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Chechnya: What's Behind President's Dismissal Of Envoys, Government?

  • Liz Fuller

Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev (file photo) Following his May reorganization of the Chechen military command, in early August Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev issued decrees disbanding the Chechen government and dismissing the network of envoys abroad that he inherited from his predecessor, President Aslan Maskhadov. Sadullaev explained his reasons for doing so in an address to the Chechen people posted on 19 August on chechenpress.org.

In that address, Sadullaev described the reorganization of the military leadership to create six fronts, sub-divided into 35 sectors, as the first stage in a broader restructuring necessitated by the ongoing war with Russia. The second phase of that restructuring, he said, entails the dismissal of the government in exile and diplomatic representatives abroad. He accused the latter of unspecified financial violations and of working at cross purposes and squabbling among themselves, and said their activities have been for the most part confined to meeting with Chechen refugees in Europe or with representatives of international aid and human rights organizations.

He specifically criticized the Foreign Ministry for its "total inactivity," and he accused its head, Ilyas Akhmadov (without mentioning him by name), of devoting greater attention to an unnamed "scientific project" he is reportedly working on at a U.S. research institute than to "the interests of his own people, which is on the verge of extinction."

Neither the envoys nor the parliament in exile, Sadullaev continued, have managed to organize a single event that could be compared in terms of its impact with the recent attack carried out by resistance fighters on the village of Roshni-Chu. Five Russian servicemen died in that attack. He expressed particular regret that collectively the parliament and the presidential envoys abroad were unable to persuade the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to adopt a resolution condemning the killing of Maskhadov and demanding that the Russian authorities hand over his body to his family for burial. He claimed that the majority of the 60-odd deputies to the parliament elected under Maskhadov in 1997 have transferred their allegiance to Moscow, while just a handful live as political refugees in Europe, still "trying to help their people in some way." Sadullaev acknowledged that some lawmakers have sacrificed their lives for the Chechen cause, including former parliament chairman Ruslan Alikhadzhiev.

Sadullaev argued that the continued presence of the government, parliament, and envoys abroad poses "a very dangerous precedent for Chechen statehood," in that the government and parliament should function on Chechen territory, even if "underground." He warned that unless the parliament demonstrates greater effectiveness, he will suggest to the State Defense Committee-Military Council that it be dissolved, and that those deputies who remain loyal should continue their activities by providing ideological support for that body. He also identified a further potential threat, namely the possibility that one or another faction among the Chechen refugees in Europe may seek to train a new leader at a European university and send him home to Chechnya once the war is won to play a role analogous to that played in post-Taliban Afghanistan by Hamid Karzai.

Sadullaev said that, on the contrary, he will give preference in forming the new Chechen government to domestic candidates. He said new ministers will be carefully selected on the basis of their competence, experience, and devotion to "the cause of Islam and the independence of the Chechen Republic." He predicted that formation of the new government will not prove difficult, as there remains "an adequate reserve of competent specialists," despite the extermination by Russia of "almost the entire intellectual potential of the Chechen people."

Umar Khanbiev, who served as health minister under Maskhadov in 1997-1999 and later as an envoy abroad, told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that he welcomes Sadullaev's decision to dismiss the envoys and parliament as "long overdue."

See also:

Senior Commander Tells RFE/RL, 'No Alternative To Armed Struggle'

Three-Way Struggle For Chechen Islam

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