Meeting with journalists in Grozny on July 7, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov announced
that effective immediately, any militants who wish to lay down their arms and return to civilian life may inform law enforcement agencies via their families of their desire to do so.
Kadyrov said his offer extended to all members of the Islamic insurgency, including Doku Umarov, the self-styled head of the North Caucasus emirate. He said that Umarov, if he availed himself of the offer, would, "as is only just," be tried and jailed for life. But those fighters who have not committed "grave crimes" will be allowed to return to civilian life, and will be provided with employment. Kadyrov added that those young men who had become disillusioned with the false concept of "Wahhabism" were to be pitied, and "should be brought home."
Kadyrov recalled that his late father, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, secured from then-Russian President Vladimir Putin the declaration of a formal amnesty, an offer that Kadyrov claimed "thousands" of fighters took advantage of.
In fact, the Russian State Duma passed legislation in November 1999 and again in 2003 offering to pardon Chechen fighters who laid down their arms. According to Russian media statistics
, 150 fighters were exonerated under the first such amnesty, and some 200 fighters availed themselves of the repeat offer. The Duma announced a third amnesty in 2006, two years after Akhmed-hadji's death. Chechen security forces claim
between 430 and 470 fighters surrendered in the three successive amnesties.
In May 2009, following the first of a series of suicide bombings in Grozny, Kadyrov declared
that "there will be no more amnesties for those nonhumans who kill our brothers and sisters," and that "terrorists should either be jailed or destroyed."
Since then, Chechen security forces have stepped up their reprisals against the families of young men known to have "headed for the forest" to join the insurgency. Kadyrov and other senior officials have repeatedly sought to justify those reprisals on the grounds that parents are responsible for their children's criminal acts.
Whether last month's Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolution
on the North Caucasus that explicitly condemned such reprisals may have impelled Kadyrov to relent and offer clemency to young fighters is not immediately clear. Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, whom the PACE resolution praised for his efforts at "constructive dialogue
," met last week with parents whose children are believed to have joined the insurgency and urged them to persuade their children to return home.
According to Yevkurov's press spokesman, Kaloy Akhilgov, an amnesty for young men from Ingushetia who "joined the insurgency by mistake or by chance" is currently being drafted and will shortly be submitted to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for his approval. Akhilgov estimated
the number of fighters eligible for that amnesty at several dozen.