Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 50

Two Chechen rebel field commanders, Ruslan Akhmadov and Badrudi Mutrazaev, were captured in Baku, Azerbaijan on March 11 and handed over to representatives of Russia’s Interior Ministry. Akhmadov was a close assistant to Arbi Baraev, considered to one of the main hostage-taking “specialists” in Chechnya, and operated one of the most active kidnapping bands along with his brothers Ramzan, Apti and Rizvan. Akhmadov is accused of kidnapping four Western telecommunications workers–three British citizens and a New Zealander–in 1998. According to the North Caucasus branch of the Russian Interior Ministry’s anti-organized crime unit, Akhmadov undertook negotiations with the British embassy in Russia over ransoming these hostages, who were later beheaded by their captors. According to Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on Chechnya, British law enforcement officials may be brought in to participate in questioning Ruslan Akhmadov. Akhmadov is also accused of kidnapping two Polish citizens, and Akhmadov and Mutrazaev are accused of beheading a captured Russian soldier (Russian agencies, March 11).

The representatives of Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry who captured the Chechen field commanders said their action was carried out on the basis of a bilateral treaty between Russian and Azerbaijan. At the same time, a large number of Chechen rebels wanted by the Russian special services are reportedly in Azerbaijan. Yet it is still significant that Baku was cooperative in the capture of Akhmadov and Mutrazaev.

Meanwhile, Dagestan’s Supreme Court is expected to hand down a verdict soon in a case involving the bombing of a Buinaksk apartment building in September 1999, which killed fifty-eight people and injured some 150. On March 12, three of the accused, Makhach Abdusamedov, Isa Zainutdinov and his son Zainutdin Zainutdinov told the court that they were not involved and asked to be acquitted. Isa Zainutdinov accused the Federal Security Service (FSB) of having carried out the bombing. Three other suspects in the bombing–Abdulkadyr Abdulkadyrov, Alisultan Salekhov and Magomed Magomedov–had earlier declared their innocence. During the trial all six suspects claimed that evidence they had given after their arrests had been was the result of moral and physical pressure from law enforcement organs. Prosecutors have asked that Isa Zainutdinov and Alisultan Salekhov be sentenced to death, Abdulkadyr Abdulkadyrov be given twenty-five years in prison and Makhach Abdusamedov, Zainutdin Zainutdinov and Magomed Magomedov each be sentenced to twenty years. The trial will resume on March 19, when the judge, Baguzha Unzholov, will announce the sentence. Meanwhile, on March 12, the Russian Supreme Court asked the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia to let it see the criminal case against five inhabitants of the republic who are accused of carrying out bombings in a number of Russian cities, including Moscow, in the autumn of 1999. The request was made after the lawyers of the accused demanded that their clients get a jury trial (Radio Liberty, March 12; Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 13).