Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 74

On April 14, the same day that NTV television’s facilities were occupied by the management team recently installed by Gazprom, President Vladimir Putin traveled Chechnya. While there he visited a Russian military unit at the village of Khatuni and met with senior military commanders and local administration heads at the Khankala military base, not far from the Chechen capital of Djohar. He also visited the spot where eighty-four soldiers from the Pskov paratroop division were killed in March 2000. Putin ruled out a total pullout of forces from Chechnya, saying that only “excess” forces would be withdrawn, and called for immediate improvements in providing for the material needs of the troops remaining in Chechnya (Russian agencies, April 14). Some observers have speculated that Putin deliberately timed the trip to Chechnya so that he would be out of Moscow when NTV’s studios and offices were taken over.

The Chechen rebels, meanwhile, continued to attack Chechens cooperating with the federal forces. On April 12, Adam Deniev, a deputy head of the Chechen administration and its special representative to the Middle East and Africa, was killed in his native village of Avtura, on the outskirts of Djohar [Grozny], when a bomb went off in a local television studio, where he was reading from the Koran on a live broadcast. Deniev died on the way to the hospital, while the cameraman was injured. Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said that Deniev was murdered on the direct orders of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who, he said, gave the order under “pressure” from rebel field commander Khattab. Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya’s administration also accused Maskhadov of ordering the murder, and vowed that the rebel leader would “answer for the blood of Deniev” to the victim’s relatives “and the entire Chechen people” (Radio Liberty, April 14; see also the Monitor, April 12).

Adam Deniev was a rather significant figure in contemporary Chechen history and one of the most influential Chechens to cooperate with the federal authorities. Deniev, whose real first name was Shamaluv, was the leader of the Adamalla movement, which in Chechen means “humanity.” At the beginning of the 1990s, Deniev supported Djohar Dudaev. After studying at the Islamic Institute in Baghdad, Iraq, Deniev returned to his village of Avtura and founded Adamalla, whose practices differ from the traditional Islamic ones followed by most of Chechnya’s inhabitants. In 1993 Deniev and his followers set up their operations in the village of Avtura, at the same rest facilities which Khattab would later use to set up his “Kavkaz” guerrilla-terrorist training camp. That same year, an armed confrontation took place in Avtura between Deniev’s bodyguards and local villagers. People were killed on both sides and Deniev, fearing a vendetta, left Chechnya for Moscow. In the Russian capital, he began putting out his own newspaper and propagandizing his views. In Chechnya, the Maskhadov government’s special services seized his newspapers and tapes of his speeches, which were highly critical of the Chechen authorities. Maskhadov and his law-enforcement agencies accused Deniev of running a criminal group involved in kidnapping and other serious crimes, including the murder of six Red Cross doctors in the village of Novye Atagi in the fall of 1996. The Chechen authorities viewed Deniev as an agent of the Russian special services–a charge not disputed by Deniev himself, who claimed he was an FSB colonel. Last summer, Deniev ran in the State Duma elections for a seat representing Chechnya and came in second place, behind Interior Minister General Alsanbek Aslakhanov (Many observers, it should be noted, raised questions about the fairness of the vote in Chechnya.) During that period, Deniev strongly criticized Akhmad Kadyrov, but later changed his tone and joined Kadyrov’s administration (Radio Liberty, April 13).