Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov announced the suspension of Vostok battalion commander Sulim Yamadaev on May 12 and called on Chechen and military prosecutors to investigate whether Vostok troops, including Yamadaev, were linked to murders and kidnappings in Chechnya and Dagestan. The move was the latest step in a power struggle between Kadyrov and the Yamadaev brothers following an armed confrontation between Vostok members and forces loyal to Kadyrov last month (Chechnya Weekly, April 17 and 24, May 1 and 8). The Moscow Times on May 14 quoted Kadyrov’s adviser Timur Aliev, as saying by e-mail that prosecutors had decided to suspend Yamadaev after Kadyrov repeatedly urged federal military commanders to investigate Yamadaev and his troops. Aliev said this latest move meant no commanders or security agencies capable of challenging Kadyrov remained in Chechnya. The newspaper also reported, however, that the Defense Ministry, whose Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) is formally in charge of Vostok, declined to comment on Kadyrov’s announcement.
Kommersant on May 14 quoted former State Duma Deputy Ruslan Yamadaev, who is Sulim Yamadaev’s brother, as saying: “Absolute power in Chechnya today in concentrated in the hands of one person, who can suspect, accuse and then punish or pardon at his own personal discretion. This is abnormal, and I am convinced that the federal authorities and military command understand the full danger of the situation and will take corresponding measures. I am convinced that the Vostok battalion will remain in the republic and that my brother, who is currently undergoing medical treatment in Moscow, will remain its commander. If he, as an officer, is transferred to a new place of service, then they will certainly take Sulim’s services and military experience into account and appoint him to a higher position.”
Kommersant noted that despite their problems with Kadyrov, both Sulim and Ruslan Yamadaev attended Dmitry Medvedev’s inauguration as Russian president in Moscow on May 7 (see Andrei Smirnov’s article in this issue).