Until rather recently, the website Gazeta.ru has served as a rather trustworthy source of information concerning the present conflict. On September 16, however, the English edition of the website reported the following: “Federal headquarters in Chechnya have received reports that Chechnya’s separatist leader, Aslan Maskhadov, has conducted a serious reshuffle among his men. Arab mercenary Abu-Walid has become Maskhadov’s right-hand man and gains control of the finances.” Queried about this report, Glen Howard, executive director of the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya in Washington, noted: “The Gazeta.ru website had this information posted in English quoting Kavkaz.org. There was no mention of it on the Gazeta.ru Russian language version… The story is based upon information ‘from [Russian] federal headquarters.’ There is no mention of this report on the Kavkaz.org website nor on the Chechenpress website run by [Akhmed] Zakaev. Moreover, I spoke with representatives of President Maskhadov in Europe, including his presidential envoy Zakaev. All of them said that no such person [as Abu Walid] exists.”
“Finally,” Howard wrote, “I called [journalist] Anna Politkovskaya at home in Moscow and asked her to comment. She said that she has read reports about him in the Russian media but in all her trips to Chechnya she has never seen Abu Walid. In addition, among the people she interviewed (meaning the Chechen rebel fighters), none of them has ever seen this Abu Walid. She did not make a conclusion, but she bases her reports on facts and interviews, not rumors. Discussing Abu Walid, she said that the Russian media also said the same thing about Abu Khalilov, who was accused of the Kaspiisk bombings [in Dagestan]…. She believes that he too has been made up” (email message to the editor, September 16).