Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 03/2009

North Caucasus Weekly - Volume X, Issue 6

February 2009

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


* Austrian Prosecutors Were Investigating Israilov's Charges against Kadyrov
* Zakaev Rejects Kadyrov's Invitation
* Rebels and Pro-Moscow Forces in Shoot-Out near Chechen Village
* Ingush President Accuses U.S. of Seeking to "Undermine the Caucasus"
* Briefs
* Dagestan's Sharia Jamaat Suffers Series of Setbacks
By Mairbek Vatchagaev
* Ethnic-Based Governing System is Increasing Tensions in Dagestan
By Valery Dzutsev

Austrian Prosecutors Were Investigating Israilov's Charges against Kadyrov

Austrian prosecutors said on February 10 that they have investigated Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for alleged torture and other abuses in Chechnya based on a criminal complaint filed in Austria by Umar Israilov, the former rebel-turned-Kadyrov-bodyguard who was shot to death in Vienna on January 13. Israilov was murdered four days after the New York Times told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's office that it was planning to run an article detailing Israilov's accusations (North Caucasus Weekly, February 6; January 15, 23 and 30).

Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office, told the Associated Press (AP) that the Austrian investigation of Kadyrov was completed in October and that he expects the results to be released within the next few weeks, with a final decision on whether to indict Kadyrov or drop the case to "still pending." However, the Moscow Times on February 12 quoted Jarosch in a telephone interview as saying that Kadyrov was unlikely to be charged and that Austrian courts "probably had no competence" in cases where "Chechens torture Chechens in Chechnya."

AP reported that prosecutors did not tell the public that the Kadyrov investigation had been conducted until word emerged that the Vienna weekly Der Falter was preparing to publish an article about it on February 11. According to the news agency, Jarosch confirmed a claim made by Der Falter that Israilov's lawyers wanted Kadyrov to be arrested while in Salzburg for a Euro 2008 soccer match.

According to the Moscow Times, Der Falter reported on February 11 that around the time of the request for Kadyrov's arrest, Austrian police arrested a Chechen man who claimed he had been sent by Kadyrov to kill Israilov. The Moscow Times quoted Jarosch as saying that the case of the Chechen man was not pursued because Austrian prosecutors believed and still believe that they lack jurisdiction. In addition, the Moscow Times quoted both Jarosch and Timur Aliev, an adviser to Kadyrov, as saying that the Chechen president never made the trip to Austria.

Jarosch announced on February 9 that a third suspect arrested last month in connection with the Israilov murder had been released because the charges against him were no longer sufficient to allow his continued detention. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Jarosch added that the Chechen suspect, who was released February 6, would remain under investigation like two other suspects who were released January 30 shortly after their arrest. According to AFP, five other suspects in the Israilov murder case are still being held.

During a meeting on February 5 in Grozny with Ramzan Ampukaev, vice-president of the World Chechen Congress and aide to European Parliament member Bart Staes, Kadyrov said that "anti-Russian forces" are engaged in "subversive activities" aimed at discrediting Chechnya's leaders. "The recent murder in Austria of Alikhan [Umar] Israilov is in the same category," the Chechen government's website,, quoted Kadyrov as telling Ampukaev. "We all see the clumsy attempts to tie that murder to my name."

Similarly, Kadyrov told Rossiiskaya Gazeta in an interview published on February 10 that the murders of Chechens in Europe were committed by the "enemies of Chechnya."

Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the Moscow-based National Strategy Institute, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Russian Service on February 5 that the series of murders of Chechens in Moscow and abroad-he was presumably referring to the murders of former State Duma deputy Ruslan Yamadaev in Moscow last September and of former FSB special unit head Movladi Baisarov in the Russian capital in November 2006-were the result of a secret understanding between the Kremlin and Kadyrov.

"In the middle of the current decade a sort of pact was reached between the Kremlin and the Chechen elite as represented by the Kadyrov clan: Chechnya recognized itself formally as part of the Russian Federation, in return for which Kadyrov gets undivided control over the republic, where neither federal laws nor decisions of the federal authorities remain valid, as well as the right to destroy his enemies anywhere in the world," Belkovsky said. "Today Kadyrov feels absolutely free not only in his own republic, but beyond its borders. And we have to ponder whether or not there was a Chechen trace in the murder of the lawyer Stanislav Markelov (North Caucasus Weekly, January 23) and several other crimes that might be formally not connected with Chechnya. The main bloody consequences still lie ahead."

Novaya Gazeta military correspondent Vyacheslav Izmailov had a similar view of the recent series of murder. "The destruction of people who are in conflict with Ramzan Kadyrov, I think, received the go-ahead from certain Russian power structures," he told RFE/RL's Russian Service.

But Aleksei Mukhin, head of the Center for Political Information, said that the murders in Moscow and abroad have seriously harmed Kadyrov's reputation and that tying them to the Chechen president is aimed at discrediting him. "Every murder is taken by Ramzan Kadyrov as a personal insult," Mukhin told RFE/RL's Russian Service. "And now to beat him, to abuse him in the press, is like beating a baby, because he is completely defenseless-any of his actions painfully rebounds not only on his administration, but on the Kremlin."

Noting that some observers have also tried to link Kadyrov with the recent murder of former Grozny Deputy Mayor Gilani Shepiev, who was shot to death in Moscow under an apparent contract killing on February 5, RL's Russian service asked Mukhin who might be trying to discredit Kadyrov.

Mukhin answered that Yamadaev, Baisarov and Shepiev were "too obvious" enemies of Kadyrov. "I don't want to sink into conspiracy theories, to suspect some mythical Western special services or the arm of a world conspiracy, but it is obvious that these murders are image-forming, with political resonance, and reflect negatively on the reputation of both the regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov and on the image of the Russian leadership," he said. "They suspiciously take place precisely at the start of ... activities in Europe in which the Russian leadership is participating. And in that sense it is logical to assume that these murders are made to order [and] political in character."

Zakaev Rejects Kadyrov's Invitation

Akhmed Zakaev, the London-based prime minister of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) government-in-exile, responded to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's claim in an interview published the previous day that he had spoken to Zakaev about conditions for his return to Chechnya. Zakaev told the BBC's Russian service on February 11 that he will not return home until Moscow begins negotiations on a political settlement of the Chechen conflict.

Kadyrov claimed in an interview published in the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on February 10 that Zakaev had telephoned him. "Zakaev wants to return; I had a conversation with him," Kadyrov told Rossiiskaya Gazeta. "He told me: I want to serve better."

Kadyrov was asked about the FSB's recent claims that Zakaev was setting up his own armed units and directing attacks in Chechnya-accusations that were earlier criticized by Kadyrov's spokesman, Lema Gudaev, who defended Zakaev and suggested that the FSB's comments were aimed at disrupting the Chechen authorities' efforts to woo former political opponents back home (North Caucasus Weekly, February 6). The FSB also reported that a Zakaev agent involved in setting up these armed units, Isa Khadiev, had been killed during a special operation on January 17.

Kadyrov said in reference to the FSB's accusations against Zakaev: "I don't know, maybe he planned to create some kind of groups; the FSB knows better. If Isa [Khadiev] was indeed his agent, then he wasn't able to carry out any terrorist attacks. Zakaev himself is also no warrior. He is a good actor and a highly educated person. We have the Grozny Theater, where he could once again act, or he could be in charge of the state music hall. So there is work for him in the Ministry of Culture. I am confirming that." Kadyrov said Zakaev is afraid of being prosecuted for "sins" he allegedly committed during Chechnya's wars, but that "we should learn to forgive and to bring people back." He noted that his government has already brought back to Chechnya two representatives of former Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov's government-Umar Khambiev, who was Maskhadov's health minister and later general representative of the ChRI president abroad, and Umar Sugaipov, who was representative of the ChRI president in Britain.

As Interfax noted on February 9, Zakaev is wanted in Russia for allegedly organizing an armed rebellion, setting up illegal armed formations and attacking a law-enforcement official, as well as alleged involvement in the October 2002 hostage seizure at Moscow's Dubrovka Theater. In 2006, the Prosecutor General's Office filed new charges against Zakaev, accusing him of using the media to arouse ethnic hatred and threaten violence.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported on February 6 that an unnamed former subordinate of Zakaev had surrendered to police in Chechnya's Urus-Martan district. According to the news agency, the putative erstwhile Zakaev subordinate, described as a 45-year-old resident of Grozny, said that in 1996-1997 he had been the commanding officer of a platoon within a separate special-purpose battalion led by Zakaev.

In his interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Kadyrov reiterated that he is seeking to bring back to Chechnya all who have not "stained themselves with blood," adding: "We have few men left after the war. I think we should fight for the life and soul of every Chechen."

Asked by the BBC's Russian service on February 11 about Kadyrov's comments, Zakaev responded: "Ramzan Kadyrov is not making such a statement for the first time. I never discussed with him any kind of promises on my part or conditions for my return. Besides, I can say that it is not only Ramzan Kadyrov who is worried about my job placement. Putin more than once sent his representatives to me and even offered Ramzan Kadyrov's current job. I expressed gratitude-and I can right now express gratitude to those who worry about my fate-but my position differs on principle from the positions of those people today who have trusted the Russian leadership and are in fact terrorizing their own people. Ramzan most likely does not understand that one can come to power at the point of Russian bayonets, but to remain there [at the point of Russian bayonets] is practically impossible. I think that he needs to worry about his security first and foremost, and as for my job placement, I'll manage somehow."

Zakaev further told the BBC's Russian service: "The parliament of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria literally several days ago confirmed my authority as chairman of the ChRI cabinet of ministers. Our government is working, functioning, and I am sure that a resolution of the Russian-Chechen conflict lies not in the military sphere, not in army operations and military actions, but in the political sphere. And we are working and ready to work in that direction. I declared that in the previous interview; I said that we are open to dialogue even with representatives of Ramzan Kadyrov. So I can add nothing new." Zakaev also said that "to negotiate about some posts in today's Chechnya would be very unwise" and that he is not ready to do so.

Kommersant on January 28 quoted Zakaev as confirming that people from his entourage had met with representatives of the pro-Moscow Chechen authorities. "I am ready to discuss with everybody, including representatives of Ramzan Kadyrov, resolving issues that will help avoid the continuation of bloodshed," he told the newspaper (North Caucasus Weekly, January 30).

Zakaev reiterated his rejection of Kadyrov's offer to return to Chechnya in an interview with the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on February 11 that Zakaev told the newspaper he had been visited by an aide to Kadyrov and spoke on the aide's mobile phone with a man said to be Kadyrov. According to AFP, Zakaev rejected the offer to come home and work in his former profession as a theater actor or run the concert hall, saying that a spate of politically linked murders in Russia meant no guarantee of safety could be trusted.

"I don't think such promises are reliable," Zakaev told Moskovsky Komsomolets. "Kadyrov's own security is in question. A couple of months ago there was an assassination attempt at his home, although this fact was officially denied. I doubt any one right now can give a complete security guarantee on the territory of Russia, not only in Chechnya but also in Moscow. Ramzan and many other people are concerned about my work situation but I'm quite satisfied with my current post as prime minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria."

In comments to the newspaper Trud, Kadyrov insisted his invitation to Zakaev was "absolutely sincere" and not a question of "enticing" him back, AFP reported.

Commenting on the back and forth between Zakaev and Kadyrov, Ilya Milshtein wrote in a piece posted on the website on February 11 that Kadyrov is "embodying a long-standing, desperate dream of Chechens"-a dream of "vengeance" for the two wars in Chechnya. "This revenge is multiform-from rehabilitation of Zakaev, in pursuit of whom the Russian Federation Prosecutor General's Office has unsuccessfully made the rounds of Europe's capitals, to retribution for war crimes committed in Chechnya," Milshtein wrote. "The pressure is increasing gradually but inexorably, and it is already impossible to know who is beating whom. Even so, Kadyrov is much freer in his actions both in Chechnya and in Russia than a majority of the federal politicians. The borders of that freedom are still uncharted, but are expanding steadily."

For his part, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, the head of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, the group formerly based in Nizhny Novgorod which was shut down on the orders of a Russian court in October 2006 and is now based in Helsinki, wrote in a commentary for the website on February 11 that Kadyrov's invitation to Zakaev to return to Chechnya was a "PR" action, given that the FSB has not given up on its intention to win Zakaev's extradition to Russia to face prosecution. "It turns out that either Kadyrov is bluffing or we already are dealing with a princeling who can dictate his terms to the federal law-enforcement authorities and power bodies," Dmitrievsky wrote.

Rebels and Pro-Moscow Forces in Shoot-Out near Chechen Village

Russian news agencies reported on February 9 that one Chechen Interior Ministry officer was killed and two wounded in a battle that took place that day between Chechen law-enforcement personnel and members of "illegal armed formations" in southeastern Chechnya. Citing Chechnya Interior Ministry, Interfax reported that security forces discovered a group consisting of as many as 30 militants while conducting a reconnaissance operation in a wooded area near the village of Dargo in Chechnya's Vedeno district. Itar-Tass, citing Chechen law-enforcement sources, reported that the rebel group was apparently headed by Usman Muntsigov, aka Shatral, a field commander and Dargo native who has been on the federal wanted list since 2006 and who, according to Chechnya's Interior Ministry, led an attack on the Chechen village of Benoi-Vedeno last June (North Caucasus Weekly, June 19, 2008).

The website reported that Chechen Interior Ministry troops as well as servicemen with the Chechen-manned Sever (North) and Yug (South) battalions of the federal Interior Ministry were involved in the operation and that the slain officer was a deputy platoon commander. A Chechen Interior Ministry source was quoted as saying that following the shootout, the body of one militant was found along with bloody bandages and signs that people had been dragged along the ground, indicating that other militants had been killed or wounded. reported that the slain militant was an inhabitant of Dagestan's Khasavyurt district.

Meanwhile, bomb disposal experts removed and destroyed a remote control bomb made out of a 122-millimeter artillery that had been planted on a railway in Chechnya's Shelkovskaya district, Interfax reported on February 9.

Ingush President Accuses U.S. of Seeking to "Undermine the Caucasus"

In an interview published February 9 in the bi-weekly Novaya Gazeta, Ingushetia's President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov accused U.S. and British intelligence of attempting to "destroy Russia" by sending terrorists to "Russia's south." In another interview published on February 9, with the weekly magazine Kommersant-Vlast, Yevkurov charged that the United States wants to "undermine the Caucasus" and claimed that former U.S. President George W. Bush had said the Caucasus are "a zone of U.S. interests" and that "Nazran is the center of the zone."

Three days earlier, during a meeting with representatives of local law-enforcement and security agencies in Magas, Yevkurov said that the republic's security agencies were searching for two young men and a woman who, he said, had arrived in Ingushetia to carry out suicide bombings.

"Terrorists have no ethnic background, and therefore I am not saying who they are," Interfax quoted Yevkurov as saying during the February 6 meeting. "Those who guide them are also people without kith or kin, who are hiding behind some radio call-names. But there is one more thing: These people have found shelter in our homes. They are living somewhere with our relatives, who don't understand that, by giving refuge to such people, they may be harmed themselves and harm others."

Interfax reported on February 9 that law-enforcement personnel had discovered and defused two homemade bombs 200 meters from a gas station in the town of Malgobek. Law-enforcement sources told the news agency that the devices consisted of two 12-liter metal buckets filled with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder with pieces of metal bars and electronic detonators.

Itar-Tass reported on February 8 that traffic police came under fire as they tried to stop a suspicious car on the Kavkaz federal highway in Nazran and that one of the officers was wounded. The traffic police returned fire, but the attackers fled, abandoning their car and seizing that of a local resident.


Chechen Prosecutors Reopen Investigation of Budanov for Kidnapping

The Chechen Investigation Department under the Investigative Committee of the federal Prosecutor General's Office reopened a probe into alleged kidnappings by Yuri Budanov, the Russian army colonel and tank commander jailed in 2000 for the murder of an 18-year-old Chechen girl who was released from prison last month after serving eight years of a ten-year sentence. Interfax quoted a spokesman for the Chechen Investigation Department as saying that the prosecutor in Chechnya's Shali district had launched a criminal case back in March 2000 into the kidnapping of three people whose bodies were subsequently found in the republic's Urus-Martan district but that the probe was later suspended because the perpetrators had not been identified. Late last year, Chechnya's human right ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhadzhiev, and relatives of the victims wrote to the law-enforcement agencies claiming that Budanov was involved in the killings (North Caucasus Weekly, January 9).

Police in Kabardino-Balkaria Kill 7 Suspected Rebels

Reuters reported on February 11 that Interior Ministry troops shot and killed seven suspected rebels during a firefight in Kabardino-Balkaria that day. The news agency quoted Interfax as saying that the fighting began when the troops attempted to raid a suspected rebel hideout in a forested mountain area of the province. "During an attempt to arrest them, the criminals offered armed resistance," Interfax quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying. "Seven bandits were killed when fire was returned." reported that the shootout took place in Kabardino-Balkaria's Cherkesk district and that among the slain militants was a rebel field commander, Zeitun Sultanov, and "one of the Khamukov brothers," who was wanted on suspicion of involvement in the murder of nine hunters and forest rangers in Kabardino-Balkaria in November 2007 (North Caucasus Weekly, November 8, 2007).

Russian Soldier in Chechnya Shoots Dead Two Fellow Servicemen

RIA Novosti reported on February 11 that two Russian personnel were killed and one wounded after a dispute turned violent in Chechnya's Achkhoi-Martan district. "A contract soldier is suspected of shooting dead two of his colleagues and wounding another with a Kalashnikov machine gun during a quarrel," a police source told the news agency. Agence France-Presse, citing Interfax, which quoted a Russian military official, reported that the incident occurred when a soldier opened fire on three companions with whom he was drinking after they started to quarrel. Interfax's sources said two of the soldiers were killed and one seriously injured.

Suspects Arrested in Murder of Vladikavkaz's Mayor and Ex-Mayor

Agence France-Presse, citing RIA Novosti, reported on February 10 that about 30 people had been detained in connection with the killings of Vitaly Karaev, mayor of Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, in November, and former Vladikavkaz Mayor Kazbebek Pagiev in December (North Caucasus Weekly, December 4, 18 and 31, 2008). RIA Novosti quoted a police source as saying that some of the suspects were detained in Moscow and that two of those arrested were police officers. The Islamist group Kataib al-Khoul, also known as the Ossetian Jamaat, claimed that one of its senior leaders shot and killed Karaev (North Caucasus Weekly, December 4, 2008).

Chechnya's Muslim Leaders Call for Total Alcohol Ban

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's North Caucasus Service reported on February 9 that Islamic leaders in Chechnya are calling for a complete ban on alcohol. It reported that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov promised this month to undertake "urgent measures to save the republic from the possible collapse caused by alcohol consumption" and that some 42 liquor stores have been shut down in the Chechen capital, Grozny, so far in February. It also quoted Chechen Tax Committee head Islam Vazarkhanov as saying that liquor stores should be open only three hours a day.

Dagestan's Sharia Jamaat Suffers Series of Setbacks
By Mairbek Vatchagaev

Events in the Republic of Dagestan-one of the most unstable republics in the North Caucasus region-are again demanding attention. This time, however, what is noteworthy are not the usual reports of daily armed clashes, but the news propagated by the Russian mass media concerning the death of the recently appointed leader of the Dagestani Sharia Jamaat, Emir Muaz.

The people of Dagestan are predominantly Muslim and the republic is situated in a strategically important region in the Russian south. Since Dagestan borders Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Chechen Republic, the republic has always been the object of Moscow's special attention.

The Russian mass media reported that Emir Muaz (Omar Sheikhulaev, b. 1975) was killed during a special operation carried out on February 5 in the settlement of Leninkent, a suburb of Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala (, February 5). Emir Muaz was appointed by the Chechen leader of the Caucasus resistance movement, Dokku Umarov, in early December 2008 to replace the Sharia Jamaat's slain leader Abdul-Mejid (also known as Ilgar Malachiev, who was killed on September 8, 2008, during an operation carried out jointly by the special services of Russia and Azerbaijan).

During the February 5 special operation in the Makhachkala suburbs, three Sharia Jamaat members died along with Emir Muaz, including Makhach Magomedov, Aslan Aldaev and Nazim Mursalov. Russian sources officially reported that two police officers were wounded during the operation but, as is often the case, these figures may have been deliberately deflated.

On February 7, Kavkaz-Center, the official mouthpiece of the Caucasus Emirate released a statement confirming the death of the Dagestani jamaat's leader. The statement indicated that Emir Muaz had joined the war in 2002, initially serving under the leadership of Emir Muslim and subsequently fighting alongside Rappani Khalilov (also known as Emir Rabbani). Despite the death of Emir Muaz, the members of the Sharia Jamaat declared that the "jihad continues," which implies that their leader's death will have no impact on the Dagestani jamaat's plans. Taking into account the deaths of previous leaders of the Sharia Jamaat, it is possible to predict that the jamaat members' vow will most likely be carried out.

Against the backdrop of daily losses among its police forces as the result of actions by Sharia Jamaat members across Dagestan, the death of the jamaat's leader is undoubtedly good news for the Dagestani Interior Ministry, which considered Emir Muaz its 'enemy number one'. The Russian news agencies were quick to attribute all the major assassinations carried out in Dagestan over the past couple of years to the slain jamaat leader. This has become a sort of tradition in Russian jurisprudence, with each slain resistance fighter becoming the person responsible for a dozen crimes, and this practice is repeated year after year, while different people (including people of different nationalities) are routinely thrown into jail for the same crime in various parts of the North Caucasus.

As has been repeatedly noted in previous articles, the Dagestani jamaat became the most viable of all the jamaats. Its actions simply cannot be compared to those of other jamaats, including the Ingush Sharia Jamaat (led by Emir Magas). Since Dagestan is the largest and most populous republic in the North Caucasus, Moscow is forced to deploy a large number of regular troops there, plus forces of the federal Interior Ministry as well as the special operations forces of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Yet, in spite of that, militant actions are becoming increasingly brazen.

Some 96 armed assaults on law enforcement authorities were carried out in Dagestan last year (Kavkazky Uzel, December 24, 2008). Since December, when Emir Muaz was appointed leader of Dagestan's Sharia Jamaat, it has carried out a number of assaults against representatives of the authorities. Especially notable among them was the assassination of Valery Lipinsky, deputy chief of the headquarters of the federal Interior Ministry forces' North Caucasian Regional Command, on December 29, 2008, in Makhachkala, Dagestan's capital ( January 11). Similarly daring was the execution of five people on February 1. These included the head of Dagestan's Untsukul district, Kazimbek Akhmedov; an officer from the Directorate of Economic Crime of Dagestan's Interior Ministry, Omaraskhab Omaraskhabov; and the deputy imam of Makhachkala's main mosque, Magomed Magomedov (Vremya Novostei, February 3).

According to Dagestan's Interior Ministry, the militants targeted the head of the district administration most likely in response to the anti-terrorist operation that was carried out in the Untsukul district, and more specifically in the vicinity of the village of Gimry, from December 2007 to August 2008. This may have provided the militants with a sufficient rationale to carry out a reprisal attack against the head of the local administration for his collaboration with the authorities. Many explosions were registered in different locales, including the city of Khasavyurt, where a number of operatives from the municipal department of the republic's Interior Ministry were wounded as a result of attacks carried out on January 1, 2 and 14. According to sources in the Caucasus Emirate, the municipal Internal Affairs directorate for the city of Khasavyurt came under attack on January 21, but there have been no other reports confirming this incident. Numerous reports appeared in the mass media about police and FSB personnel wounded during special operations aimed at neutralizing the militants, but they do not always correspond with the figures cited by the Caucasus Emirate's sources.

Among the considerable losses for the jamaat during this period, it is important to note the death of Isa Khadiev on January 17. He was known as the former head of the Shurah of Alims of the People of the Caucasus. Equal in importance was the death of the Emir of the Khasavyurt Sector of Armed Forces of the Caucasus Emirate, Emir Umalat, who died in Khasavyurt on January 20.

Although the death of the jamaat leader, Emir Muaz, was very bad news for the jamaat members (as it was for the entire armed resistance movement of the region), it will not have any measurable impact on the overall situation within the jamaat. The internal dynamics of the jamaat no longer depend on any one personality, because its structure has been forged over the years and it allows many different groups to function independently of each other. The new leader of the Sharia Jamaat will probably be appointed no later than March-April. He is always chosen by the jamaat members, but his approval and formal appointment will take place only after a corresponding decision is made by the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, Dokku Umarov. Following Umarov's decision, the new Emir, who personifies the jamaat, will have to take an oath of allegiance (bayat) to Umarov. By doing so the jamaat members will once again underscore Umarov as the main leader of the entire North Caucasian armed resistance movement. The new jamaat leader will also carry the title of vali (ruler) of the vilayat of Dagestan (province of Dagestan) within the structures of the Caucasus Emirate.

In order to somehow justify its incompetence concerning the neutralization of all the Sharia Jamaat's members, the official Russian state propaganda machine already began to blame everything on the special services of foreign countries. Thus, according to Russian Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev, the members of the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda are apparently operating on the territory of Chechnya and Dagestan ( Similar references are made to interference by foreign countries. Although it is not specified which foreign countries or structures are carrying out the aforementioned interference, it is not hard to figure out that everything is attributed to the United States. As Yedelev noted in his statement, just like the August war in Georgia, "the plans of foreign special services will be foiled"-an apparent reference to what Moscow sees as American plans for the Caucasus region in general.

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

Ethnic-Based Governing System is Increasing Tensions in Dagestan
By Valery Dzutsev

On February 2, following a series of highly unusual events, the newly appointed head of the Dagestani branch of the Russian federal tax service was prevented from taking his position. Vladimir Radchenko and his superior Pyotr Kovalev were not even allowed to cross the administrative border into Dagestan: they were told that the Dagestani police could not guarantee their safety. At the same time, several hundred people in Makhachkala protested against the new appointment (Kommersant, February 3).

Kommersant claimed that the protests were informally supported by the Dagestani government, which had not approved the new appointment. The popular opposition was quoted as demanding the appointment of a Lezgin, which is one of Dagestan's major ethnic groups and inhabits the republic's south and the northern part of neighboring Azerbaijan.

It is very common in Dagestan, a republic that is home to dozens of ethnicities, for top government positions to be assigned to certain ethnic groups. So when the Lezgin head of the tax office was dismissed, the Lezgins may have expected several other prominent Lezgin candidates to be considered to replace him. The son of Dagestan's president, Gadzhimurad Aliev, is deputy head of the tax office and reportedly quarreled with Radchenko, but is not considered among the candidates for the position (Kommersant, February 9).

Prior to his appointment, Radchenko served for several years as head of the tax office in the North Caucasian republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and then briefly held a position in Moscow.

The power of ethnic and clan structures in Dagestan is extremely pervasive at all levels, although it is not absolute, the system is not limited to top positions in the government but is spread throughout the society. One frequently encounters cases like that of the major library in Makhachkala, all of its employees-from top to bottom-share the same ethnicity with its head.

The idea that every major ethnicity should be proportionally represented in the government triumphed during the lengthy period of Dagestan's previous leader, Magomedali Magomedov. When they ran out of suitable positions for every large ethnicity and respectable clan, Dagestan's authorities have not hesitated to design parallel governing bodies. For instance, for years now there has been a Dagestani republican Ministry of Justice in existence alongside with the federal branch of the Ministry of Justice.

When Mukhu Aliev replaced Magomedov in 2006, the new president vowed to reform the appointment system, which many lamented as outdated and corrupt. However, the concept of an ethnic power balance in the republic has by no means been abandoned. In an interview with Kommersant, the Dagestani president's spokesman, Rasul Khaibullaev, admitted that the system of ethnic quotas for government positions was being adhered to, even though he denied that there are government positions that are permanently assigned to any single ethnicity (Kommersant, February 3).

The story involving the new head of Dagestan's tax service did not end at this point. After Radchenko managed to get into the republic, unknown suspects went straight to his office on February 6, put a gun in his back and strongly urged him to leave the republic. On February 9, protestors again prevented Radchenko from entering the tax service building in Makhachkala (, February 7-9, 2009).

While the Russian government claims to have strengthened governance over the country's regions during Vladimir Putin's reign, it appears that when it comes to the vital interests of the elites in certain regions, some of them are willing and able to counter Moscow's pressure.

The situation in Dagestan is further aggravated by the low-grade violence that plagues the republic. Scores of policemen, officials and Islamic insurgents die in fighting in the republic each year. While this is a negative factor in and of itself, the Dagestani authorities can use security issues as a pretext for applying looser rules to themselves, as other republics in the North Caucasus have done in the past.

In spite of being a highly multiethnic republic, Dagestan did not experience substantial conflict between different ethnicities in the 1990s, unlike the much less ethnically diverse republics of North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia, which experienced ethnic clashes of varying degrees during that period. Analysts have pointed out the matrix that holds Dagestan together with relative ease is the Islamic Umma-the territorial community of Muslims that unites all ethnicities living on the same territory and helps moderate interethnic rifts.

The issue of the tax official's appointment is turning into a major struggle between Moscow and Makhachkala, but neither side is likely to make a decisive move to resolve the crisis. Moscow is afraid to spark too much violence and possibly lose face, while Dagestani officials also fear for their long term well-being: after all, the president of the republic is appointed by Moscow. If all else fails, Moscow will still be able to play one political group against the other in this diverse republic.

Yet-in the most recent crisis-instead of employing the usual tactics of a complex political management game, Moscow has opted for a brute appointment action. This may indicate one of the downsides of the contemporary semi-authoritarian regime in Russia, which not only fails to receive proper feedback from the general population and subordinates, but is also unaware of the real mood on the ground and therefore unable to predict the reaction to its own moves.

Valery Dzutsev is a Muskie Fellow at the University of Maryland and the former Coordinator for North Caucasus at the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in 2002-2007.