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Caucasus Emirate Leader Calls On Insurgents To Thwart Sochi Winter Olympics

A screen grab taken from an undated video posted on July 3 that shows a man identified as Russia's top Islamist leader Doku Umarov (center) recording his appeal at an undisclosed location.
A screen grab taken from an undated video posted on July 3 that shows a man identified as Russia's top Islamist leader Doku Umarov (center) recording his appeal at an undisclosed location.
Self-styled Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov has called on members of the North Caucasus insurgency to prevent the holding of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February 2014.

In a brief video clip posted on YouTube late on July 2 but removed just hours later, Umarov also announced the end of the moratorium he proclaimed in January 2012 on terrorist attacks on civilian targets elsewhere in Russia.

The four-minute video is dated the Muslim month of Sha'ban, which began on June 10. It was apparently filmed at the same time as a clip posted last week in which Umarov expresses condolences to the families of insurgents killed in combat. Both were filmed in the forest, with birdsong audible in the background, and in both Umarov is shown seated, flanked by his deputy Aslan Byutukayev (Emir Khamzat) and another, younger fighter.

Umarov begins his address to fighters in the Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia by noting that the ongoing jihad is inexorably gathering momentum. He recalls that in "recent statements...we demonstrated charity [milost] and goodwill" by imposing a moratorium on attacks on civilians elsewhere in Russia. But the unbelievers, Umarov continues, construed that demonstration of goodwill as weakness, and launched bloody reprisals against the peaceful population of the Caucasus. It is incumbent on us, he argues, to demonstrate to the inhabitants of the Kremlin that our charity is not weakness, and to respond in kind to their bloody attacks.

Umarov notes Moscow's plans to stage the Winter Olympic Games "on the bones of many, many Muslims killed...and buried on our lands extending to the Black Sea." He affirms that the insurgency has an obligation to try to prevent the holding of the Olympics using all the means that Allah permits. He calls on all Islamic insurgents in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and the Caucasus take part in that effort.

Russian security services have for years warned that the insurgency Umarov heads poses a threat to the peaceful conduct of the Sochi Winter Olympics and adduced that threat to justify indiscriminate violence against anyone suspected to belonging to or abetting the insurgency.

The phrasing of Umarov's address, in particular his appeal to fighters elsewhere in the Caucasus, implies, however, that the insurgency does not have a carefully coordinated battle plan for Sochi in which individual insurgency wings (Chechnya, Daghestan, but above all Kabardino-Balkaria) would attack previously agreed targets. Granted, the current video clip may have been intended to create precisely that impression. But it is an open question whether, since the death seven years ago of Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev, any of the surviving veteran fighters has the strategic vision to conceive such a plan.

Even assuming a carefully coordinated battle-plan does exist, it would have been strategically more advantageous for Umarov to maintain silence concerning his plans and thus prolong the uncertainty over whether he is still alive and whether the insurgency is numerically strong and organized enough to create chaos and mayhem in Sochi -- or possibly elsewhere in Russia -- in February.

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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