Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 42

Ruslan Nakhushev, the director of the Institute for Islamic Studies and coordinator of the Russian Islamic Heritage movement in the North Caucasus who was also close to the Jamaat of Kabardino-Balkaria (see Chechnya Weekly, October 6), disappeared on November 4. Kavkazky Uzel reported on November 5 that the former KGB officer had not been heard from after being called to a meeting at the Kabardino-Balkaria branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in connection with the October 13 rebel attacks in Nalchik. The “emir” of the Jamaat of Kabardino-Balkaria, Musa Mukhozhev, and another of the group’s leaders, Anzor Astemirov, who is accused of involvement in the December 2004 attack on a regional branch of the Federal Drug Control in Nalchik, are alleged to have been organizers of the October 13 Nalchik attack. A Kavkazky Uzel correspondent was told by people in Nakhushev’s office that he called colleagues at around 7 PM, local time, on November 4 to say that he had left the FSB headquarters and would be back at the office within ten minutes. “After waiting half-an-hour his colleagues called Nakhushev on his mobile,” Kavkazky Uzel reported. “After the first few rings someone lifted the receiver, laughed and put it down. Then the line went dead.” Nakhushev’s colleagues and family reported his disappearance to the police, the prosecutor’s office and the administration of Kabarda-Balkaria’s president, Arsen Kanokov.

In an interview with Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya published in the newspaper’s October 31 edition, Kanokov described Nakhushev as a possible candidate for building bridges with young Muslims and expressed a desire to meet with Nakhushev. Politkovskaya later told the Regnum news agency that a meeting between Kanokov and Nakhushev had been arranged for the next few days. Still, it should be noted that Ekho Moskvy radio quoted the Kabardino-Balkarian president as having said earlier that Nakhushev was linked with the militants who attacked Nalchik and that this would be investigated. Indeed, Kavakzky Uzel on November 9 quoted Nakhusev’s lawyer, Anwar Dikinov, as saying that Nakhushev had been summoned to the FSB headquarters in Nalchik as part of a criminal probe to determine whether he was complicit in acts of terrorism. Dikinov noted that it was impossible to know whether Nakhushev had admitted guilt because he had not been heard from since his interrogation, and added that claims that Nakhushev had fled were not credible. “I absolutely do not believe that,” Dikinov said, noting that it would have made more sense for Nakhushev to have fled before the interrogation, fearing that he might be arrested during it, than after the interrogation. “He could only have been carried off forcefully; I don’t believe he could not have acted this way voluntarily,” he said. “Only one thing concerns me now: that he is simply alive!”

The head of Russian Islamic Heritage, Geidar Dzhemal, said Nakhushev had mentioned he expected to be arrested, newsru.com on November 7. “Ruslan work in our foundation as head of a regional branch,” Dzhemal said. “He exposed the siloviki, saying that the siloviki planned to shake up the situation in the Caucasus because it was advantageous to them. We know for sure that they seized him. In recent days the local siloviki—both the MVD [Interior Ministry] and FSB—were against him because they understood that they were responsible for the events in Nalchik.” Asked whether Nakhushev may simply have gone underground, like Musa Mukhozhev and Anzor Astemirov, Dzhemal answered: “Nakhushev is not the kind of person to hide. They detained him earlier but let him go. He likely is hoping that they will now let him go.”

Newsru.com quoted a friend of Nakhushev’s, the journalist Orkhan Dzhemal, who said he feared the worst. “I don’t rule out that in a week his body will be found somewhere near Nalchik, and they will say that the Wahhabis couldn’t share the latest tranche [of contributions] and shot each other,” he said. The main threat to the local siloviki, in his view, appeared when Kabardino-Balkarian President Arsen Kanokov said he planned to meet with Nakhushev in order to carry out negotiations with the jamaat. “Nakhushev is a good negotiatior, and he is the only one the jamaat members trust,” he said. “Those negotiations might have calmed the situation in the republic, and that clearly did not enter into the siloviki’s plans.”

Similarly, Izvestia wrote on November 7: “After the militants’ attack on Nalchik power structures, Ruslan Nakhushev turned out to be a unique figure in the republic. On the one hand, he was trusted by the radically-oriented Muslims, unhappy about the repression by the authorities. On the other hand, the republican authorities themselves had to reckon with him, inasmuch as he was the most influential opposition figure in the KBR [Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria], having an absolutely untainted reputation. It is no accident that the new president, Arsen Kanokov, spoke publicly about Nakhushev several days before his disappearances, both as a figure with whom the authorities should seek counsel and as a ‘direct bridge’ capable of helping the president ‘to understand what these people (who carried out the attacks) want.”

According to biographical information reported by newsru.com, Ruslan Nakhushev is a former KGB staffer who left the special services in the beginning of the 1990s after working as an intelligence officer in North Africa. He then met General Aleksandr Lebed, with whom he began working to end the war in Chechnya. Through Nakhusev’s efforts, some 180 Russian servicemen and civilians were freed from captivity in Chechnya, which gave him a certain “immunity from the power structures” and thereby allowed him to start helping the Jamaat of Kabardino-Balkaria at the end of the 1990s without interference by the special services.

Nakhushev subsequently opened the Islamic Institute together with Musa Mikhozhev and Anzor Astemirov, but the Kabardino-Balkarian authorities refused to register it. Nakhushev insisted that the jamaat was not dangerous to society even though the law enforcement organs were portraying it that way. “They need to report successes, and there are not successes,” newsru.com quoted him as saying about the authorities. “And having created the problem of Wahhabism, they don’t need to do anything else other than to carry out searches in the homes of believers and periodically arrest them – that’s the appearance of activity. What is more, the state gives big money for that, which feeds the whole local law enforcement system.” Two months before his disappearance, he told St. Petersburg journalist Danil Kotsyubinsky that the Kabardino-Balkarian authorities used the term “Wahabbi” for all “believers” who are opposed to the official Spiritual Board of Muslims.