Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 04/2009

North Caucasus Weekly - Volume X, Issue 9

March 2009

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


* Six Policemen Killed in Ingushetia Bombing
* Kadyrov Faces Fresh Accusations of Ordering Hits Abroad
* Kadyrov Defends Honor Killings
* Kadyrov Again Invited Zakaev to Return to Chechnya
* Briefs
* Dokka Umarov Suffers Setback in Turkey
By Mairbek Vatchagaev

Six Policemen Killed in Ingushetia Bombing

Six policemen were killed and two injured in a bomb blast in Ingushetia on March 5. Russian news agencies, citing republican Interior Ministry sources, reported that the blast took place near the entrance to the village of Surkhakhi after law-enforcement officers discovered a roadside bomb consisting of an artillery shell and a detonator near a cemetery and bomb disposal experts were sent in. Itar-Tass reported that the device was detonated by remote control and went off as the bomb disposal experts began working to defuse it. RIA Novosti reported that one of those killed was identified as Nazran's deputy police chief, Alexander Gorelkin. The Moscow Times on March 6 quoted a local police source as saying that the blast was so powerful that "the shock wave smashed windows to smithereens in the neighborhood." The independent website reported that the blast killed seven people and wounded four.

RIA Novosti reported on March 3 that an unidentified man had fired two rounds from a grenade launcher at the house of Ingushetia's former president, Murat Zyazikov, but that neither Zyazikov nor members of his family were injured in the attack. Several Russian websites reported that Zyazikov was not in the house at the time of the attack but in Moscow, where he now reportedly spends most of his time. The Associated Press (AP), citing Ingushetia's Interior Ministry, reported that the attacker drove up to Zyazikov's house, fired several grenades, and returned to his car, which then exploded. According to AP, the interior ministry said that the explosion was apparently caused by unused grenades in the vehicle.

Russian news agencies quoted Ingushetia's chief prosecutor, Yury Turygin, as saying on March 4 that the grenades fired at Zyazikov's house missed their target, and that among the things found in the attacker's car, which subsequently exploded, were a Sechkin pistol, ammunition and a train ticket from Nazran to Moscow. Turygin said investigators believe that the attacker acted with an accomplice, who escaped.

Authorities identified the dead attacker as Rustam Uzhakov, a local resident. on March 4 quoted Magomed Khazbiev, who was one of Zyazikov's main opponents while he was Ingushetia's president, as saying that the attacker may have been seeking revenge. According to Khazbiev, a person with the last name of Uzhakov had been killed during a special operation in the village of Barsuki and that Rustam Uzhakov may have been his brother.

It should be noted that, citing a law-enforcement source, reported on March 4 that the attack the previous day had in fact not targeted Zyazikov's house, but that of a neighbor, who is deputy director of the Ingush branch of Russia's Central Bank. The website reported that one of the grenades fired hit the deputy director's kitchen.

Interfax reported on March 3 that the body of the former head of the Ingush village Ali-Yurt, Magomed Abugachiev, was found with gunshot wounds five kilometers from the village, near the road to Surkhakhi. A military source told the news agency that Abugachiev had been abducted from his home early on March 3 by kidnappers who, according to witnesses, were dressed in camouflage. reported that the abductors had identified themselves as law-enforcement officers.

Also on March 3, Interfax reported that the head of the Hajj Committee of Ingushetia's Muftiate, Musa Meriev, was pulled out of his car in Nazran and severely beaten.

The Regnum News Agency reported on March 1 that an improvised explosive device detonated in the courtyard of the house of Khusein Sakalov, an aide to Nazran's prosecutor and son of the speaker of Ingushetia's parliament, in the village of Ekazhevo. No one was hurt in the explosion and the house suffered only minor damage.

On February 28, three policemen were wounded when unidentified gunmen fired on their car as it was traveling in Ordhonikidzevskaya. Russian news agencies reported that the three policemen-including Magomed Yevloev, the head of the Sunzha district's criminal police unit, another unidentified officer and their driver-were slightly wounded and the attackers escaped. reported on February 27 that policemen in the republic had been given the right to shoot and kill people participating in protest demonstrations. The website quoted an unnamed source in the interior ministry as saying that the order giving the police the right to use lethal force against protesters was issued in expectation of mass protests connected to the worsening economic situation in Russia. The source also told that the interior ministry is working as quickly as possible to hire new officers in order to bolster their ranks in expectation of growing instability.

However, RIA Novosti on February 27 quoted Major General Leonid Vedenov, deputy head of the federal Interior Ministry's department for protecting public order, as dismissing the report that Ingush police had been given permission to use lethal force, calling it "ravings and nonsense."

Kadyrov Faces Fresh Accusations of Ordering Hits Abroad

Kavkaz TV, the video arm of Kavkaz-Center, the radical Islamist Chechen rebel website, this past week posted a video clip in which a young Chechen man, Ruslan Khalidov, claimed that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov employed him to kill Magomed Ocherhadji, a leader of the large Chechen exile community in Norway.

As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on March 5, Khalidov said in the video that he did not carry out the killing but that he had been tortured and threatened in an attempt to force him to comply. "They even did things that I'm ashamed to talk about," he said, adding: "They blackmailed me with [sic] video footage of me. They told me if I didn't accomplish the mission, they would post that video on the Internet."

Khalidov said that he is a nephew of Shaa Turlaev, who worked as the bodyguard of the late Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov before defecting to the pro-Moscow Chechen camp after being wounded and taken prisoner. According to RFE/RL, Turlaev was reportedly in Vienna immediately prior to the murder of Umar Israilov, the former rebel fighter who was forced to become a member of Kadyrov's bodyguard unit. Israilov subsequently fled Chechnya and accused Kadyrov of torture in a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights before being shot to death in the Austrian capital on January 13, as the New York Times was preparing to publish as story detailing his accusations against Kadyrov (North Caucasus Weekly, January 15, 23, 30; February 6, 12 and 26).

RFE/RL quoted Khalidov as saying in the video clip that Turlaev now presides over a private prison in the town of Gudermes in which relatives of suspected armed militants-including "fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers"-are tortured. Khalidov also claimed that Turlaev supervises a band of professional killers that was set up by Kadyrov on orders from the Federal Security Service (FSB) and tasked with assassinating Chechens abroad. RFE/RL quoted Khalidov as saying in the video that he was also ordered by Kadyrov to establish contacts with Norwegian authorities and provide them with disinformation incriminating Chechens living in Norway.

RFE/RL quoted Ocherhadji, the Norway-based Chechen exile that Khalidov was allegedly ordered to kill, as saying that Khalidov had personally informed him of the plot against him, telling him that Kadyrov and his people viewed him "as a threat" and were afraid to travel to Norway because of him.

When the New York Times broke the story about Israilov's accusations against Kadyrov in January, the newspaper quoted from a statement given last year to Austria's Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Action against Terrorism by a 41-year-old Chechen identified as Artur Kurmakayev, who claimed that he had been sent to Vienna by Kadyrov to bring Israilov home, "by the use of force if necessary," and that he worked for a "secretive department" under Kadyrov charged with repatriating Chechens in exile. Kurmakayev also claimed he had seen a list at Kadyrov's residence in Gudermes of approximately 5,000 Chechens who had either fought against Kadyrov or had "otherwise attracted unfavorable attention," and that 300 of those on the list were targeted for assassination, including about 50 Chechens living in Austria (North Caucasus Weekly, January 15).

Meanwhile, Turkish media reported on March 1 that Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has launched a probe into the murder of three Chechen resistance "leaders" in Istanbul over the last six months and that it suspects "Russian involvement" in the killings. The daily Turkish newspaper Vatan reported that the latest of the three murders took place on February 27, when a person identified as a "Chechen commander" was murdered in front of his house in Istanbul's Zeytinburnu district. Vatan reported that the MIT believes the three were killed "by Russians" and that the intelligence agency was briefed about the killings on February 28 by a newly-formed police investigation unit. Sabah reported that all three victims were killed in front of their houses by killers using a MSP Groza silent pistol, which has been used by Russian spetsnaz and other special services personnel for assassinations since the 1970s (North Caucasus Weekly, December 18, 2008; see Mairbek Vatchagaev's article in this issue).

Kadyrov Defends Honor Killings

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said last week that the bodies of seven young women with gunshots to the head were found dumped by roadsides in Chechnya late last year and early this year (North Caucasus Weekly, December 4, 2008 and February 6, 2009) had "loose morals" and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings, The Associated Press (AP) reported on February 28. "If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed," Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny after attending prayers at a mosque in the Chechen capital. AP further quoted him as saying: "No one can tell us not to be Muslims. If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy."

According to AP, Kadyrov said the seven murdered women were planning to go abroad to work as prostitutes, but their relatives found out about it and killed them. However, the news agency reported that few Chechens believe this and quoted Grozny human rights activist Natalya Estemirova as saying that two of the women were married, with two children each, and that their husbands held large funerals and buried them in the family plot, which would not have happened if the women had disgraced their families. "If women are killed according to tradition then it is done very secretly to prevent too many people from finding out that someone in the family behaved incorrectly," Estemirova told AP.

AP noted that Kadyrov's version also has been contradicted by federal prosecutors in Moscow, who have concluded that relatives were not involved, and that no arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing. In addition, AP noted that Novaya Gazeta reported that some of the women worked in brothels frequented by Kadyrov's men and that many Chechens say they suspect the women were killed in a police operation.

Whatever the case, AP reported that rights activists fear Kadyrov's approval of honor killings may encourage men to carry them out. "What the president says is law," Gistam Sakaeva, a Chechen activist who works to defend women's rights, told the news agency. "Because the president said this, many will try to gain his favor by killing someone, even if there is no reason." Sakaeva also said she worried that Chechen authorities would now be less willing to prosecute men suspected of killing women.

Meanwhile, Interfax on March 3 quoted Kadyrov as saying that every boy born on March 8-the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad-will receive 50,000 rubles (around $1,400). "This decision was taken by the Ahmad Kadyrov regional public foundation," the news agency quoted him as saying. "It's natural that I ask their parents for name the boys after Muhammad." Kadyrov also told journalists in Grozny that in honor of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, 10,000 bags of flour and 10,000 bags of sugar will be distributed to poor families, and that 10,000 poor families will receive 5,000 rubles (around $140) each.

The website reported on March 5 that Kadyrov met with Daud Selmusaev, the deputy chairman of Chechnya's Muslim Spiritual Board and director of the republic's Center of Islamic Medicine, which opened last month in Grozny and which, as the website puts it, focuses on "non-traditional methods" of treating people suffering from "psycho-neurological illnesses known among the people as possession." The website said that the center mainly uses treatments based on suras (chapters) and ayahs (sections) of the Koran. quoted Selmusaev as saying that 2,000 people have sought treatment at the center in the past month and that more than 1,000 of those have been "completely cured." The website quoted Kadyrov as saying that as a result of the two military campaigns in Chechnya, "many people suffered, and many today need precisely the kind of treatment using non-traditional methods that our ancestors fell back on."

Following the opening of the Center of Islamic Medicine last month, the Moscow Times quoted doctors there as saying they would be treating people possessed by demons. Chechnya's mufti, Sultan Mirzaev, was quoted as saying that the center would free of charge treat up to 80 patients a day by reading them prayers and chapters from the Koran. Kadyrov was quoted as saying at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center that it would treat people with methods used in the republic for centuries (North Caucasus Weekly, February 6).

Kadyrov Again Invited Zakaev to Return to Chechnya

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has yet again called on Akhmed Zakaev, the London-based prime minister of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), to return home. Interfax on March 3 quoted Kadyrov as telling reporters that Zakaev no longer represents anyone in London and that "Ichkeria is long gone" and "will never exist again," and therefore he is offering Zakaev the chance to return home to live "with his relatives and loved ones and contribute to "the common cause of reviving the republic." Kadyrov added: "Zakaev's former colleagues say he is a normal, sane person, and I am confident that he should do what he does best and can do best."

Kadyrov previously invited Zakaev, formerly an actor to return and work in Chechnya's Ministry of Culture or act in the Grozny Theater. Zakaev has rejected the offer (North Caucasus Weekly, February 12).

Interfax further quoted Kadyrov as saying: "Naturally, any negotiations and discussions of any problems are out of the question. Zakaev should know it and the other people, who call themselves representatives of Ichkeria in Europe, should know it. If Zakaev wants to come back, we will take him back. He is a Chechen, he was born here and grew up here, and I do not want the name of Zakaev to be seen as the name of Russia's enemy anymore. He has to come back and stand together with those who are rebuilding the republic."

Kadyrov said that Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov should either "kill himself" or "face trial if he considers himself innocent," Interfax reported. The Chechen president said young people coaxed by Umarov and his allies to join the rebels are subsequently killed or captured, while rebel ideologist Movladi Udugov and "people like him" fled Chechnya at the start of the wars in the republic, "hid their families in secure places" and then called on those remaining in Chechnya to fight. "Those young men died, and the Udugovs did not get a scratch," Kadyrov said. He also called on Udugov to shut down the Kavkaz-Center, the radical website that Udugov set up.


Insurgent Violence in Dagestan Shows No Signs of Letting Up

A suspected member of an "illegal armed group" was killed in Dagestan's Sergo-Kala district on March 4, Interfax reported. Dagestan's Interior Ministry identified the dead militant as Magomedshakir Magomedov, a resident of Dagestan's Kayakent district who was recently registered as "an advocate of a radical and extremist Islamic movement" and allegedly a member of the "Izberbash sabotage and terrorist group." Itar-Tass reported on February 27 that a large bomb placed next to the Mozdok-Gazimagomed trunk gas pipeline in Dagestan's Kayakent district had been disarmed. A Federal Security Service (FSB) source said the bomb consisted of a tin bucket filled with saltpeter and aluminum powder, an electric detonator and a timer. On February 26, five people, including four policemen, were wounded when a remote-control explosive device damaged a bus carrying a group of law-enforcement officers in Makhachkala. RIA Novosti reported that a platoon commander and three policemen were hospitalized with contusions while a civilian passerby sustained minor injuries.

Russian Nationalists Commemorate Chechnya Battle

Hundreds of Russian ultra-nationalists held a demonstration in Moscow to mark the battle in 2000 in which several dozens of Russian paratroopers died when rebels overran them in the Chechen town of Ulus-Kert. As The Associated Press (AP) reported, anti-immigrant groups have seized on the battle, which has been memorialized in movies and documentaries, to target Chechens and people from the North Caucasus. According to Agence France-Presse, some demonstrators shouted slogans like "Great Victory!" and "Praise to the Heros!", while others carried placards bearing photographs of soldiers condemned for crimes in Chechnya, including former Yuri Budanov, the Russian tank commander who was found guilty of strangling an 18-year-old Chechen girl to death in 2000. AP reported that Alexander Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, called for naming Budanov as Chechnya's president.

Dokka Umarov Suffers Setback in Turkey
By Mairbek Vatchagaev

When Chechen refugees leave Russia to settle in foreign countries, they are mainly concerned with the physical safety of their family members. However, over the years, members of the Chechen Diaspora have become increasingly convinced that their status as political refugees has not given them immunity from continuous harassment and persecution by the Russian special services. Nor are Chechens abroad immune from Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's idée fix to forcibly return those members of the diaspora who remain active in supporting Ichkeria's eventual independence from Russia.

Assassinations of Chechens abroad are no longer rare. Against the backdrop of the widely reported murder of a Chechen in Austria at the beginning of this year, barely noted was the news on February 27 from Turkey, where, according to the chief representative of the Caucasus Emirate, "the Deputy Chief Representative of the Vekalat (representation of the Caucasus Emirate abroad), who prior to 2008 was the Chief Representative of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria abroad, Musa Ataev, died at the enemy's hands" (

Few in the Chechen Diaspora (in Europe, America and Asia) doubt that it was Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) that carried out the assassination of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev in Qatar in early 2004 ( and Aleksandr Litvinenko's poisoning in Britain in late 2006 ( This dark tally undoubtedly includes the multiple murders of Chechens in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, including the assassination of Vakha Ibragimov in September 2003 (, and Imran Gaziev, deputy chief representative of Ichkeria, in September 2007 (, the murder of Islam Dzhanibekov, who was a member of Emirate's representation in Turkey, in December 2008 (, as well as the sensational assassination of Ramzan Kadyrov's former bodyguard, Umar Israilov, in Vienna, in January 2009 (

The murder of Musa Ataev (who was known among Chechens under the nickname of "Masol") in Istanbul ( indicates that the Russian special services are serious about eliminating those who formerly represented and currently represent the armed underground movement of the North Caucasus abroad.

The murder of Musa Ataev in Istanbul was in all likelihood yet another well-planned special operation carried out by the Russian special services in the spirit of the statement made in 2004 by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin about the necessity of carrying strikes in any location of the world with the purpose of defending the interests of the Russian state (

Ataev was a person from the highest ranks of the Emirate's nomenklatura abroad. His purview included many issues related to the operations of the institutions of the Emirate abroad, and he was responsible for maintaining contact with the leader of the Chechen resistance movement Dokka Umarov. The 48-year-old Musa Ataev was not just one of Umarov's confidants: he was Umarov's cousin and thus the rebel leader's particularly trusted person abroad.

The first time that Ataev's name appeared in public discussions was around the time that Umarov announced the goal of establishing the Caucasus Emirate, which he said would replace an independent Ichkeria as the movement's ultimate objective. This led to the split between Ataev and Umar Akhmadov (the leader of the jamaat led by the Akhmadov brothers), who, like Ataev, was living abroad. Ataev's name also periodically appeared in revelations by this or that Chechen politician regarding unsuccessful attempts made by the FSB to try to win him over.

It is also worth noting that the actual head of the external relations agency of the Caucasus Emirate (Vekalat), Shamsuddin Batukaev, was in direct communication with Ataev, and that is why Batukaev, in his appeals to Umarov, always tried to underscore the unity of his position with that of Ataev. Ataev was the guarantor of a statement's gravitas, as well as for appeals to various Islamic organizations for financial support. Ataev's influence among the supporters of the Caucasus Emirate can be judged by the fact that even such a figure as Movladi Udugov was his subordinate. Ataev controlled all the representatives of the North Caucasian jamaats abroad, and they coordinated all their contacts abroad through him.

As a person who consciously decided to pursue this path, Ataev probably expected this outcome: indeed, he knew that the Russian special services are primarily interested in cutting off the flow of funds to the armed underground. Thus, it is possible to conjecture that Ataev's assassination struck a serious blow to Umarov, but it was not a mortal blow because Ataev acted as a double for the chief representative of the Caucasus Emirate (Vekalat), Shamsuddin Batukaev. In other words, the overall fundraising activities will continue uninterrupted and in the same direction as when Ataev was alive.

Turkey, unlike during the first military campaign in Chechnya in 1994-1996, has clamped down on fundraising and transfer of funds in support of the armed underground, such activities have become illegal. Thus control over these activities or even approximate estimates of revenues in this area is simply no longer feasible. However, there is no doubt that both politicians and people from the highest political and business elite of the Islamic world, who are not pleased with Russia's policy in the Caucasus region, could have allocated funds that should have been directed to aid the objectives of the armed North Caucasian underground as represented by the supporters of the Caucasus Emirate.

In general, the armed underground of the North Caucasus has long been functioning according to the principle that "there are no indispensable people in the ranks of resistance," meaning that little depends on one particular individual since everything is interdependent (through the vast network of cells comprised of several members each). This means that if there are losses, then a person who has been killed is immediately replaced by someone who was close to him and knows all the channels of communication and actions of his predecessor. That is why the Russian special services still cannot understand why the assassination or defection of this or that figure does not have an impact on the overall state of the resistance movement. Even if the Russians understood this phenomenon, they are more interested in the propaganda value of their actions, which is why they always try to present a person who has been killed or detained as the resistance figure who is the most dangerous and indispensable.

For Turkey, the assassination of Ataev yet again raises the question of the Chechen opposition's presence and operations on Turkish soil, and Moscow will certainly take advantage of this by pressing Ankara to toughen measures against those whom the Kremlin labels "bandits." This is the third murder of Dokka Umarov's representatives in Turkey in the past five months ( However, the Turkish government cannot afford to implement a harsh policy toward those who have long abandoned the armed Chechen opposition. The members of the armed resistance in the North Caucasus today hail from across the entire region and represent a sizeable diaspora in Turkey, which, according to various sources, is estimated at 5 million and more. Consisting of Cherkess, Adygs, Kabardins, Ossetians, Chechens, Ingush, and Dagestanis, the North Caucasian Diaspora in Turkey is influential, because many of its representatives occupy high positions throughout the Turkish government. Moreover, the opinion of the Chechen Diaspora is always understood in the strategic context within the overall Turkish policy of pan-Turkism. Thus, the policy of expanding influence in the regions of the former USSR, including the Caucasus, the Volga region, Crimea and Central Asia, remains a priority in Turkish foreign policy. This, in turn, allows one to conclude that Ankara's attitude toward North Caucasians is unlikely to change, even in the wake of yet another assassination.

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