Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 13

Kommersant reported on March 29 that Sultan Geliskhanov, the former head of the security department in the government of Dzhokhar Dudaev, had surrendered. According to the newspaper, Chechen law enforcement officials claimed on March 28 that the former separatist colonel showed up at the Gudermes city police department on March 27 with his older brother Turpal. Both men were unarmed. “We waited for this visit for a long time, inasmuch as from the moment the counter-terrorist operation started we tried to persuade the militants and their commanders to end their resistance voluntarily,” the head of the Gudermes police department, Magomed Eldarov, told Kommersant. Geliskhanov, he said, had been persuaded to surrender by relatives. “We did not have the opportunity to contact him directly, therefore all the negotiations were carried out through his brother Turpal,” Eldarov said.

Geliskhanov himself said he had “long ago become disillusioned with the policy of Aslan Maskhadov and his entourage” and, under questioning, confirmed that because of his disagreement with the political course of the separatist leadership, he had not taken part in fighting during both the first and second military campaigns and had remained out of the separatist government during the 1995-1999 inter-war period. He told his interrogators that he had not surrendered earlier because he did not believe the authorities’ promises not to persecute their former enemies. “In the end, I was convinced by the examples of my former militant friends, who after surrendering received the opportunity to live normally,” Geliskhanov said. He and his brother were allowed to return to their home in the village of Ishkhoi-Yurt after their interrogations, and Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov, told Kommersant that Sultan Geliskhanov’s fate would be decided after an investigation. Kuznetsov added that Geliskhanov would be cleared of responsibility for his separatist activities as long as he was not found to have committed crimes that do not fall under the amnesty given to former militants.

Kommersant noted that Sultan Geliskhanov served as chief of the Gudermes traffic police during the Soviet period and that Dudaev made him head of the state security department in 1993. Geliskhanov’s meteoric rise, according to the newspaper, was made possible by his friendship with Salman Raduev, who was then Dudaev’s son-in-law. In June 1993, Geliskhanov personally led the breaking up of an opposition demonstration, during which some 15 people were killed; a year later, he directed large-scale arrests of opposition members. This, sources in the Chechen Interior Ministry told Kommersant, could complicate the process of granting amnesty to Geliskhanov. In 1996, then-acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev charged in his book “Chechnya – The Battle for Freedom” that, starting in 1995, Geliskhanov had kept himself aloof from the leadership of the separatist security department. In 1997, Geliskhanov joined up with a group of opponents of Maskhadov. After the start of the second military campaign, Geliskhanov’s unit of 100-150 men reportedly dispersed in the Nozhai-Yurt district and there were reports that he had died. In April 2002, then-Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov reported that Geliskhanov and more than 100 of his fighters planned to surrender, but this did not take place.

London-based Chechen separatist representative Akhmed Zakaev, for his part, dismissed Geliskhanov’s role in the separatist movement. “He was never any kind of field commander,” Zakaev told Kommersant, adding that he was convinced that the reports about the surrender of a “field commander influential in the Ichkerian leadership” was nothing more than a propaganda exercise by the pro-Moscow Chechen government. “Believe me, Geliskhanov did not fire one shot at the federal forces in this war, therefore he had nothing to repent to the federals,” Zakaev said.