Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 35

The Chechen separatist movement confirmed on September 17 that Akhmad Avdorkhanov, commander of the rebel armed forces’ eastern front, presidential security chief, and head of the presidential guards, had been killed. The separatists, however, denied comments by Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov and other officials of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration that Avdorkhanov had been poisoned, as Kadyrov put it, “by the hands of Basaev’s people.”

On September 17, Interfax cited Chechen law-enforcement sources as saying that according to one theory, people acting on Basaev’s orders had poisoned Avdorkhanov. The news agency quoted Kadyrov as calling Avdorkhanov “one of the most influential [rebel] field commanders noted for particular courage” and claiming that he “categorically came out against the Wahhabis and did not recognize Basaev.” Kadyrov further claimed that “after the liquidation of Maskhadov a real threat emerged for Basaev, that Avdorkhanov could become the recognized leader of the [rebel] fighters…So as not to permit this, [rebel] fighters on Basaev’s orders repeatedly took efforts aimed at eliminating Avdorkhanov.” According to Kadyrov, the rebels had recently received around $1.5 million in funding and “the start of the incident that resulted in Avdorkhanov’s death was connected with Basaev’s attempts to take this money for himself.”

Kadyrov further told Interfax: “Now it can be said openly: Avdorkhanov was a worthy opponent that I confronted in battle more than once. During this we both sustained losses, but he differed from Basaev in that he openly spoke out against the dominance of foreign mercenaries, Wahhabis, and accused Basaev of attempting to implant in Chechnya the idea of the Arab mercenaries and Wahhabism.” Avdorkhanov’s murder, Kadyrov added, “is evidence that the leaders of the illegal armed formations, and above all Basaev, have no ideals; they have only the aims of making money, murdering, pleasing their foreign patrons, despite the numerous victims among the Chechen people.”

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov on September 17 claimed his ministry had received information through numerous separate channels that Avdorkhanov had been murdered by people from Basaev’s inner circle and that the incident was being investigated. Like Kadyrov, Alkhanov said Avdorkhanov was “an ideological opponent of Basaev and held a completely different view on the issue of propagating Wahhabism in Chechnya.”

The separatist Kavkazcenter on September 17 confirmed that Avdorkhanov had been killed, but said it happened on September 12 in “a fierce battle with the Russian occupiers.” A statement signed by the Information-Analytical Center under the President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) and posted by the separatist daymohk.info website on September 18 said the claim that Avdorkhanov was an “anti-Wahhabi” who was poisoned by people connected to Shamil Basaev, who did not want to share $1.5 million, was concocted by the Federal Security Service (FSB). “The whole paradox of these mendacious claims, which have the stamp of ‘Kremlin agitprop,’ is that by a decree of ChRI President A.Kh. Sadulaev from 5 May 2005, the commander of the Gudermes sector of the Eastern front of the ChRI armed forces, Akhmad Avdorkhanov, was elevated in rank and named commander of the Eastern front on the recommendation of the Military Emir Shamil Basaev, who is the first deputy head of the ChRI’s GKO [State Defense Committee] – Madzhlisul Shura.” The statement called Avdorkhanov “a true Muslim and patriot, to the depths of his soul devoted to the Islamic religion and Chechen statehood. His entire short life, which he devoted completely to serving his faith and homeland, testifies to this.”