Claims and Counter-Claims about Umarov’s Location Dominate Russian Media Headlines
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 12 Issue: 13
On June 26, the Lifenews.ru website quoted “experts” and North Caucasus law-enforcement sources as claiming that Doku Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader and “emir” of the Caucasus Emirate, had received medical treatment in Turkey and returned to the North Caucasus. The website said that Umarov’s exact current location is unknown but that, according to Russian siloviki, he may be hiding in Ingushetia. The website quoted Chechen law-enforcement sources as saying that Umarov had used his rumored death in March during a special operation in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district to go abroad for the treatment of “old wounds.” The website quoted a source in the Chechen branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying: “Umarov spent about a month in Turkey. He received treatment for frostbitten feet and old wounds.” The Chechen FSB source said Umarov may have already held a meeting of rebels in Ingushetia’s Dzheirakhsky district, outlining new goals. Lifenews.ru also quoted a source in Ingushetia’s security structures as saying that the rebels may soon shift the focus of their attacks from the North Caucasus to southern Russia’s Astrakhan Oblast and Krasnodar Krai.
Lifenews.ru quoted representatives of Ingushetia’s Security Council as categorically denying that Umarov may be hiding in the republic’s Dzheirakhsky district, and insisting that the security situation in Ingushetia is fully under control (https://www.lifenews.ru/news/62228).
On June 27, Kavkazsky Uzel quoted a Chechen FSB source as claiming that Umarov had been wounded during a special operation in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district in March and that the following month he had gone to Turkey for medical treatment, spending around a month in a private clinic, where he was treated for “old wounds” and frostbitten feet. The source said Umarov had returned to the North Caucasus several weeks earlier and had presided over a meeting of rebel commanders in Ingushetia’s Dzheirakhsky Gorge. The Chechen FSB source also said the rebels may be planning attacks in Krasnodar Krai and Astrakhan Oblast, but may also continue attacks in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. The source said Umarov could also be in Ingushetia’s Dzheirakhsky district, from where he could cross over into Georgia or go to the forested mountainous area between Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district and Ingushetia’s Sunzha district.
Kavkazsky Uzel quoted Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov as saying on June 22 that there is no basis to assume either that Umarov is dead or alive. “Therefore it is necessary to proceed on the assumption that the threat from him continues,” Kadyrov said. “He is dangerous. It is necessary to look for and neutralize (him). And where is he located? There are many versions. I think that the appropriate agencies will not ignore any of these.” The website also noted that on May 24, FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov said that Russia’s special services know where Umarov is located (www.kakvaz-uzel.ru, June 27).
Also on June 27, the Regnum news agency quoted a North Ossetian expert, Georgi Zozrov, as saying that Umarov could easily have crossed over into Russia from Georgia “with the help of people in shoulder straps.” Zozrov claimed that Georgia is a place where “bandits” feel “comfortable,” adding: “Residents of the North Caucasus who are unhappy with the authorities are joining the militants and hiding on the territory of a neighboring state, where terrorist bases are located” (https://www.regnum.ru/news/1419374.html).
Kavkazsky Uzel yesterday (June 30) quoted experts as saying the reports that Doku Umarov could be hiding in Ingushetia which might be aimed at disrupting plans to build resorts in the region. “Reports by so-called experts that appeared in the media recently that the leader of the militants may have gotten to Ingushetia from Ingushetia were ordered up and unreliable and aimed at creating a negative image of the Republic of Ingushetia,” said political scientist Ruslan Khautiev. He added that the goal of the reports is to disrupt resort projects in Ingushetia’s Dzheirakhsky district.
Likewise, Beslan Tsechoev, a journalist and a member of the Russian Public Chamber’s working group for a public dialogue and civil society institutions in the Caucasus, said the reports were part of an “information campaign” against Ingushetia’s Dzheirakhsky district. Tsechoev said the district is not only the sole high mountainous district of Ingushetia, but also the “cradle” of the Ingush people, where their ancestral towers are located (https://s05.radikal.ru/i178/0912/2d/f77309085851.jpg). Tsechoev said that Dzheirakhsky district is currently part of the Russian-Georgian state border and heavily guarded.
Ingushetia’s interior ministry also denied the reports of Umarov’s possible presence in the Dzheirakhsky district, calling them “provocative.” The ministry also noted that the Russian-Georgian border there is heavily guarded, adding that it was not possible for “outsiders” to get there (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, June 30).