Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 186

Nadir Khachilaev, the former State Duma deputy from Dagestan who has been the object of a nationwide manhunt, was arrested by Russian law enforcement two days ago and sent to Moscow, where he was incarcerated in an undisclosed prison. Where and under what circumstances Khachilaev was caught, and specifically which agency or agencies apprehended him, has not been revealed (NTV, ORT, RTR, October 7).

Khachilaev is a typical new-wave Dagestani politician. Power in that republic is divided between two forces: the former party nomenklatura and criminal bosses. During perestroika, Khachilaev created his own private army and, along with his brother Magomed, took control of a significant part of the republic’s profitable industrial sectors (in particular, the fish industry). Nadir Khachilaev entered politics in 1995 as head of the Union of Muslims of Russia, a political organization created to protect the rights of Russian Muslims. In 1996, the Khachilaev brothers acted as intermediaries for the meeting between Aslan Maskhadov, then head of the rebel Chechen armed forces, and Aleksandr Lebed, then secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council, which ended with the signing of the Khasavyurt agreements ending the Chechen conflict.

Nadir Khachilaev came head to head with the Kremlin in May 1998 for an absurd reason: He was insulted when Dagestani police tried to stop a car chauffeuring his bodyguards. In an apparent attempt to show who was boss in Dagestan, the Khachilaev brothers and their supporters occupied the republic’s State Council building in Makhachkala, organizing a full-blown riot. The building was freed only after negotiations between the Khachilaevs and State Council chairman Magomedov. Following the incident, criminal charges were brought against the Khachilaevs for allegedly murdering policemen and inciting a riot. Magomed Khachilaev was arrested last month, but freed from jail after agreeing not to flee. Meanwhile, Nadir, whose immunity from prosecution as a State Duma deputy had already been revoked, hid in Chechnya. In August of this year, during the battle between federal forces and Islamic militants he unexpectedly popped up among the fundamentalists in the village of Karamakhi.

Nadir Khachilaev’s arrest is undoubtedly significant. It suggests that the Kremlin is declaring war on the powerful North Caucasus criminal society, out of a justified fear that it will join forces with Chechen guerrillas. At the same time, however, the arrest can be seen in another light. It is worth noting that Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo put Khachilaev in the same bracket with radical Chechen field commanders Basaev and Khattab. In fact, Khachilaev is a much smaller fish than either Khattab or Basaev. It cannot be ruled out that by arresting Khachilaev, the Kremlin, which is powerless to do the same to the Chechen field commanders, wanted to feign decisiveness and effectiveness (NTV, RTR, ORT, October 7).

In the meantime, deputies from Chechnya’s 1996 parliament (see the Monitor, October 4), created a supreme executive organ for the republic–the State Council. The chairman of the new council, businessman Malik Saidulaev, declared that it will set up shop in the Chechen capital in the near future. While the Russian authorities claim they have not been involved in the creation of this pro-Russian structure, which has no influence in Chechnya whatsoever, the fact that Saidulaev met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shows that the Kremlin is putting great stock in this new creature of its own creation (NTV, ORT, RTR, October 7).