The leader of Islamist rebels in Russia's North Caucasus has ordered fighters under his command to halt attacks on Russia's civilian population.
In a four-minute video clip
posted on February 3 on the Kavkaz Center website, Doku Umarov refers to ordinary Russians as "peaceful" people who no longer support Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his "Chekist"
regime -- a reference to Putin's origins as a KGB agent.
"The population in Russia today definitely does not support Putin," he says. "They've been exploited by these sinners and they are hostages to this Chekist regime. So I order all fighters that are carrying out or are planning to carry out security operations on the territory of Russia to put a halt to these operations that could hurt the peaceful population of Russia."
Umarov, the head of the Caucasus Emirate Islamist group, has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks in Russia, including the January 2011 suicide bombing
at Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 37 people.
He has also been tied to the twin attacks
by female suicide bombers in the Moscow metro in March 2010 that killed 40 people.
Military Still A 'Legitimate Target'
In the new video, Umarov says insurgents are obliged by their religion not to harm Russians who do not participate in or support the Russian leadership's "war against Muslims."
He says Russian military and security personnel and the pro-Moscow leadership in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya remain legitimate targets.
The video comes a month before presidential elections in Russia that Putin -- the main architect of Moscow's military campaign in the Caucasus -- is widely expected to win.
The Caucasus Emirate has been seeking to impose an Islamist state throughout the North Caucasus and has been engaged in protracted fighting with Russian security forces there.