The three leaders -- Aramby Khapay, who heads the Adygeya branch of Adyghe Khase (Circassian Council); Azmet Skhalyakho, a Russian State Duma deputy who simultaneously heads the Krasnodar Krai branch of Adyghe Khase; and Madzhid Chachukh, chairman of the Shapsug Public Parliament -- refer to media reports of Ustinov's December 22 address to senators from southern Russia. Specifically, they claim "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted him as criticizing unnamed "nationalist" activists who allegedly compound the threat posed to the North Caucasus by Islamic terrorism by calling for the creation of a pan-Circassian republic.
But the summary of Ustinov's address published by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on December 23 makes no mention of the proposal, unveiled at a congress of Circassian youth movements in Karachayevo-Cherkessia in November 2008, to redraw existing borders between the various North Caucasus republics to create a Pan-Circassian republic.
In October 2008, Khapay was quoted as saying he sees "no alternative" to creating such a republic. But in their protest to Medvedev, the three leaders stressed that their respective organizations have always acted in accordance with the laws and Constitution of the Russian Federation, and have never undertaken any action that would pose a threat to Russia's territorial integrity. They also denied ever having made any claims on the territory of other federation subjects.
The three leaders went on to condemn Ustinov's alleged attempt to draw a link between Circassian NGOs and the "terrorist underground" as "malicious slander," "a blatant provocation," and clear evidence of Ustinov's "total incompetence" with regard to the North Caucasus.
Republic of Adygeya President Aslan Tkhakushinov met on December 29 with Khapay and other leading members of the republican branch of Adyghe Khase, but it is not clear from the published report of that meeting whether Ustinov's alleged remarks were discussed. Participants did discuss the planned education reform that Adyghe Khase fears will only accelerate the already dwindling rate of fluency in the national language. They agreed that amendments to the republican Law on Education that would reinstate the teaching of the native language in kindergartens will be submitted to parliament.
Russian expert Sergei Markedonov too took issue with some of Ustinov's December 22 remarks. He noted that Ustinov ranked the leaders of the North Caucasus republics on the basis of their popularity but did not cite any specific opinion poll. Ustinov reportedly named Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov as the most popular leader (over 70 percent approval), followed by Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov (55 percent) and Kabardino-Balkaria President Arsen Kanokov (38 percent). Ustinov identified as the least popular Daghestan's Mukhu Aliyev (22 percent) and North Ossetian President Taymuraz Mamsurov (14 percent).