On March 29, chechenpress.info, which is affiliated with the Chechen Republic-Ichkeria (ChRI) government in exile, posted a lengthy (13,000+ words) and detailed account of the activities of Anzor Astemirov (aka Seyfullakh), a Kabardian who has for years played a key role, first in the Islamic resistance in his native Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, and more recently within the leadership of the North Caucasus emirate proclaimed in late 2007 by then-Chechen resistance leader Doku Umarov.
Chechenpress.info not only alleges that for most of the past decade Astemirov collaborated with Russian security and law enforcement bodies. It also quotes veteran ideologue Movladi Udugov as admitting that it was Astemirov, and not as previously believed Udugov, who persuaded Umarov to proclaim himself amir of the North Caucasus, and it implies that Astemirov may have been indirectly involved in the killing in July 2006 of maverick Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev after Basayev refused to endorse the planned proclamation of a pan-Caucasus Islamic state into which the ChRI, in whose name the Chechen resistance had fought for years, would be subsumed.
The chechenpress.info account claims that Astemirov and his comrade in arms Musa Mukozhev were apprehended by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in April 2001, but were released after three months. (The two men had first attracted the attention of the Russian security forces in 1993, when on their return from studying in Saudi Arabia they established the unofficial Kabardino-Balkaria Islamic Center.) Astemirov and Mukozhev are said to have done all they could to dissuade young Muslims in Kabardino-Balkaria from joining the ranks of the Chechen resistance in 2002-03; the denunciation quotes Astemirov as arguing that at that time "there was no need" for them to join in the fighting, an argument chechenpress.info rejects as spurious.
It further details what it claims was an FSB plan to use Astemirov to neutralize the so-called Yarmuk jamaat headed by Muslim Atayev; Astemirov was chosen to head Yarmuk in August 2005, seven months after Atayev was killed, and in that capacity he incurred Basayev's disapproval for launching the ill-fated October 2005 multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik before the young volunteer fighters were properly trained for such an operation.
At one level, it is tempting to write off these allegations as simply the most recent chapter in the ongoing protracted exchange of insults and accusations between the ChRI, which remains committed to the cause of Chechen independence which it accuses the "emiratists" of having betrayed under pressure from the FSB, and the radical Islamic resistance loyal to Umarov, which views the ChRI faction as apostates. But many of the details are plausible, and tally with earlier information.
The Jamestown Foundation recently published an interview with Astemirov, a Russian translation of which was posted on March 26
on the pro-Umarov website Kavkazcenter, in which Astemirov claimed that most of the population of both Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia supports the Islamic resistance either overtly or covertly.