Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 38

The purging from Chechnya’s government structures of supporters of the main opposition candidates in the recent election has apparently intensified since October 5. Marina Perevozkina of Moskovsky komsomolets reported in an October 21 article on her conversation with Salavat Gebertaev. He is the mayor of Urus-Martan, which lies southwest of Grozny, and was one of the leaders of the movement for the Urus-Martan district to secede from Dudaev’s jurisdiction in 1994. Dudaev’s army stormed his town four times. When Maskhadov came to power, Gebertaev was sentenced to death and for some time hid abroad; after returning he survived an assassination attempt that he believes was organized by Maskhadov’s circle. “It would seem,” suggested Perevozkina, “that Moscow should be relying on precisely such people in Chechnya. But Gebertaev is a relative and friend of Malik Saidullaev [who tried to run for president against Kadyrov]. On top of that, he committed a terrible crime: He received from Saidullaev and distributed some 500 wheelchairs and 2,000 crutches. Because of this the head of the district administration told him on the day after the election: “From now on we will not work with you.”

Indeed, one of the paradoxes of Akhmad Kadyrov’s ascendancy has been the squeezing out of power of Chechen politicians who sided with Moscow in the early and middle years of the 1990s–when separatist fever was at its height and when Kadyrov himself was on the side of the separatists. Perevozkina noted that “Ruslan Martagov [who in 1994 served in the anti-Dudaev opposition led by Salambek Khadzhiev]…is now out of office, as are Khadzhiev himself and [Bislan] Gantamirov. The government structures of Chechnya now contain only a few of those who bore arms against Dudaev, or who stormed Grozny in 1994 or 1999.”

At this point, according to Perevozkina, Martagov “does not believe in the sincerity of Moscow bureaucrats when they declare that they want stability in Chechnya.” Other “pro-Russian” Chechens have told her “that they consider that Kadyrov was put in place precisely so that the war would never come to an end,” so that Moscow would always be able to manipulate the war in its own interests.

“For the time being it is still uncertain,” Perevozkina wrote, “how relations will develop between the new president and the unit under Said-Magomed Kokiev, deputy military commander of Chechnya. The latter structure, with several hundred men, is called ‘the Chechen GRU;’ Kokiev himself is a GRU major under the Russian armed forces’ general staff, and his troops are also GRU forces, under the direct command of Khankala [the Russian army’s main base in Chechnya]. Up to the present, Kokiev’s unit has been the only real force in Chechnya ready and able to stand up against the Kadyrovtsy. He supported another candidate for president, Khusein Dzhabrailov. It is being said that the new president has already raised the question of abolishing the ‘Chechen GRU’–and also the unit of Sulim Yamadaev, the second deputy commander, even though the latter has supposedly been completely on the same side as the Kadyrovtsy.” (Perevozkina’s account is essentially consistent with the picture of Kokiev painted by Anna Politkovskaya for Novaya gazeta at the end of August; see Chechnya Weekly, September 4.)

As another example of the tension between Kadyrov and the federal security agencies, Perevozkina recalled an episode that took place in September of 2002. A car of Federal Security Service (FSB) officers turned a corner in the village of Pervomaiskoe in western Chechnya, and purely by chance encountered a column of “pro-Moscow” Chechens. “Without pausing for thought,” wrote Perevozkina, “the Chechens opened fire on the car. Mistakes do happen, of course. But only one of the FSB men was killed on the spot. It is suspected that the others were finished off only after the Chechens had identified the car’s passengers. One of the passengers tried to flee on foot, but the Chechens raked his legs with a machine-gun burst, after which he killed himself. The Chechens tried, not very skillfully, to disguise the episode as ‘an attack by rebel guerrillas.'”

Several specialists, including both Chechens and Russians, have told Perevozkina that a “third Chechen war” is now imminent. “They are even predicting when,” she wrote: “Within three or four months.”

The Moskovsky komsomolets journalist also provided the first account known to Chechnya Weekly of an interview with a former rebel guerrilla who changed sides under Kadyrov’s amnesty program but who has already broken with his new allies. The 25-year-old Aslan (whose last name Perevozkina did not provide) is now a fugitive from the Kadyrovtsy. He had joined them because all his male relatives had already done so, and he did not want to find himself exchanging gunfire with his brother or grandfather; he had “no particular ideological motives.”

The Kadyrovtsy immediately assigned him to their security force headed by the president’s son, Ramzan. In some ways Aslan’s new position differed little from his previous life as a rebel fighter, which he had been since the beginning of the first Chechen war. “Earlier he fought against the federals, now he began to fight with the Wahhabis–whom he had already considered to be enemies.”

Aslan told how he and some fellow amnestied rebels were once stopped at a federal checkpoint. When asked, “Who goes there?” he answered “The traitors.”