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Campaign To Discredit Exiled Chechen Leader Intensifies

Chechen parliament speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov (right) called Akhmed Zakayev (left) a traitor who has brought untold suffering on his own people.
Chechen parliament speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov (right) called Akhmed Zakayev (left) a traitor who has brought untold suffering on his own people.
Over the past year, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov has repeatedly said he would welcome the return to Chechnya from London of Akhmed Zakayev, who heads the Chechen Republic Ichkeria (CHRI) leadership in exile. But last week, Kadyrov abruptly changed tack, branding Zakayev a liar and a hypocrite and accusing him of misrepresenting the present situation in Chechnya.

Two days later, on October 30, parliament speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, a close Kadyrov ally who has met several times in recent months with Zakayev to discuss ways to promote political stabilization in Chechnya, issued a decree formally dissolving the ChRI parliament and government in exile and also the North Caucasus emirate proclaimed two years ago by Chechen resistance commander Doku Umarov. Abdurakhmanov was quoted as saying that move was primarily moral and psychological, insofar as the ChRI agencies abroad are virtual, not real. (He did not make the same claim for Umarov's emirate.)

In a subsequent lengthy interview, Abdurakhmanov called Zakayev a traitor who has brought untold suffering on his own people, and made it clear that the present pro-Moscow Chechen leadership wants no further dealings with him.

The catalyst for the wave of vilification of Zakayev was an interview published on October 26 in "Kommersant-Vlast" by Musa Muradov, a Chechen journalist who travelled to London to talk to Zakayev. In that interview, Zakayev said he has spoken briefly by telephone on two occasions with Kadyrov, but they did not discuss his possible return to Grozny.

He also said that during their successive meetings this summer, he discussed with Abdurakhmanov the possibility of the Russian authorities handing over to their families the bodies of prominent Chechen resistance figures, including ChRI President Aslan Maskhadov, and also of declaring an amnesty for an estimated 20,000 Chechens serving prison terms in Russia. Zakayev also reaffirmed his conviction that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) orchestrated Umarov's decision to declare the North Caucasus an Islamic state.

Victory Of The Hawks

In an October 29 interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Zakayev attributed Kadyrov's criticism of him to a split within the Russian leadership between one faction that realizes that the North Caucasus cannot be stabilized by using military force, and an opposing faction that considers a military victory not only possible, but the sole acceptable outcome. He said that latter faction at present has the upper hand, and that Kadyrov's reaction was dictated by Moscow, as Kadyrov is not an independent player.

If Zakayev's hypothesis that the "hawks" in Moscow were behind Kadyrov's criticism of him last week is indeed correct, then Abdurakhmanov's November 2 interview leaves no doubt that, for whatever reason, they are out to destroy Zakayev's reputation and influence both within the diaspora community and in Chechnya.

Abdurakhmanov's blanket criticism of Zakayev ranges from his role as a minister within Maskhadov's government to his imputed violation of the gentlemen's agreement between them not to comment publicly on the issues discussed during their talks this summer.

Abdurakhmanov further implicitly denied Zakayev's affirmation that the Russian leadership had given the green light for those talks, saying that he coordinated his meetings with Zakayev only with Kadyrov. Following a meeting with Zakayev in Oslo on July 24, Abdurakhmanov had read out an official statement saying that meeting took place with the approval of both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Abdurakhmanov further lumped Zakayev together with Umarov and Umarov's adviser, Movladi Udugov (whom Zakayev considers the mastermind behind the North Caucasus emirate), as "enemies of the [Chechen] republic." He stressed that "we are the legitimate government," and that following the adoption in a referendum in March 2003 of a new constitution designating the Chechen Republic a subject of the Russian Federation "all political questions are closed."

Exile Squabbles

Abdurakhmanov said that the envisaged world congress of Chechens will take place as planned, that Grozny will be the venue, and that it will focus on encouraging Chechens in exile to return home. During their most recent meeting, in London in mid-August, Zakayev and Abdurakhmanov agreed that such a forum would be convened before the end of the year. It was subsequently scheduled for February 23, 2010.

Abdurakhmanov said Zakayev has discredited himself to the point that he cannot attend that gathering, and "we shall not conduct any further talks with him." But he did not exclude inviting other Chechen political figures in exile. In that context he mentioned Akhyad Idigov and Zhaloudi Saralyapov, who head rival factions of the divided ChRI parliament.

In late August, days after Zakayev's most recent meeting with Abdurakhmanov in London, Saralyapov issued a decree dismissing the ChRI cabinet in exile and Zakayev as its head, and taking upon himself the duties of cabinet head. Saralyapov's stated rationale for doing so was that Zakayev violated the ChRI Constitution by recognizing the legitimacy of the pro-Moscow Chechen Republic leadership.

Saralyapov said the parliament and government in exile authorized Zakayev to discuss with pro-Moscow Chechen officials only a proposal advanced by the latter that the Russian Federation should recognize the Chechen Republic as an independent state just as it recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia one year ago.

The ChRI prosecutor's office loyal to Zakayev retaliated by issuing a statement accusing Saralyapov and two other persons of treason, conspiring with a hostile state, and seeking to overthrow the legitimate ChRI leadership and seize power.

Which of Zakayev's statements to "Kommersant-Vlast" occasioned Abdurakhmanov's diatribe can only be guessed at. Abdurakhmanov may himself have incurred Moscow's displeasure if he and Zakayev indeed discussed the possibility of handing over Maskhadov's body to his family for reburial. Any such proposal would be anathema to the Kremlin, given that under Russian legislation, the bodies of slain "terrorists" are to be buried in unmarked graves.

Meanwhile, the plight of "Kommersant" journalist Muradov gives serious grounds for concern in light of the still unresolved murder three years ago of Anna Politkovskaya, whose fearless coverage of events in Chechnya cost her her life. Abdurakhmanov denounced Muradov as "a scoundrel and a traitor to the Chechen people" who "has committed a crime against Chechen history."

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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