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Analysis: Chechen Premier In Exile Denies Imputed Overtures To Pro-Moscow Leadership

Akhmed Zakayev (RFE/RL) Recent favorable comments by Chechen Republic-Ichkeria Prime Minister Akhmed Zakayev have been interpreted by the Chechen community in exile as unwarranted praise of pro-Moscow Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov and even as reflecting Zakayev's desire to reach some kind of accommodation with him. But in a May 20 interview with RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Zakayev denied any such intent and explained in detail his perception of the current situation in Chechnya.

As in an earlier interview with RFE/RL in November 2007, Zakayev defined the present situation as one of successful "decolonization," meaning that it is now Chechens, not Russians, who head the Chechen government. At the same time, Chechnya remains under military occupation. For that reason, Zakayev said, "our primary task is not a war with the [pro-Moscow Chechen] police or with local Chechen bureaucrats. Our primary task, and that of our military forces, is resistance to the Russian state and its ongoing policy of occupation. Besides that, we must preserve the legal foundation of our state in order to hand it on to the next generation of the Chechen people. It is these that are our immediate tasks, and not coming to power, being in power, or using that power to gain any particular advantages."

Zakayev made the same point at a conference in London on May 14 organized by the Royal United Services Institute. On that occasion, he explained that he and his comrades in arms "are not fighting against Ramzan Kadyrov, but against the occupying forces," according to the transcript of his presentation posted on May 19 on

At the same time, in his May 20 interview with RFE/RL, Zakayev implicitly branded Kadyrov "a criminal" in light of his repeated calls to wipe out the remaining resistance forces and to punish those members of the civilian population who provide them with food and shelter. He also suggested that despite Kadyrov's efforts to ingratiate himself with the Russian leadership by calling for the annihilation of his fellow Chechens, "to the Russians he is first and foremost a man who fought against them," during the 1994-96 war. Zakayev predicted that for that reason, "they will kill him treacherously at the first opportunity."

At the May 14 conference in London, Zakayev similarly said he is convinced that "a magnificent funeral" is being prepared for Kadyrov. Curiously, he went on to predict that former Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantamirov is slated to succeed Kadyrov. Gantamirov left Chechnya in 2003 after a series of highly publicized altercations with Kadyrov's father, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov.

Zakayev further categorically rejected as untrue speculation that some kind of draft written agreement exists between himself and the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, or that the recent visit to Grozny by renowned surgeon Khassan Baiev, who operated on resistance fighters, including field commander Shamil Basayev in the early days of the second war before fleeing Chechnya in 2000 and being granted political asylum in the United States, was undertaken at Zakayev's behest. Zakayev said he suspects those rumors originate with former Chechen Republic-Ichkeria (ChRI) Information Minister Movladi Udugov, who last fall persuaded then-ChRI President and resistance commander Doku Umarov to declare himself head of a virtual North Caucasus emirate that would subsume the ChRI.

Asked whether the resistance fighters still loyal to the government in exile, rather than to Umarov, might misinterpret his comments about Kadyrov, Zakayev said he does not think those comments were ambiguous and open to misinterpretation.

As to whether he would under any circumstances seek an accommodation with the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership, Zakayev dismissed as impermissible "any betrayal of the path we have followed over the past 10-15 years," and which has cost the lives of thousands of Chechens; he said that for him to return to Chechnya tomorrow would constitute such a betrayal. At the same time, he said that he considers it his duty to seek any possible political settlement of the Chechen conflict, and that the government and parliament in exile are working to that end.

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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