Maskhadov’s Importance Is Underscored

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 17

“Neutralizing a [separatist] field commander – whether by killing him in battle or by persuading him to surrender – gives [the federal forces] a result which can be shown triumphantly on television. It has long been known, however, that such a result can hardly be considered a genuine strategic victory. A new commander is soon found to replace the old one. But the case of Maskhadov is an exception. If the federals or Kadyrov could somehow manage to get hold of a living, repentant Maskhadov, dozens of supporters of the resistance would follow him in surrendering – or would just quietly lay aside their weapons to await a more favorable time. Maskhadov would cease forever to be a living banner for the separatists and would lose all hope of being considered a great martyr…. Moreover, many specialists believe that the departure of Maskhadov would make the hunt for Basaev easier….’Maskhadov and Basaev remain rivals,’ explained Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, President Putin’s former special representative for Chechnya. ‘They are the two main leaders. And as long as one of them has not left the scene, the other also must not give up: In addition to everything else one must consider the peculiarly Chechen understanding of personal honor. If Maskhadov could be persuaded to leave the battlefield, Shamil would then be considered the last surviving leader and would be able to say that he had fought to the end.’ In short, if the federals can confirm the rumor about the death last week of Abu Al-Walid, Basaev now has greater chances of turning out to be the ‘last hero’ and of then making his exit.” –From a commentary by analyst Ivan Sukhov for Vremya novostei, published on April 20.

Ruslan Aushev, former president of Ingushetia, speaks in similar terms of Maskhadov’s motivations. In an interview published by the website on April 20, he is quoted as saying: “Maskhadov will not surrender, that is 100 percent certain…It would be easier for him to shoot himself. Why would he want to go down in history as a quitter? What would life be like for his grandsons? People would laugh at them….Courage consists in living not only for today but for tomorrow.”