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Russian Dossier Damns Chechen Leader
A confidential top-level Russian interior ministry document, obtained by IWPR in Chechnya, accuses Akhmad Kadyrov, Moscow’s chosen leader in the troubled republic, of using systematic extortion and violence to get himself elected president.
The document, a report from a colonel specially seconded to Chechnya, was written a year ago and acquired this summer. It paints a frightening picture of the republic as a place where life is cheap, violence universal and in which armed men who support or oppose Moscow act with equal brutality.
The author, Colonel A Zhizhin, makes it clear that armed resistance to Moscow is continuing three years after the start of the most recent military campaign. He writes of a “sharp deterioration in the situation in the Chechen Republic over recent months” caused by “an increase in acts of terrorism and sabotage committed against federal forces, as well as in attacks against officers of the Chechen police”.
Zhizhin goes on to warn, “The increased activities of the militants, Kadyrov’s low popularity in the republic, and frequently incompetent actions of the federal forces cause a negative response from most Chechen residents who mistrust the policies of the federals authorities.”
Kadyrov, who was appointed Moscow’s man in Chechnya in June 2000, is set to be re-elected leader of the republic on October 5, in a poll in which he has no serious rivals.
Officials in the office of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin’s main spokesman on Chechnya, have called the document a forgery. However, it was obtained by IWPR from a senior Chechen police official and carried an appropriate serial number, which was hidden during photocopying by folding over the corner of the page, in order to protect our source. The sheer detail and precise dating in the document, as well as its even-handed criticism of all sides, also suggests that it is genuine.
Some Russian officials claim that the situation in Chechnya has stabilised in the year since the document was written and especially after Moscow’s constitutional referendum in March. However, a spate of suicide bombings in the past year, claiming hundreds of lives, suggests that things are actually no better and may actually be worse.
Mikhail Burlakov, a former deputy in the Russian parliament, who comes from Grozny and was until recently head of the North Caucasus department of the nationalities ministry, told IWPR he had seen many similar documents and had no doubt that this was one was genuine. He said he believed the situation in Chechnya had deteriorated since the report was written.
Zhizhin signs the report as a member of the Criminal Police Internal Forces Operational Search Actions team. The latter (known in Russian by the acronym ORM) conduct what are a euphemistically known as zachistki, or “clean-ups”, which have terrorised Chechen villages. He recommends that his information be used in future operations.
The Russian interior ministry, which commissioned the report, is in bitter competition with the domestic security service, the FSB, for authority in Chechnya. “There are tensions between these two organs at the highest levels and these trickle down to the ground,” Burlakov said. This suggests that the report may have been part of a larger campaign by enemies of Putin’s favoured man in Chechnya, Kadyrov, to undermine his standing in Moscow.
Certainly, the report details what amounts to supporters of Kadyrov organising a campaign of extortion against businesses, farms and bureaucrats “supposedly to raise funds for Akhmad Kadyrov’s presidential election campaign”, many months before the election was announced. Three men who did not pay their dues on time in the Vedeno region were murdered by masked men, Zhizhin notes.
The man mentioned as Kadyrov’s main enforcer is Sulim Yamadayev, “deputy military commander” of Chechnya who is believed to control an armed group of up to 10,000 men.
“A group of armed men led by Khamzat Gayarbekov, who reports to…Yamadayev have arrived in Shelkovskaya District and have been collecting money from managers of state farms, industries, government offices, drivers and owners of oil delivery trucks,” the colonel writes. In the last year, Yamadayev is reported to have quarrelled with Kadyrov and become a more independent force.
Zhizhin is scathing about the Chechen police force – supposedly his colleagues in the interior ministry – who are said to be loyal to Kadyrov and adopting, he says, a “wait-and-see attitude” as the political situation changes.
A portrait of Chechnya emerges as a place at the mercy of powerful warlords, who are a law unto themselves. Zhizhin describes a situation in which fighters loyal to notorious pro-independence warriors Ruslan Gelayev and Shamil Basayev still operate in the city of Grozny – which is believed to be under secure Russian control – and move freely in daylight in Basayev’s home region of Vedeno.
“For most people in Chechnya, the meaning of life becomes serving one or other of the warring factions, ie Kadyrov, Yamadayev, Basayev and Gelayev,” commented Burlakov. “Each of these men have about 20 strong men behind them who, in turn, have influence over hundreds and thousands of men, and so can raise an army, when necessary. It is nonsense to talk of there being only 300 fighters left in the mountains. It does not work like that.”
Moscow only stands a real chance of imposing control over Chechnya if it can stem the flow of weapons to the rebels. Here too, Zhizhin’s report belies claims that support for the fighters is drying up. He writes that there is a vigorous arms trade in Khasavyurt, the western region of Dagestan that borders Chechnya.
Zhizhin also notes that other rebel fighters have moved to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, confirming fears that the conflict in Chechnya is spilling across its borders into the rest of the North Caucasus.
Clem Cecil is Moscow correspondent for The Times (of London). Thomas de Waal in London contributed to this report.
To read a copy of the report in English go to http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/cau/cau_200310_198_1_memo_eng.txt
To read the report in Russian go to
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