Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 01/2009

North Caucasus Weekly- Volume IX, Issue 46

December 2008

North Caucasus Weekly (formerly Chechnya Weekly), The Jamestown Foundation


* Women Found Murdered in Chechnya
* Aushev: Moscow Should Talk to Rebels in the North Caucasus
* Assassination of Vladikavkaz Mayor: Business or Politics?
* Briefs
* Kadyrov Claims Demise of Insurgency: Rebels Respond with Wave of New Attacks
By Mairbek Vatchagaev
* Lezgin Refugees from Dagestan Seek Refuge in Georgia's Kakheti Region

Women Found Murdered in Chechnya

The federal Investigative Committee said November 26 that they had launched an investigation into the murder of six women whose bodies were found that morning in and around the Chechen capital Grozny. Interfax reported that three of the bodies were found in Grozny's Staropromyslovsky district, two others were found on the road to a defunct recreational camp near the Grozny district village of Gikalo and the sixth body was found on the Grozny-Chervlyonnaya road near the village of Petropavlovskaya. The Associated Press reported that five of the six women were Chechens.

According to the Associated Press, four of the women had been shot in both the head and chest, while two had been shot just in the head. Three were believed to be 25-30 years old. The news agency cited a Chechen Interior Ministry official who said that the women were killed with similar weapons but did not elaborate. The Moscow Times, citing Interfax, reported on November 28 that a Kalashnikov assault rifle had been used in several of the killings.

Interfax on November 27 cited Viktor Ledenev, chief investigator with the Investigative Committee's Chechen branch, as saying that preliminary findings indicated the women may have been targeted because they were seen as leading "amoral lifestyles."

Interfax reported on November 29 that the body of another murdered woman had been found a kilometer and a half outside of Enginoi, a village northwest of Grozny. Novaya Gazeta, however, reported on December 1 that the body of the seventh woman was found near the village of Valerik in Chechnya's Achkhoi-Martan district.

The Associated Press quoted police as saying that the woman, aged roughly 25, had been shot in the head, doused with a flammable liquid and torched. The news agency also reported that right groups believe the women may have been victims of honor killings--killings by relatives whom disapprove of their lifestyles or conduct.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta on November 29 quoted Chechnya's human rights commissioner, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, as saying of the murders: "Unfortunately, some of our young women have forgotten the mountain woman's code of behavior. The male relatives of these women feel they have been insulted and sometimes take the law into their own hands." The newspaper noted that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had launched a "sweeping campaign for the moral education of youth." Indeed, Kadyrov has more than once stressed the need for Chechen women to wear modest traditional clothing, including headscarves (North Caucasus Weekly, January 10; September 13, 2007).

Kadyrov, for his part, condemned the killings of the women as "outrageous," telling a Cabinet meeting on November 28 that the murders could not be justified by any traditions, particularly since "neither the people nor Islam have such traditions," the Regnum News Agency reported. Kadyrov said he had called for "strengthening prophylactic work" aimed at preventing such crimes and for work aimed at "spiritual and moral education."

Movskovsky Komsomolets correspondent Vadim Rechkalov suggested in an article published in the newspaper's November 29 edition that the perpetrators of these murders are considered by the public to be insufficiently moral and "are acting if not on the orders, then with the tacit approval of the Chechen authorities." He also wrote that the murders might end up being pinned on a "Wahhabi" group whose members will be killed by security forces ostensibly trying to detain them. Rechkalov wrote that Chechen officials had no right to impugn the morals of the murdered women prior to an investigation, thereby casting a shadow on both them and their relatives. He also suggested such an approach would end up creating moral outcasts who could easily be recruited by terrorists.

Novaya Gazeta military columnist Vyacheslav Izmailov wrote in the newspaper's December 1 issue that if the women were not killed by a group of "maniacs," then they were most likely slain "out of revenge, on suspicion of violating some kind of moral and religious principles."

Izmailov added: "In [Aslan] Maskhadov's Ichkeria, for example, women accused of adultery were shot publicly in the center of Grozny and those executions were shown on television. ... I know a case in which a candidate for president of Chechnya poured ketchup over his wife who was lying on the floor and then photographed her in order to show his relatives and friends how he dealt with her--emphasizing that he regarded women as slaves. At a residence for temporarily displaced people I spoke with a woman who was thrown out into the streets by relatives of her husband along with her six young children after her husband divorced her and did not want to pay alimony. She was willing to do any work to feed her children."

Izmailov also suggested that the current Chechen authorities--meaning Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's administration--be asked "how they feel about women who are forced to sell themselves in order to feed their children."

In addition, Izmailov wrote that his sources had told him that relatives of the slain women had launched their own investigation of the murders. "According to the investigation by local residents, the murders of the women may be connected to suspicions that they were linked to the illegal armed formations," Izmailov wrote, referring to the separatist rebels.

Aushev: Moscow Should Talk to Rebels in the North Caucasus

RIA Novosti reported on December 3 that a police colonel, Isa Yevloyev, was wounded when unidentified attackers opened fire on the car he was driving in Nazran, Ingushetia. The news agency quoted an unnamed officer in the Investigations Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office for Ingushetia as saying that Yevloyev was hospitalized and that his life was not in danger.

Interfax reported that a hand grenade was thrown into the yard of a house belonging to relatives of a former prosecutor in Nazran on December 1. No one was hurt but the house was damaged. The prosecutor, Girikhan Khazbiyev, now works outside Ingushetia. Unidentified gunmen attacked a private hotel in Nazran, late on November 30. Interfax quoted a military source as saying that no one was hurt in the drive-by shooting. A short time later, unidentified gunmen in a VAZ-2114 car fired on a food store in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya. A Sunzha district police source told Interfax that no one was hurt in the attack, but that the building was seriously damaged.

The Associated Press reported on November 30 that police in the town of Karabulak said two men had firebombed a store that was selling liquor. The Regnum News Agency reported that on the morning of November 30, a 76-year-old cleric, Sultan Yalkharoyev, an aide to the imam of a mosque in the town of Malgobek, was shot outside the mosque and died on the way to the hospital.

Unidentified attackers fired on a convoy of Interior Ministry troops as it was moving between the village of Troitskaya and the town of Karabulak on November 29, Interfax reported. Two servicemen were hospitalized with minor wounds. reported on November 29 that an explosion had damaged four gambling machines at a gaming hall in Ordzhonikidzevskaya. No one was hurt in the blast.

Itar-Tass reported that an explosive device detonated in a Karabulak market on November 28 as bomb disposal experts were trying to defuse another bomb there. No one was hurt, but the explosion slightly damaged buildings in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev reiterated in an interview published in Kommersant-Vlast on December 1 his view that the choice of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov to replace Murat Zyazikov as Ingushetia's president was a good one. Aushev, however, also said that despite the fact that nearly a hundred thousand residents of Ingushetia had signed a petition calling for his return as the republic's president, his return to the Ingush presidency was not possible given his differences with the Kremlin. Among other things, Aushev stressed his opposition to then Russian President Vladimir Putin's September 2004 decision to end the popular election of governors and confirmed he had signed a petition calling on the Kremlin to pardon Svetlana Bakhmina, the former lawyer for the Yukos oil company who was jailed and recently gave birth in prison and has two other young children.

Yet Aushev, who personally negotiated with the hostage-takers during the September 2004 Beslan school siege and won the release of 26 hostages--11 women and 15 children--suggested his biggest difference with the Kremlin was his insistence that it needs to talk with armed rebels in the North Caucasus.

On the one hand, Aushev conceded that there are "many Islamic radicals" among the rebels fighting in the North Caucasus. "They say: we are not interested in independence for the republics; we want to build an emirate in the North Caucasus," he said. "These are Caucasian Taliban, like in Afghanistan."

Still, Aushev added: "One must understand why these militants exist. They are supported by part of the population, otherwise they would not survive. And why does the population support the militants? Because they are angry at the authorities. The population has two misfortunes--the corruption of officials and the impunity of the security structures. In order to solve the problem, it is necessary to rely on the people. And in order to rely on the people, one has to do what is necessary in order for the people to do well."

Assassination of Vladikavkaz Mayor: Business or Politics?

Russia's state run Vesti-24 television channel reported on December 2 that police in North Ossetia had detained five people in connection with the November 26 assassination of Vladikavkaz Mayor Vitaly Karayev. According to Bloomberg News, Vesti-24 reported that police in North Ossetia had carried out 70 raids in the republic and made the arrests after finding compromising evidence. The channel reported that investigators believe Karayev's murder was linked to his obstruction of illegal sales of state land to private investors.

As the Moscow Times reported on November 28, Karayev was struck in the heart by a single bullet in an apparent sniper attack near his home in Vladikavkaz, and he died later in the hospital.

In a statement posted November 27 on the Islamist rebel website Kavkaz-Center, the group Kataib al-Khoul, also known as the Ossetian Jamaat, said one of its senior leaders shot and killed Karayev. As the Moscow Times noted, the statement said Karayev was killed because he had ordered a crackdown in Vladikavkaz on women wearing traditional Muslim garb in the wake of a November 6 attack by a female suicide bomber in the city that left 12 people dead (North Caucasus Weekly, November 13). The statement also denied that Islamist rebels based in North Ossetia were linked to that bombing, saying they had never planned or executed attacks on civilians, with the exception of "informers and those who are openly hostile to the religion of Allah."

Dagestan's armed Islamic underground, the Sharia Jamaat, recently threatened to kill anyone who tries to prevent women from wearing hijab--headscarves or veils (North Caucasus Weekly, November 13).

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on December 1 that gunmen firing from a car had killed two policemen in North Ossetia. One policeman died when unknown attackers shot from a passing car at a roadblock outside Vladikavkaz. Another policeman was then killed when his vehicle was fired on by the same gunmen. RIA Novosti said the attackers, armed with automatic rifles, must have encountered the second policeman as they fled from the scene of the first shooting.


Security Forces, Militants Killed in Chechnya Skirmishes

Russian Interior Ministry officers killed two militants in a wooded area near the village of Kerla-Yurt in Chechnya's Groznensky district, Interfax reported on December 3. A law-enforcement source told the news agency that none of the policemen was hurt and that they had seized weapons and explosives that the rebels had stockpiled. Two Russian servicemen were injured on December 2 when a mine went off as they were patrolling forested mountains in Chechnya's southern Vedeno region, the Associated Press reported. Interfax reported on November 29 that security forces killed two rebel fighters and captured three in a forest just outside the village of Proletarskoye in Chechnya's Groznensky district. Interfax cited on November 28 that the headquarters of the Combined Group of Forces reported that a policeman was killed and five others wounded in a clash with more than 20 rebel fighters in Chechnya's Nozhai-Yurt district near the administrative border with Dagestan.
FSB Chief Says North Caucasus Security Situation Remains Difficult

Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov said on November 27 that the fight against terrorism in Russia remains difficult, particularly in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported. "The level of terrorist crimes in the country, especially in the North Caucasus, has remained high," Bortnikov told the heads of anti-terrorist commissions in regions of the Central Federal District during a meeting in the town of Krasnogorsk (Moscow Oblast). Bortnikov said armed attacks by "criminals" on the authorities in Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya, as well as "the escalation of the situation in regions adjacent to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone," constitute "threats to Russia's national interests and its security."

Kadyrov Claims Demise of Insurgency: Rebels Respond with Wave of New Attacks
By Mairbek Vatchagaev

Right after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's sensational statement that he was unable to find a single militant in Chechnya (Radio Ekho Moskvy, November 15)--which he attributed to the fact that none were left--the militants carried out several actions in the republic.

For example on November 17, in the course of a reconnaissance operation in a forested area close to the Komsomolskoe settlement in Chechnya's Urus-Martan district, the Russian Defense Ministry troops discovered a 10-member group of militants ( Both sides suffered casualties in the ensuing brief armed clash. On November 19, an explosion claimed the life of the commander of this reconnaissance unit. The explosion took place as the Russian Defense Ministry troops were carrying out reconnaissance operations. The commander of the reconnaissance unit died on the spot from injuries sustained in the blast (, November 20). A day later, on November 20, Supyan Girmekhanov, deputy of the District Department of Internal Affairs for Chechnya's Shatoi district, was gunned down in Grozny during a combat operation to blockade militants in the republic's capital (Kavkaz-Center, November 29). According to Kavkaz-Center, which is subordinated to the ideologist of the Chechen resistance's radical wing, Movladi Udugov, Girmekhanov was killed in a rebel ambush.

On November 21, a police officer was wounded in a shootout in Chechnya. Using the cover of a forested area, a group of unidentified gunmen opened fire from automatic weapons and an underbarrel grenade launcher on police officers who were conducting a reconnaissance operation in the vicinity of the Roshni-Chu settlement in the Urus-Martan district (Itar-Tass, November 21). It should be noted that similar actions occurred in this area in the past as well. As a matter of fact, the recurrent assaults in this region forced the Russian army and Chechen authorities to conduct a large-scale military operation to eliminate the militants in the foothills of Chechnya's Urus-Martan district. During the weeklong operation, the Russian army and special services engaged detachments of Chechen militants on a number of occasions. All information from the conflict zone has been classified. According to a militant source, over the course of the fighting the Russian army and special services lost at least 12 people. At the same time, according to information from independent sources that cannot be verified, only one jamaat member died in combat (Kavkaz-Center, November 23). It was possible to discern from implied messages that the Chechen police also participated in the operation. Reports in the Russian media indicated that the militants wounded an officer of the Criminal Investigations Division of the District Department of Internal Affairs for Chechnya's Zavodskoy district--police Lieutenant A.M. Jiguev (

On November 23, four persons died in the republic's Grozny district as a result of an assault by the militants. The attack began around 11 p.m. local time, when a NIVA vehicle belonging to a local resident, Musa Talkhadov, came under automatic gunfire from unknown gunmen on Sadovaya Street in the village of Sadovoe. The commotion and noise brought relatives and neighbors to the residence of Talkhadov. These included the car owner's brother, Lecha Talkhadov, who was deputy commander of the police regiment of the extra-departmental protection service for the Chechen Republic's oil and gas complex. Everyone was caught in a crossfire set up by the militants. In addition, the noise attracted the attention of Magomed-Sherip Dadaev, an advisor to the Mufti of the Chechen Republic and one of the most famous Muslim theologians of Chechnya, who lived in the neighborhood ( and was also killed by the militants.

In the district where Ramzan Kadyrov was unable to find militants, a special operation was carried out at the end of November with the assistance of Dagestani police reinforcements. The cause of the operation, as it turns out, was the discovery of a 20-member group of militants in the vicinity of the village Simsir, which is located close to the administrative border between Chechnya and Dagestan. The group was discovered only after the militants attacked the police. One officer was killed and five were wounded in the shootout (Interfax, November 29). Personnel of the district Departments of Internal Affairs for Dagestan's Novolaksky and Kazbeksky districts were alerted and launched search and reconnaissance operations (

On November 29, another clash took place between militants and the police, this time on the northern outskirts of Grozny in the vicinity of the settlement of Proletarskoye. Only after the police reinforcements arrived did the combined police forces manage to kill two militants, who put up fierce resistance ( Also on November 29, two federal Interior Ministry servicemen were blown up by an anti-personnel landmine in Chechnya's mountainous Vedeno district. The blast occurred as Interior Ministry troops were conducting operations in a forested area of the village of Elistanzhi (

Particular attention should be paid to the increasing number of clashes within the city boundaries of Grozny proper, as well as in the villages located close to the republic's capital. This may be related to the fact that some militants have in all likelihood decided to return to the city to spend the winter there. The level of food supply and finances from the population to the militants is now different from what it was prior to 2006-2007. In other words, out of fear of antagonizing the Chechen authorities and Ramzan Kadyrov, local residents are trying to maintain some semblance of neutrality, which has an adverse impact on the militants' food supply. Anyone suspected of supporting the militants is instantly arrested, and such arrests are publicized by Chechnya's mass media in order to warn those who have not yet been caught.  The militants' popular support always worried the authorities, but this year they decided to act. In the ensuing mass detentions, many were accused of participating in and financing illegal armed formations, which under Russian law is punishable by imprisonment.

In general, the situation in the North Caucasus region remains unstable and the authorities anticipate strikes from militants at any time. This has forced the federal authorities to take a note of the developments there. The director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, admitted on November 27 that "the level of terrorist manifestations in Russia, and especially in North Caucasus, remains high" and that the situation "remains complicated." However, as has been the usual practice for decades, the Russian leadership blames all such misfortunes on foreign meddling--as the FSB director demonstrated when he stated that "the November 6 terrorist act in Vladikavkaz, where, as a result of an explosion in a taxi mini van, 12 people died and more than 40 were wounded, should be attributed to the militants, who are connected with the international terrorist network" (

Bortnikov's comments exemplify the authorities' persistent unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that the North Caucasian jamaats have entered a developmental stage in which the influence of foreign centers is, in essence, only of marginal and nominal importance. The local jamaat structures operate independently from anyone. The only support that they need now is of a financial nature, although when it comes to this issue as well they are sufficiently independent thanks to the 100,000-strong Chechen Diaspora scattered around the world. In fact, this is their main strength--because they can function autonomously--and it underscores their ability to grow as an ideological movement fed by the ideological support of Chechen youth.

Dr. Mairbek Vatchagaev is the author of the book, "Chechnya in the 19th Century Caucasian Wars."

Lezgin Refugees from Dagestan Seek Refuge in Georgia's Kakheti Region
By Alexander Melikishvili

According to the two reports, which appeared on the website of the Georgian non-governmental organization Human Rights Center (HRIDC) on October 27 and November 4, dozens of ethnic Lezgin refugees arrived in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia in the past month and a half. The choice of Kakheti region is not coincidental as the Lezgin refugees seek shelter with their relatives and kinsmen in the three Lezgin-populated villages of the Kvareli District--Tivi, Saruso and Chantliskure (Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dagestanian Lezghins now refugees in Georgia," November 4, 2008, HRIDC; Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dagestanian Lezghins found shelter with their relatives in the villages of Kvareli District," October 27, 2008, HRIDC).

According to Gela Mtivlishvili of HRIDC, the Lezgin refugees stated that the situation in Dagestan in general and Makhachkala District in particular has become quite tense recently. Under direct orders from the Russian federal military command, local law enforcement authorities are carrying out the mandatory enlistment of young males between the ages of 18 and 38 for induction into the Russian armed forces and anyone, who refuses to join, is arrested. Magamed Khaibulaev, one of the newly arrived Lezgin refugees, told the HRIDC that no one is offering to provide an explanation as why young men are being recruited. The Dagestanis see the connection between the compulsory recruitment and Georgian-Russian conflict as well as the reemergence of militant activities in Ingushetia (Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dagestanian Lezghins now refugees in Georgia," November 4, 2008, HRIDC; Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dagestanian Lezghins found shelter with their relatives in the villages of Kvareli District," October 27, 2008, HRIDC).

Khaibulaev also told the HRIDC, "Compulsory recruitment started on October 20. Local law enforcers came to our houses and informed us that they were instructed to recruit the young men. They gave us only one day to prepare to join the army. We have heard that military groups are being formed in Dagestan. Some of the groups that are being formed are staffed with inexperienced green soldiers and they are then deployed to Tskhinvali, and those who had previously been in the army are being sent to Ingushetia. Most men are refusing to join the army and serve their military service. Those who failed to arrive in Georgia are hiding out in Dagestan. People are hiding in forests" (Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dagestanian Lezghins now refugees in Georgia," November 4, 2008, HRIDC).

Another Lezgin refugee, who is a resident of Makhachkala, told the HRIDC under condition of anonymity that his brother A.M., who is 29, could not escape and police took him to join the army. The incognito Lezgin added, "My brother and his two friends managed to escape from Makhachkala Military Commissariat. I spoke with my mother several days ago. She said my brother and his friends have been hiding in the forest for over a week now. Criminal cases are being opened for those putting up resistance to the police" (Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dagestanian Lezghins now refugees in Georgia," November 4, 2008, HRIDC).

It should be noted that some of the Lezgins, who came to the Kvareli District from Dagestan, were born in Georgia and hold dual (Russian and Georgian) citizenship. As early as in February 2006, HRIDC reported that the Lezgin residents of the village of Chantliskure had both Georgian and Russian birth certificates and identity documents. According to the then deputy head of Chantliskure administration, Alexandre Chachanidze, the illegal practice of dispensation of Russian birth certificates was carried out by the gynecologist Omar Davudov, who had been dispatched to Chantliskure by the Dagestani authorities in Makhachkala to assist the local Lezgin population (Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dual Citizenship in Kvareli," February 22, 2006, HRIDC).
The reason why Lezgins in Chantliskure acquire Russian birth certificates and identity documents is quite clear. The Lezgin elders, for instance, are registered in Kvareli District and in Dagestan and they receive pensions in both places. The Lezgin youth attend local elementary school in Chantliskure, but most prefer to continue their studies in Dagestan, according to the representative of local administration Zurab Bikoshvili (Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dual Citizenship in Kvareli," February 22, 2006, HRIDC). Holding dual citizenship provides distinct advantages for those crossing the Georgian-Russian border. Thus, some Lezgins from Kvareli District are engaged in the shuttle trade in consumer goods because they can cross the border quite freely. In 2006, however, local Georgians complained that several Lezgins were also involved in selling narcotics, which they brought from Dagestan, to offer to Georgian youth (Gela Mtivlishvili, "Dual Citizenship in Kvareli," February 22, 2006, HRIDC).

Thus far the Georgian authorities appear to be opting for a "hands-off" approach as they monitor the situation but prefer not to interfere in order to avoid stirring up the Lezgins. Because the Lezgin-populated villages are located in an economically depressed area the competition for scarce resources, be it jobs or nominal assistance from the local administration, has been creating tensions between the Lezgins and the local Georgian population. These tensions may soon escalate if the Lezgin community continues to grow as Tbilisi would be wise to pay closer attention to this area to avoid any further turmoil.

Alexander Melikishvili is a research associate at the Washington, D.C. office of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.