Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 42

If the Stavropol trial represented, in Yakov’s words, “an information bomb no one noticed,” the trial taking place in Makhachkala, Dagestan of Salman Raduev and three others for participation in a January 1996 raid on the town of Kizlyar during the 1994-1996 war has been garnering enormous publicity. Writing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, journalist Il’ya Maksakov reported that Russian Procurator General Vladimir Ustinov “had expressed himself in favor of maximal openness for the trial. And indeed the trial till now has been taking place openly with no limitation on the receipt of information” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 16). On November 15, a team of four prosecutors, headed personally by Ustinov, began the proceedings. In the case of Raduev, the text of a 700-page indictment against him was read aloud. Commenting on the pages of the newspaper Izvestia, a leading Russian legal correspondent, Yury Feofanov, noted that the participation of Ustinov in the trial against “terrorist No. 2” (Shamil Basaev is, of course, considered “terrorist No. 1”) was being deemed “a sensation,” and he compared it to the earlier trial of captured American pilot Gary Powers in 1961, when Soviet Procurator General Roman Rudenko had personally led the prosecution team against the famous “pilot-spy” (Izvestia, November 15).

Writing in the November 21 issue of Moskovskie Novosti, Sanobar Shermatova, a well-informed journalist who writes about the North Caucasus region, observed that the arrest of Raduev in March of 2000 had occurred under conditions “which were far from heroic.” “Raduev,” she related, “was planning to flee from Chechnya and arrived at an agreed-upon meeting spot in order to receive secure documents. They [her sources] maintain that, in this operation, which was prepared by the FSB, there participated the not-unknown Yamadaev brothers, fellow townsmen of Raduev from Gudermes. According to this version, the arrest of Raduev was assessed as a major victory for the FSB, which tripped up the MVD, whose agent Raduev supposedly was all these years.”

True cognoscenti of Chechen politics were aware that a far more significant figure than the mercurial and unstable Raduev was present among the four individuals being tried in Makhachkala: namely, Turpal-Ali Atgeriev, a former separatist minister of security and a figure deemed close to President Maskhadov. The sole link between Raduev and Atgeriev, who are bitter political opponents, was that both had participated in the January 1996 raid on Kizlyar. In his testimony at the open trial, Atgeriev “shocked the courtroom with the sensational assertion that in the summer of 1999 he contacted the Russian special services to inform the federals of the rebels’ [that is, of Basaev’s and Khattab’s] plans to attack Dagestan. Atgeriev said he did so because he wanted to prevent another war in the Northern Caucasus, but he said his warnings were ignored…. Atgeriev recounted his numerous trips to Moscow to hold consultations with the Russian authorities on combating banditry and abductions in Chechnya. In 1999 he was detained but later discharged after Boris Yeltsin’s administration intervened” (, November 20).

And what about the circumstances of his second arrest by the Russian authorities? “Atgeriev,” the aforementioned journalist, Il’ya Maksakov, noted, “confirmed the supposition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta that he was not arrested as the result of any special operations. In his words, he participated in the organization of a meeting of an emissary of Aslan Maskhadov with one of the generals of the Russian special services. In connection with this, he said, he was invited to Makhachkala and then to Moscow, where he was arrested…. Atgeriev also declared that in the summer of 1999 he had warned the leadership of the Russian special services concerning a planned breakthrough of rebels into Dagestan. This last point was denied by [former Prime Minister] Sergei Stepashin. But neither Stepashin nor anyone else has denied the story of the two strange arrests of Atgeriev” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 21). The Chechen separatist web-site reported on 21 November that, during the trial, “Atgeriev accused the Kremlin authorities of treacherous actions in relation to him.” When Atgeriev, on Maskhadov’s instructions, had met with them in Makhachkala, “the Russian military and special services had asked him to travel to Moscow for a continuation of the negotiations. Sincerely believing his interlocutors, he agreed to go to the Russian capital. But in Moscow, right at the airport, he was seized by the Russian authorities and incarcerated in Lefortovo Prison.”