The separatist Kavkazcenter.com website on June 15 posted a video clip of Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev discussing the May 2004 assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov and plans to kill his son, Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. While the video was for unknown reasons inaccessible when Chechnya Weekly attempted to view it, Kavkazcenter described Basaev as saying on it that he had promised a $50,000 reward for Akhmad Kadyrov’s murder and had paid that sum out to the “mujahideen” who had carried it out. Kavkazcenter also quoted Basaev as saying on the video that he was offering $25,000 for the killing of Ramzan Kadyrov, but would pay $50,000 if necessary. “But they are not worth more,” the website quoted Basaev as saying. It also quoted him as saying that Ramzan Kadyrov’s claim that $1 million had been paid for his father’s murder was “nonsense,” given that if he, Basaev, had $1 million to spend, then “Kadyrov’s inner circle long ago would have sold him out for that sum — lock, stock, and barrel.”
Newsru.com reported on May 15 that the same video shows Basaev and rebel field commander Dokku Umarov, who is also vice-president of the rebel Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), helping rebel fighters assemble so-called knopki (buttons) — components for improvised explosive devices. “The explosive devices are assembled from makeshift materials — condensed milk containers, plastic Pepsi-Cola bottles, simple batteries, and other things,” Newsru.com wrote. “During the conversation in the Chechen language, Umarov tells a story about how with the aid of such knopki the terrorists destroyed a special federal forces’ group near the village of Dachu-Borzoi.”
The video, according to Kavkazcenter.com, was shot by one of its correspondents using the video camera of a mobile phone while he was traveling with a rebel “mobile unit” that accompanied Basaev “across various regions of the North Caucasus.” This particular clip, according to the rebel website, was shot while Basaev visited “an operational base of one of the mobile sub-units subordinated to Dokku Umarov.” (Back on May 13, federal forces announced that that an underground “bunker” in which Umarov had hidden had been discovered in the Chechen village of Asinovskaya.) Earlier, on June 13, the rebel website had posted a longer video clip, apparently shot by the same correspondent, entitled “Shamil Basaev and Dokku Umarov, North Caucasus, March-April 2006,” which showed Basaev, Umarov, and a third, unidentified man moving through a wooded area that appears to be in the mountains. At one point in the video, which lasts several minutes, another man with an assault rifle or machine gun is seen in the background. The four men (including the camera-man), speak in Chechen. Basaev, who lost a foot in a mine explosion, is shown with a small automatic weapon slung around his neck and hiking up steep inclines using a pair of sticks like ski poles.
While there was no indication in this video clip of the precise location where it was shot, the website noted that “a Kavkazcenter correspondent was for more than a month located in the ranks of a mobile detachment of Shamil Basaev, who inspected the military structures of the Kavkaz Front in several republics of the North Caucasus.” Kavkazcenter and the separatist Chechenpress news agency reported last month that Basaev, on orders from ChRI president Abdul Khalim-Sadulaev, had carried out an “inspection tour” around the North Caucasus during April and May, with stops in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Chechnya (Chechnya Weekly, June 1).
Newsru.com, citing “unofficial information,” reported on June 15 that an operation to capture Basaev had been carried out in Kabardino-Balkaria at the beginning of June. “But the leader of the Chechen militants was not found,” the website reported. “The power organs of Kabardino-Balkaria carried out a special operation in the city of Tyrnyauz. On June 6, special units of Kabardino-Balkaria’s Interior Ministry were moved there. With the help of military equipment, inspections of households and of passports were carried out; no one was detained during the special operation.”
On June 9, Kavkazcenter.com posted several other video clips — these purporting to show rebel attacks on Russian forces. One ostensibly showed an ambush of Russian forces near the Chechen village of Ezhelkhatoi on May 17 while another showed a Russian sapper being blown up while inspecting a roadside near the village of Serzhen-Yurt on May 21.
All of these new videos posted by Kavkazcenter are slicker than ones previously posted on the website, indicating a marked improvement in the rebel website’s production capabilities.
Perhaps not coincidentally, federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev told a meeting of interior ministers, justice minister, and chief prosecutors of the G-8 member-states in Moscow on June 15 that terrorists must be prevented from getting access to telecommunications technology, cyberspace, and the Internet. “The World Wide Web is increasingly used by terrorists as a center for information that includes detailed instructions for conspiring, the creation of explosive devices, weapons; and the recruitment of new supporters of the terrorists, instructing them; and also propaganda and the dissemination of video reports on crimes that have been committed,” Newsru.com quoted Nurgaliev as saying.
Meanwhile, Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center told Utro.ru in an interview published on June 9 that Basaev has become “a marginal figure” with “fake” goals. “He is no fool and he realizes that there will be no Islamic republic, no caliphate” in the North Caucasus, Malashenko told the website. “He annoys Chechen society, everyone. He has lost. No doubt it would now be easier than ever before simply to kill him. But they have not killed him. But if, God forbid, there is a terrorist act somewhere tomorrow, he will, of course, claim responsibility. And we too will say that he did it, even if it was not him, but somebody else.”