Chechens Debate Significance of Ruslan Yamadaev’s Murder

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 36

In his first public comments on Ruslan Yamadaev’s murder, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told reporters in Grozny on September 26 that he was “80 to 90 percent certain that the murder could be motivated by a blood feud,” Interfax reported. According to the Moscow Times, Kadyrov suggested Yamadaev may have been killed by relatives of the purported victims of the Vostok battalion, which was headed by Ruslan Yamadaev’s brother, Sulim. Kadyrov also said he regretted Yamadaev’s death. “If Ruslan Yamadaev was guilty of something, he should have been tried in court,” he said.

Speaking at Ruslan Yamadaev’s funeral on September 26, Sulim Yamadaev accused Kadyrov of killing his brother and vowed to take revenge, Reuters reported. Meanwhile Kadyrov’s spokesman, Lyoma Gudaev, suggested the assassination was an attempt to destabilize the situation in Chechnya. “Forces that want to foment tensions in Chechnya could be interested in killing Yamadaev in such audacious fashion,” Interfax quoted Gudaev as saying.

A day earlier – September 25 – Gudaev had said in the Chechen government’s first official comments on Ruslan Yamadaev’s murder that Kadyrov was “shocked” and “never expected such a development of the situation.” that day quoted Gudaev as saying he was certain the murder was politically motivated and aimed at destabilizing the social-political situation in Chechnya and the North Caucasus generally.

Kavkazky Uzel on September 25 quoted local observers in Chechnya as saying that Ruslan Yamadaev’s murder could have serious consequences in the republic. “Whoever was behind this crime, it will all the same be imputed to Ramzan,” the website quoted one anonymous local observer as saying. “And there is every reason to do that. In recent months there were serious conflicts, mutual threats and accusations between Kadyrov and the Yamadaevs. Kadyrov, who had earlier accused the Yamadaev brothers of a whole series of grave crimes, demanded that local law-enforcement organs work day and night on the ‘Yamadaevs case’, [that they] establish with whose money [the Yamadaevs] purchased posh homes, and so on. The [Yamadaevs], for their part, threatened to make public illegal actions of the president. Naturally, everyone will now think that Ramzan Kadyrov was behind the murder of the elder Yamadev, although I don’t think that is the case.”

The anonymous local observer continued: “It is my deep conviction that the murder was carried out deliberately to destabilize the situation in the republic. Ramzan may simply have been set up in order to have a pretext to start a large-scale purge in the Chechen leadership. It is no secret that some within the leadership of some of our special services view Kadyrov highly negatively. If clashes begin … between supporters of the Yamadaevs and Kadyrov (no one has yet abolished the practice of the blood feud here), then this can be used by the ‘hawks” from the power agencies for ‘putting things in order’ anew. One can say it is no coincidence that rumors were circulating in the republic earlier about the inevitability of … a third military campaign in Chechnya.”

Another local observer told Kavkazky Uzel: “Ruslan Yamadaev and his brother Sulim were once on Kadyrov’s side. They were among the first to support his father after he switched to the federal side at the start of the second [Chechen] war. But now their ways have parted. I don’t think that Ruslan Yamadaev’s murder benefited Kadyrov; the contrary is more likely. It cannot be ruled out that someone from his [Kadyrov’s] entourage was involved, having decided ten days before the president’s birthday to give him the head of one of his enemies as a gift. But Ramzan personally did not need this. The Yamadaevs had already had the book thrown at them and essentially—with the Vostok battalion having been taken away from Sulim— robbed of their armed component, so there could not have been any further problems with them. And now the situation is unfolding according to a completely unpredictable scenario, in which the ‘yamadaevtsy’ and ‘kadyrovtsy’ could start shooting one another.”

Aslambek Apaev, a North Caucasus expert with the Moscow Helsinki Group, gave a similar interpretation of events. “Ramzan Kadyrov is not guilty of what has happened,” he said. “This crime was committed by the special services, just like the recent murder in Ingushetia of President Zyazikov’s cousin. The goal is the same: to destabilize the situation in the region and have a pretext for the start of a new mass repression. It was aimed, above all, against Ramzan Kadyrov.”

Grozny resident Saidi Makaev told Kavkazky Uzel. “It was broadcast on the news that the car in which Ruslan Yamadaev was killed belonged to his younger brother Sulim. From this we can conclude that he [Sulim] was the target of the killers. And Sulim, as is known, is a vehement enemy of Ramzan Kadyrov. Of course, everyone will now be thinking that this was done on his [Kadyrov’s] orders.”

An anonymous Vostok battalion member who is a relative of the Yamadaev brothers told Kavkazky Uzel that he had little doubt about who was behind the murder of Ruslan Yamadaev. “They probably killed Ruslan thinking it was Sulim,” he said. “I have no doubts about that. Thus they are trying once again to intimidate us, but nothing will come of this. In 2006, Movladi Baisarov [commander of the FSB’s Gorets special unit] was killed in Moscow, after which his unit fell to pieces. They want the same thing to happen with us. I am sure of that.”

Kavkazky Uzel reported that some residents of Chechnya whom it interviewed also drew a parallel between the murder of Ruslan Yamadaev and the murder of Movladi Baisarov, citing the fact that both men were in conflict with Ramzan Kadyrov and that both killings took place in Moscow.