Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 9

Someone is trying to get Chechens to think that Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov has abruptly repudiated almost everything for which he has worked over the last decade, including independence for Chechnya. reports that leaflets have recently appeared in several Chechen towns, ostensibly over Maskhadov’s signature, in which he “repents” for his past political agenda and calls on his fellow Chechens to take part in the March 23 referendum organized by the pro-Moscow administration in Grozny. Maskhadov ostensibly asks for Chechens to forgive him for his mistakes and to recognize that his allies have turned out to be “enemies of the people.”

“This is perhaps my very last statement, or more simply my last will and testament, as a political leader,” concludes the text ostensibly signed by Maskhadov on March 11.

Asked to comment, a high-ranking official in the pro-Moscow administration did not claim that the mysterious text was genuinely from Maskhadov. Instead, Taus Dzhabrailov suggested that those responsible for the apparent counterfeit might be separatist warlords who have broken with Maskhadov and are now trying by this means to gain control of financial aid sent to the rebels by foreign sympathizers.

On March 18, Akhmad Kadyrov also stated that he was certain that the text was not authentic. “I don’t believe that he is capable of taking such a courageous step as repenting to the people,” Kadyrov told the news agency Novosti.

Pro-separatist websites, by contrast, have suggested that the counterfeit was written at the Russian military headquarters in Chechnya. The Gazeta account conceded this as a possibility: “Military methods are of course capable of producing leaflets with such deliberately false information. There does indeed exist a military specialty called psychological warfare within the Russian army.”

Gazeta also suggested that the counterfeit might be a “private initiative” of such pro-Moscow Chechens as Bislan Gantemirov, who is minister of the press in the pro-Moscow administration but who also heads a private television station.