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Chechen Leadership In Exile Reaffirms Support For Anti-Umarov Resistance Faction


A YouTube screen grab of dissident Chechen commander Khusayn Gakayev

A YouTube screen grab of dissident Chechen commander Khusayn Gakayev

Meeting in Paris in mid-May, the government and parliament in exile of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria (ChRI), overthrown as a result of the Russian military intervention in the fall of 1999, formally reaffirmed their support for the Chechen resistance commanders who last summer rescinded their oath of allegiance to Caucasus Emirate head Doku Umarov.

Those dissident commanders subsequently criticized the way in which Umarov renounced the cause of an independent Chechnya in favor of a hypothetical Islamic state encompassing the entire North Caucasus.

That statement of support adopted in Paris was posted on the ChRI website on May 31, five days after the U.S. State Department designated the Caucasus Emirate "a terrorist organization" and announced a reward of $5 million for the capture of Umarov.

The State Department had designated Umarov a terrorist in June 2010, at the same time differentiating clearly between Umarov and the "radical jihadists," on the one hand, and what it termed the "national-separatist" wing of the Chechen insurgency on the other.

Gakayev Elected As New Military Commander

The ChRI government and parliament in exile had first expressed support for the breakaway faction in October. In a similar joint statement, they hailed the "good sense" of the Chechen commanders who had distanced themselves from Umarov and the "dead-end path" on which he had embarked.

This statement further expressed support for the election by his fellow fighters of one of the dissident commanders, Khusein Gakayev, as military commander of the ChRI armed forces and head of the State Defense Committee, the body established in October 1999 by then-ChRI President Aslan Maskhadov to serve as the "supreme organ of state power of the ChRI in time of war."

In June 2002, that body was renamed by Maskhadov as the State Defense Committee -- Majlis ul-Shura.

The October statement also registered the suspension of its powers by the ChRI government in exile pending changes in the composition of the State Defense Committee -- Majlis ul-Shura and in the structure of the ChRI armed forces. (Maskhadov's original decree on the State Defense Committee does not stipulate who, in addition to the ChRI president as its chairman, is ex officio a member.)

The May statement implied that this process has been successfully completed. Gakayev has not, however, formally made public any details of those changes, presumably because security considerations strictly preclude any electronic communications with the outside world.

The statement adopted in Paris in May is much harsher than the earlier one in its condemnation of the "fratricidal policy" of the "ideologists of eternal war" (meaning Umarov and Caucasus Emirate ideologist Movladi Udugov) who "attempted to liquidate the legitimate organs of state power of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria."

No Military Solution

By the same token, it defines the most important objective of the ChRI leadership in exile as "the unification of all forces for the liberation of our homeland and the restoration of the legitimate structures of state power on the entire territory of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria by means of the free expression of the people's will."

Noting that there can be no military solution to the ongoing Russian-Chechen war, the May statement acknowledges, and expresses unequivocal support for, the "leading role" played by the armed resistance, while simultaneously condemning "terrorism in all its manifestations."

The May statement is complemented by a video clip (the first of four) of the Paris meeting posted on the ChRI website that is clearly intended to underscore visually the message that Gakayev and his fellow commanders are the legitimate successors to the elected wartime leaders of the ChRI.

The clip opens with three minutes of archival TV footage, with the ChRI national anthem as musical backing, of the inauguration in November 1991 of Djokhar Dudayev as the first president of the ChRI.

That archival footage is cut and interspliced with shots of successive ChRI presidents and prominent military commanders, most of them now dead.

They are, in order of appearance, Dudayev's vice president, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev; Maskhadov, in dress uniform; Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev, who succeeded Maskhadov as ChRI president in March 2005; renegade field commander Shamil Basayev, who served periodically as Maskhadov's prime minister; Hamzat Gelayev, nicknamed by the Russians "the Black Angel," whose military prowess during the first war and in 1999-2000 led some to regard him as the Islamic messiah or Mahdi; Arbi Yovmirzayev ("Mansur"), the brilliant Islamic scholar whom Umarov unsuccessfully sought to have assassinated for his criticism of the Caucasus Emirate, and who was killed by a land mine in February 2010; Aslanbek Vadalov, military strategist and commander of the Eastern Front, who like Gakayev broke with Umarov last summer; Gakayev; and "Makhran," who commanded the attack last August on pro-Moscow Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov's home village.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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