were killed at their London penthouse. As it turned out later, the assassination was linked to the Armenian security service members.

PanARMENIAN.Net - According to the primary lead, the two were killed to prevent purchase of missiles for Azerbaijan. PAN has studied the publications in foreign and Armenian Diaspora’s media outlets and presents the key circumstances of the incident.

Official Grozny said at that time that the Outsiev brothers arrived in London as Dudayev’s envoys with a brief to arrange the printing of passports and banknotes for the new Chechen state. However, along with their public mandate to print the documents of the putative Chechen state, they had a number of other missions: to secure a $250 million loan from an American businessman for the modernization of Chechnya's huge oil refineries; to conclude negotiations with the German energy company Stinnes AG for the quick sale of Chechen oil at world prices; and as investigators later discovered, to purchase 2,000 ground-to-air Stinger missiles.

Ruslan Outsiev was the volatile Dudayev's most trusted adviser and a hard-liner in the faction-ridden administration. His brother was a martial arts expert and general muscle-for-hire, although, Grozny said, he left for the British capital to study English. In London, Ruslan Outsiev posed as Chechen Prime Minister, but he actually was a vice chairman of the supreme presidential council headed by Dudayev.

As it often happens, Ruslan Outsiev was also a criminal authority with haughty ways. He visited expensive restaurants, booked ‘elite’ prostitutes and bought a flat for £700,000 (according to some sources, he paid £1,000,000) in Sherlock Holmes's reputed domicile at 221B Baker Street.

To embark on complex negotiations, the Chechen government representatives needed a skilled interpreter and fixer. Ruslan Outsiev remembered that he was once interviewed by a BBC producer, Alison Ponting, and he turned to her for help. She suggested her husband, Gagik Ter-Oganisyan, who lived in London since 1988 and was a swimming-pool attendant at Wandsworth baths, hoping, perhaps, that he would find gainful employment. Thus, Ter-Oganisyan was hired by Outsiev for his London trip as a translator, guide and adviser.

A student of Russian and Eastern European Studies at Manchester University, Alison Ponting, visited Armenia in 1984 for a training, when she met Ter-Oganisyan, fell in love and kept up communicating upon returning to Britain. In 1988, they got married in Yerevan and moved to London, where Gagik, a salesman, started working as a swimming-pool attendant. Later, with his wife’s help, he went into business, exporting computers, faxes and cheap clothes to the post-soviet state.

Ter-Oganisyan attended the meetings Outsiev held and witnessed signing of contacts. At some point, relations between the Armenian and the Chechens soured. Later, England's Crown Prosecution Service insisted that Ter-Oganisyan had discovered that the Stinger missiles were destined for Azerbaijan to be deployed in the war against his home country, Armenia. Ter-Oganisyan alerted one of his friends, Armenian KGB member Mkrtich Martirosyan, to the Utsiev brothers' activities. The prosecution also said that a couple of hitmen were dispatched from Los Angeles, the center of the Armenian Diaspora in the United States, to London.

Gagik Ter-Oganisyan (on the left) and Outsiev brothers

Disguised as the head of the Armenian chamber of commerce, senior KGB member Ashot Sargsyan arrived in London to prevent the bargain. With the help of Alison Ponting, who was, however, unaware of the goings-on, Martirosyan also got a UK entry visa.

Upon his arrival, Martorisyan met with Outsiev in Langham Hotel (Ter-Oganisyan was also present) to dissuade him from the purchase of missiles. However, Outsiev did not change his mind, thus, according to the British prosecutors, signing his own death-warrant. Determined to eliminate the Chechen, Martorisyan left for Los Angeles to hire a killer, Ashot Detmenjian. (In some documents the hitman is mentioned as Arthur, but he was presumably the same person, A. Detmenjian.) On February 20, Martorisyan returned to London, rented an apartment in a suburb and waited for the killer to arrive. However, due to certain visa problems, Detmenjian failed to reach Great Britain.

Langham Hotel in London

On February 26, Nazarbek Outsiev went into hospital for a sinus operation, providing the perfect opportunity for his older brother's murder. The Chechen official was killed with three shots to the head in his luxury apartment. Two days later, Nazarbek was killed the same way upon being released from hospital. The only reason for killing the younger brother was, as it turned out later, to prevent inevitable revenge of the outraged Chechen kin.

After purchasing a fridge-freezer with a cardboard box to hold the elder Outsiev's decomposing body, the Armenians paid two delivery men £450 to take “17th century statue” to a rented flat in London suburb. Unfortunately, the box split and the smell alarmed the men. By the time they contacted police, Nazarbek was also dead.

The policemen detained Martirosyan and Ter-Oganisyan, when they entered the Outsievs’ apartment with electric saw and sacks to disjoint Nazarbek’s body and take it away. The gun was also found at the site.

Alison Ponting was arrested as well. However, she was released after the police found out that she was completely unaware of the events.

The reasons for the double homicide were not immediately clear and the police initially thought that the brothers were killed in a robbery attempt, but the circumstances that were revealed in the course of the investigation prompted that the motive was different.

Days after the murder, Chehchen media outlets reported that it was masterminded by the Russian special services with a purpose to intimidate the Chechen leadership and make them sign the federal agreement. After the arrest, Ter-Oganisyan pleaded not guilty of killing the Outsiev brothers. The prosecution later said that he had taken a German translator on a diversionary shopping trip on that day.

Martirosyan, on the contrary, admitted the crime and confessed being a member of the Armenian national security service and acting by the order of Ashot Sargsyan. However, he later retracted, saying that the brothers were killed by a hired hitman. During the arrest, policemen discovered a small phial of snake venom under a bandage on Martirosyan’s wrist, apparently intended for his suicide. Shortly afterwards, customs officers intercepted another phial of snake venom sent by an Armenian in the United States to Ter-Oganisyan's home presumably ordered by his wife. Alison Ponting was arrested again but soon released for absence of a crime in the act.

When in jail, Martirosyan had a visitor. According to some sources, it was Ashot Sargsyan, who gave him a flap dipped into snake poison to cut his hand and thus commit suicide. However, this attempt was also frustrated. Finally, Martirosyan hung himself in the prison cell.

The British police described Martirosyan as a clever man with a good sense of humor, despite being a brutal criminal. According to sources, the KGB threatened to settles scores with his family members in Yerevan. “The KGB will not forgive anyone,” Martirosyan used to say.

The man’s body was transported to Armenia by the request of his family. The employees of the Armenian embassy in London were not present at the trial and denied any connection of the national security service to the double homicide.

The police failed to find Sargsyan in the UK, however, he was killed in Moscow several months later in unclear circumstances.

As to Ter-Oganisyan, his direct involvement in the crime was not established in court. Although, the prosecution never knew who pulled the trigger as there were no fingerprints on the gun, Ter-Oganisyan was given a life sentence in October 2013. His wife suffered severe stress. In addition to his husband’s verdict she has become an object of revenge for the Chechens. Her life was attempted several times until her sister, Karen, who looked alike, was shot dead at the door of her house in April 1994. After the incident, Ponting was guarded by the police for a long time. There is no information available about her fate.

On the front picture, you see Afghan Mujahideen with Stinger missiles during the war

Sources:

Independent. Armenian jailed for London KGB killings: Arms deal led to deaths of brothers from rebel Russian republic in luxury flat

The New York Times. “McMafia”

E. Mickolus, S. Simmons, Terrorism, 1992-1995: A Chronology of Events and A Selectively Annotated Bibliography , 1997 Kommersant. Chechens killed for attempt to help Azerbaijan

Armenian International Magazine, Mission unraveled. The macabre case of the Dead Chechens, 1993, December

Hyusisapayl. “How Chechens’ attempt to buy Stinger missiles was frustrated”

Samson Hovhannisyan / PanARMENIAN.Net
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