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Umarov Explains His Seeming Inconsistency

Doku Umarov from a March video
Doku Umarov from a March video
North Caucasus insurgency leader Doku Umarov has released a video statement, posted on the insurgency websites and, explaining the circumstances in which he offered earlier this summer to step down from that post, and why he subsequently retracted that decision.

The 11-minute clip is dated September 2010, but Umarov says it was filmed on the 20th day of Ramadan (August 30). Umarov, flanked by veteran field commander Supyan and two other emirs whose identity is uncertain, begins by extending Ramadan greetings to all fellow believers. He then offers apologies for his "long silence."

Umarov explains that at a meeting of Chechnya-based fighters and commanders, he was subjected by rank-and-file fighters and the two Chechnya-based emirs present to a barrage of criticism. He said they specifically reproached him for having claimed responsibility for the most recent "special operation" in Russia, meaning the Moscow subway bombings in March, even though those same emirs and fighters had upbraided him one year earlier for not taking responsibility for other such operations elsewhere in Russia. The fighters also accused him of not doing enough in terms of securing provisions and arms supplies. Umarov acknowledges that the latter criticisms were justified.

Umarov then says that in light of that criticism, he "sincerely" proposed to step down as commander, providing that the commanders of the other fighting units approved that decision. A video address announcing his decision to step down was then prepared for distribution, and entrusted to Umarov's newly appointed deputy, Aslambek Vadalov.

Vadalov, however, violated the oral agreement between them and prepared additional video footage in which other emirs, including Khusein Gakayev and the Arab Mukhannad, presented Umarov's resignation as a done deed and expressed approval of Umarov's imputed request to swear loyalty to Vadalov as his chosen successor.

In light of that move, Umarov explained, he decided that he should not relinquish his duties as commander -- hence the vide clip posted just days later in which he denounces the original video as a fabrication.

It was that apparent retraction that impelled Vadalov, Gakayev, Mukhannad, and Tarkhan Gaziyev to publicly declare the withdrawal of their oath of loyalty to Umarov.

Umarov expresses his gratitude to the emirs of the Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetian, and Daghestan fronts who reaffirmed their loyalty to him.

Umarov stops short, however, of appealing to his four erstwhile lieutenants to resubmit themselves to his authority. And he makes no mention of the spectacular August 29 attack on Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov's home village of Tsentori. That attack was reportedly masterminded by Vadalov.

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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