The Chechen Republic stands as one of Russia’s economically challenged areas, heavily reliant on financial aid from the central government to sustain its budget.
However, despite its economic struggles, the region’s influential figures display conspicuous affluence. Ramzan Kadyrov, the enduring Moscow-backed leader of Chechnya, indulges in passions such as thoroughbred horses and exotic animals. He extends invitations to Hollywood stars for his birthday celebrations, and his daughter even organized a fashion show in Paris. Kadyrov, known for his opulent lifestyle, once showcased his expensive cars and luxurious surroundings on Instagram before being banned from the platform.
Kadyrov claims that his money comes from God. However, the elites in Chechnya also have more tangible sources of income. Reporters from The Project, an independent Russian publication and OCCRP partner, have documented multiple business disputes where a relatively unknown Russian businessman, Pavel Krotov, has intervened to broker resolutions—only to end up with a significant portion of the assets.
In each profitable case, sources indicate that Krotov was representing the interests of Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the Russian parliament and one of the most powerful politicians in the Chechen Republic, following Kadyrov.
While aspects of these stories have been reported independently, emails exchanged by Krotov and obtained by reporters, along with new interviews with insiders, corporate records, and property records, reveal that his involvement in each dispute was part of a larger pattern.
An authenticated police document seems to confirm what multiple sources are hesitant to state on the record: Krotov’s methods included using force against opposing parties. In an investigation into a formal complaint against Krotov, police noted that the businessman employed “unjustified criminal-law methods of influence.” In interviews, several sources conveyed to reporters that Krotov had a tendency to invoke his connections to Delimkhanov, causing them to fear for their safety and decline to be quoted by name.
None of the main parties involved in the described business conflicts agreed to speak to reporters on the record. Most of those contacted refused to provide information under any circumstances.
Krotov himself denies any connections to Chechen politicians, dismissing reporters’ questions as “pure nonsense.”
“I’ve never been any kind of negotiator,” he stated. “I do business. I work to create.” Krotov claimed that all his investments were made with his own money and that he has no acquaintance with Kadyrov or Delimkhanov. “As an Orthodox Christian Russian person, I definitely don’t work for any Chechen elites,” he added. He also denied numerous specific claims related to the cases where he allegedly resolved disputes.
Representatives of Delimkhanov and Kadyrov did not respond to requests for comment.
“Closer Than a Brother”
Ramzan Kadyrov has been effusive in his praise for Adam Delimkhanov, even going so far as to designate him as his potential successor, stating, “I’ve prepared a person who can replace me.” In 2009, Kadyrov referred to Delimkhanov as his closest friend, closer than a brother.
During the 1990s, reports indicate that Delimkhanov worked as a driver for Salman Raduev, a notorious Chechen terrorist responsible for taking hundreds of civilians hostage during the first Chechen war. However, in 1999, Delimkhanov switched allegiances, actively participating in operations against Chechen militants and surviving an assassination attempt.
Delimkhanov’s penchant for violence is well-known within Russia’s parliament. In one incident, following a disagreement with a fellow legislator concerning Chechnya, Delimkhanov punched him in the head, triggering a struggle during which he accidentally dropped a gold-plated pistol.
Throughout the 2000s, he served in Chechnya’s interior ministry, eventually rising to the position of the republic’s first deputy prime minister in charge of security issues. In 2007, he secured a seat in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.
Russian media has linked Delimkhanov to multiple killings of Kadyrov’s adversaries, although he has never faced murder charges in Russia. In 2009, Dubai authorities accused him of murdering a former Chechen general, resulting in Delimkhanov being on Interpol’s wanted list for several years. He has consistently denied all these allegations.
In 2014, the United States imposed sanctions on Delimkhanov for his ties to the Brothers’ Circle, a regional organized criminal group.
Collecting a Debt
The initial instance of Pavel Krotov seemingly acting on behalf of Adam Delimkhanov dates back to 2010.
Filaret Galchev, the billionaire owner of Eurocement Group, Russia’s largest cement producer, faced a challenging situation. In 2007, Galchev had acquired a partner’s minority share in the business for $1 billion, agreeing to pay annual installments of $200 million. However, after making the first two payments on time, he missed the third. Galchev’s former partner initiated legal proceedings, then, growing impatient, sold the remaining debt at a discount. Pavel Krotov, a businessman registered at the time only as the CEO or co-owner of smaller companies with no significant assets, acquired the right to demand payment from Galchev for the remaining sum of $600 million.
Upon Krotov’s involvement, Galchev found a way to promptly settle his debt.
During that period, Russian business media, citing unnamed sources, reported that Krotov acted as a representative of Delimkhanov, with limited additional details. New evidence obtained by The Project now corroborates these earlier reports, linking Krotov to Russia’s most influential Chechens.
“A Few False Entrances”
Four individuals with business ties to Krotov have affirmed to reporters that he acted as a representative of Delimkhanov. However, due to safety concerns, none of these individuals allowed reporters to disclose their names.
Security consultant Alexei Shlyapuzhnikov from Transparency International and a member of OCCRP’s technology team examined the emails used in the story. They indicated that the emails appeared to be authentic, although their digital signatures were either missing or outdated, preventing definitive confirmation of their origin.
Thousands of private emails sent and received by Krotov were obtained by reporters, showing that his correspondents understood him to be working on behalf of Delimkhanov. These emails also revealed Krotov’s connections to Kadyrov. In the late 2000s, he played a role in managing the construction of the politician’s residence. Correspondence discussed various details, including the building’s budget, design, and security features.
In one email, Krotov receives recommendations from a contractor on securing Kadyrov’s compound, suggesting the placement of the bunker beyond the building’s perimeter and connecting it with underground passages. The email attachment reads, “it is better to bring the bunker out beyond the perimeter of the building and connect them with underground passages. Ideally, none of the staff should know where the entrance to the bunker is located. Maybe it’s worth organizing a few false entrances.” It continues, addressing safety concerns about placing the President’s apartments above administrative spaces.
One individual involved in the construction work also confirmed to reporters that Krotov was “working for Delimkhanov.”