Andrei Smirnov

Andrei Smirnov is an independent journalist covering the North Caucasus. He is based in Russia.

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Articles by Andrei Smirnov

Rebels Move Closer to Seizing Control of Ingushetia

Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed the Russian government’s concern about the situation in Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia. The Ministry said on August 3 that the threat of

Kremlin Policy in Ingushetia is Paralyzed

The Kremlin’s strategy toward the North Caucasus is based on the old imperial principle of carrot and stick. The stick is the Russian armed forces, special police units and Federal

Salafists and Sufis Square Off Over Chechnya

From July 5 to July 7, an international Islamic conference entitled “The Place and Role of Sufism in the Islamic World,” which gathered together more than 200 clergymen from Russia

Kadyrov Presses his Campaign against the Yamadaevs

Following the inauguration of the newly elected Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on May 7, the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov initiated another public campaign against his political rivals, the Yamadaev brothers,

Chechen Rebels Survive Another Winter and Fight On

Late in January, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov declared that only 60-70 militants remained in Chechnya. Kadyrov had promised to eliminate all rebels before the arrival of spring. “This is their

Who in Moscow Protects the Yamadaev Brothers?

On April 19, the federal authorities made the first concrete decision on the conflict between the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and the Yamadaev brothers—Sulim Yamadaev, who heads the Russian army’s

The Kremlin Ponders What to Do with Zyazikov

On March 14, the presidium of Russia’s governing political party, United Russia, dismissed Ingush President Murat Zyazikov from the post of the party’s regional leader. Andrei Vorobyev, the chairman of

Ramzan Kadyrov Targets the Yamadaev Brothers

Some people say that Chechnya’s pro-Russian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, controls the republic firmly and has no rivals, at least in the Chechen pro-Russian camp. However, secret conflicts inside that camp

Why Are Ingushetia’s Rebels so Successful?

Out of all the regions of the North Caucasus, Ingushetia is focused on most today. People inside and outside Russia have different versions for why the situation in this republic

Dagestan’s Expanding Insurgency

On February 4, President Vladimir Putin visited Botlikh, a mountain town in the Caucasian republic of Dagestan where the 33rd Motorized Infantry Brigade Highland is deployed. Botlikh has a special

The Kremlin Clings to Zyazikov

Despite the fact that it is winter, rebel attacks in the Caucasian republic of Ingushetia have intensified. It would be no exaggeration to say that attacks on policemen and local

The Kremlin Calls on Shamanov Again

On November 12, the Interfax news agency reported that General Vladimir Shamanov had been appointed head of the Russian Armed Forces' Main Directorate for Combat Training and Service. According to

The Caucasian Emirate: A Not so New Idea

The split in the camp of the Chechen separatists caused by the recent statement of rebel leader Dokka Umarov continues to deepen. A group of Chechen separatists abroad headed by

Russification of the Ingush Police Continues

Despite Ingushetia’s relative calm, the Russian authorities have not stopped looking for new ways to fight the insurgency in the republic. The Kremlin understands that this calm is just a

Chechnya’s Rebel Brigadier Generals

The recent relative calm in Chechnya has allowed for local security officials to start speaking once again about the defeat of the insurgency. On September 16, Ruslan Alkhanov, the pro-Russian

Who Is Killing the Non-Muslims in Ingushetia?

There has been a recent upsurge in the murders of non-Muslim residents in Ingushetia. On September 11, a Gypsy family was killed in the village of Sleptsovskaya (Ordzhonikidzevskaya). Four days

Fear of Large-Scale Rebel Attack Grips Grozny

On August 27, Ruslan Alkhanov, the pro-Russian Interior Minister of Chechnya, made a sensational statement. Alkhanov attempted to dispel the idea that the Chechen rebels are preparing to launch a

Zyazikov’s Declining Political Support

The sharp growth of rebel attacks in Ingushetia this summer has provoked a wave of criticism against Murat Zyazikov, the Ingush president. Many people in Russia have once again started

Magas: Shamil Basaev’s Ingush Successor

On July 21, the rebel Kavkaz-Center website posted a new decree of Dokka Umarov, the leader of the Chechen and North Caucasian rebels and the president of the Chechen Republic

Agishty: The Hottest Spot in Chechnya

In covering the guerilla war in Chechnya, few journalists have tried to analyze the tactics of the rebels. Generally, the journalists who observe the situation in Chechnya simply indicate that

Moscow’s Guessing Game over Rebel Strategy

Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk has declared that “the operational situation in the North Caucasus will become increasingly hot.” According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, Sydoruk said on July 7 that

Ramzan Kadyrov Reacts to Rebel Threats

On June 15, Ramzan Kadyrov declared that he opposes further amnesties of militants in Chechnya. The Chechen president said that he would not support the idea of a new amnesty

POLICE BARRACKS ATTACKED IN INGUSHETIA

At midnight on Tuesday, June 19, a group of militants attacked a police special-task force facility in Karabulak, Ingushetia. The garrison actually had members of two special-task police units inside:

Does Kadyrov Have Designs on Ingushetia?

The possibility of unifying two regions of the North Caucasus, Ingushetia and Chechnya, has appeared in Russian political discourse several times in the past. Last May, rumors about the possibility

Chechen Rebels Replenish their Ranks

On June 8, The Chechen Committee of the National Salvation (CCNS), a Chechen human rights organization, reported that, according to their information, people in Chechnya are anticipating a serious increase

KREMLIN TAKES MEASURES TO REGULATE THE INTERNET

On March 12 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to combine two state bodies that control and license media sources in the country. The Federal Service for Telecom Supervision

Kadyrov Turns to Zikrism to Legitimize His Rule

On the evening of February 15, 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov, at that time still Chechnya’s prime minister, prayed together with members of his family in his native village of Tsentoroi. According

DUMA DEPUTY BLAMES PUTIN FOR BESLAN MASSACRE

On February 6 Yuri Ivanov, a Communist deputy in the Russian State Duma, declared that President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered Russian forces to use grenade launchers to fire on

Kremlin Potemkinizes the Situation in Chechnya

There is no doubt that during the 43rd annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, a potential successor to Putin, attempted to

PUTIN AWARDS SHAIMIEV A MEDAL INSTEAD OF A TREATY

On January 20, the Russian State Council, which includes regional leaders and President Vladimir Putin, met in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, an autonomous republic in the Volga region. After

Yaseen Rasulov: Dagestan’s Rebel Scholar

There is a widespread opinion that Wahhabism, or Salafism, a branch of Sunni Islam, is not a traditional religion for the North Caucasus. Many scholars, especially in Russia, say that

KREMLIN LETS ADYGEYA KEEP ITS VIRTUAL AUTONOMY

On December 13, the parliament of Adygeya, a region in the North Caucasus, voted to confirm Aslan Tkhakushinov as president of the republic. According to Russian law, the president of

KREMLIN SIGNS POWER-SHARING TREATY WITH TATARSTAN

In early November Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the State Duma a draft of a power-sharing treaty between the federal government and Tatarstan, an autonomous republic in the Volga region.

Russia’s Deepening Military Crisis in Chechnya

Russian generals continue to stun the public with sensational statements about the situation in Chechnya. A month ago Colonel-General Yevgeny Baryaev, the commander of the Russian military group in Chechnya,

Dagestan’s Hidden Insurgency

“Four bandit groups continue to operate in Dagestan,” Major-General Sergei Solodovnikov, deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Southern Federal District, said at a press conference

Dagestani Rebels Show Their Faces

Sharia Jamaat, the Dagestani rebel group, has shown the faces of its leaders by posting a video appeal on the Kavkaz-Center rebel website. This appeal, posted on the website two

KREMLIN LOSES CONTROL OVER INGUSH POLICE

On October 15, Russia’s RIA-Novosti news agency reported that the Interior Ministry of Ingushetia, a region in the North Caucasus adjacent to Chechnya, would be strengthened by additional 200 policemen,

Russia’s Uncertain Military Future in Chechnya

On August 10, Leonid Krivonos, the acting military commandant of Chechnya, stunned the Russian public by commenting that the Russian military command in Chechnya expects rebel activity in Chechnya to

Putin’s Potemkin Withdrawal from Chechnya

On August 8, Rossiiskaya gazeta published an excerpt from a decree signed by the Russian President on August 2. In the decree, Putin instructs the Defense Ministry and the Interior

KREMLIN MOVES TO STRENGTHEN CONTROL OVER DAGESTAN

On Monday, July 17, Imam Yaraliev, prosecutor-general for Dagestan, announced his resignation. His deputy, Murad Kekhlerov, will take the post until the Russian prosecutor-general appoints a replacement. Yaraliev had been

DAGESTAN: THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM?

The North Caucasus is poised for a possible rebel offensive. Police and army troops in North Ossetia and Ingushetia have been on high alert since April (see EDM, April 20).

ADYGEI LEADER CONTINUES TO CHALLENGE KREMLIN

Last weak Adygeya was rocked by the unexpected announcement of the local president's resignation, followed quickly by an even more surprising reversal. On April 4 the president of Adygeya, Khasret

Chechnya Rocked by Desertions, Sex Scandal

Ramzan Kadyrov, the newly appointed prime minister of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, is continuing to introduce Islamic ethics to government practices (see Chechnya Weekly, March 6). After criticizing the local

NALCHIK: CHECHEN REBELS BUILD ON ANCESTOR’S TACTICS

The attack on Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, on October 13 again demonstrated the unpredictability of the Chechen or, more accurately, Caucasian insurgency. When Chechen separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev in

KABARDINO-BALKARIA FACES LONG-TERM GUERRILLA WAR

Russian authorities are hailing their handling of the October 13 rebel attack on Nalchik, the capital of the Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, as a "great success." Russian Minister of Internal

NALCHIK UNDER ATTACK: MOSCOW UNABLE TO RESPOND

Early in the morning of October 13, police in Kabardino-Balkaria received an anonymous telephone tip that gunmen had been seen near the Belya Rechka River on the outskirts of Nalchik,

OSSETIA RESISTS RETURN OF INGUSH REFUGEES

One of the many difficult problems in the North Caucasus is the land dispute between North Ossetia and Ingushetia. Prigorodny district was incorporated into Ossetia after the deportation of the

BASAEV INTERVIEW ENRAGES RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES

The interview with Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev that aired on American television on July 29 dealt a serious blow to the Kremlin. Russian authorities made desperate efforts to prevent the

POPULAR SUPPORT INCREASES FOR DAGESTAN REBELS

May and early June brought intensified rebel attacks in Dagestan. On June 1, a bus carrying 20 policemen was bombed in Makhachkala, the capital (RIA-Novosti, June 1). Almost every night

MORE REBEL ACTIVITY IN NORTHERN CHECHNYA

On June 4, a special unit of Russian troops entered the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya in the North of the republic. "They ordered us to lie on the floor with

A DIFFICULT TIME FOR NEGOTIATIONS

On June 1, Andreas Gross, PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) deputy chairman and Special Rappateur on Chechnya, launched an unexpectedly strong critique of Russian policy towards the

IS RAMZAN KADYROV LEAVING THE LIMELIGHT?

Ramzan Kadyrov, deputy prime minister and leader of the pro-Russian forces in Chechnya, likes to be the center of attention. He makes numerous public statements that tend to be quite

CHECHEN FORCES ENTER DAGESTAN WITH FSB HELP

Early in the morning of April 20, Yusup Adjiev's bodyguards saw masked gunmen climbing down from the fence surrounding his house in Toturby-Kala, a village in Dagestan. Adjiev is the

WHO IS BEHIND YARMUK JAMAAT: BALKARS OR KABARDINS?

On January 27, Russian troops and local police forces surrounded an apartment building where members of an underground Islamist organization known as "Yarmuk Jamaat" were hiding in Nalchik, the capital

PROTESTORS VACATE PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE IN CHERKESSK

The October crisis in the North Caucasus republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia continues, but the authorities have managed to mitigate the problem somewhat. On November 11, when angry demonstrators took over the

CAN MASKHADOV REPEAT HIS 1996 OFFENSIVE?

On November 3, Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov announced during a meeting in Grozny that the number of terrorist acts had decreased so far this year by 36 percent across

WHO ATTACKED BESLAN? PROFILING THE TERRORIST GROUP

The investigation into the September 1 terrorist attack on the North Ossetian town of Beslan continues. Apart from law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors, the Russian Federation Council and State Duma have

CAN MASKHADOV REPEAT HIS 1996 OFFENSIVE?

On November 3, Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov announced during a meeting in Grozny that the number of terrorist acts had decreased so far this year by 36 percent across

A DIFFICULT TIME FOR NEGOTIATIONS

On June 1, Andreas Gross, PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) deputy chairman and Special Rappateur on Chechnya, launched an unexpectedly strong critique of Russian policy towards the

MORE REBEL ACTIVITY IN NORTHERN CHECHNYA

On June 4, a special unit of Russian troops entered the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya in the North of the republic. "They ordered us to lie on the floor with

NALCHIK: CHECHEN REBELS BUILD ON ANCESTOR’S TACTICS

The attack on Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, on October 13 again demonstrated the unpredictability of the Chechen or, more accurately, Caucasian insurgency. When Chechen separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev in

Chechnya Rocked by Desertions, Sex Scandal

Ramzan Kadyrov, the newly appointed prime minister of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, is continuing to introduce Islamic ethics to government practices (see Chechnya Weekly, March 6). After criticizing the local

Putin’s Potemkin Withdrawal from Chechnya

On August 8, Rossiiskaya gazeta published an excerpt from a decree signed by the Russian President on August 2. In the decree, Putin instructs the Defense Ministry and the Interior

Russia’s Uncertain Military Future in Chechnya

On August 10, Leonid Krivonos, the acting military commandant of Chechnya, stunned the Russian public by commenting that the Russian military command in Chechnya expects rebel activity in Chechnya to

Dagestani Rebels Show Their Faces

Sharia Jamaat, the Dagestani rebel group, has shown the faces of its leaders by posting a video appeal on the Kavkaz-Center rebel website. This appeal, posted on the website two

Dagestan’s Hidden Insurgency

“Four bandit groups continue to operate in Dagestan,” Major-General Sergei Solodovnikov, deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Southern Federal District, said at a press conference

Russia’s Deepening Military Crisis in Chechnya

Russian generals continue to stun the public with sensational statements about the situation in Chechnya. A month ago Colonel-General Yevgeny Baryaev, the commander of the Russian military group in Chechnya,

Yaseen Rasulov: Dagestan’s Rebel Scholar

There is a widespread opinion that Wahhabism, or Salafism, a branch of Sunni Islam, is not a traditional religion for the North Caucasus. Many scholars, especially in Russia, say that

Kremlin Potemkinizes the Situation in Chechnya

There is no doubt that during the 43rd annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, a potential successor to Putin, attempted to

Kadyrov Turns to Zikrism to Legitimize His Rule

On the evening of February 15, 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov, at that time still Chechnya’s prime minister, prayed together with members of his family in his native village of Tsentoroi. According