Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 3

The Russian government’s amnesty for rebels in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, announced last July by Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev acting in his capacity as head of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK), expired on January 15.

Estimates varied regarding how many militants took advantage of the amnesty, which was offered to those who had not committed grave crimes. Interfax, on January 15, quoted an unnamed NAK official as saying that 546 people had taken the amnesty offer. The official told the news agency that practically all of those who had asked for amnesty belonged to various rebel “gangs,” and that around 200 had participated in “sabotage-terrorist acts,” four were on the federal wanted list and three were women who had been prepared for use as suicide bombers. The NAK official told Interfax that the amnesty applicants ranged in age from 16 to 75, although most were between 20 and 45. According to the news agency, among those who surrendered were the rebel “emirs” of the city of Argun, the “Sharia Guards” of Chechnya’s Shelkovsky district, and relatives of the late rebel commander Salman Raduev, the former president of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev (also deceased) and Dokku Umarov, the current ChRI president. Interfax also reported that two high-level rebels, Isa Aliev and Islam Sharipov, had asked for amnesty, along with Turpal-Ali Kaimov, a leader of the Chechen diaspora in Oslo, Norway.

The Associated Press, on January 15, quoted an unnamed official with the office of Dmitry Kozak, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Southern Federal District, as saying that more than 500 militants had turned themselves in during the amnesty period, including two bodyguards and the driver of slain Chechen rebel leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who had surrendered during the weekend of January 13-14.

The New York Times, on January 16, quoted Chechnya’s deputy prosecutor, Nikolai Kalugin, as saying that 467 former militants had registered for amnesty, and that there had been a “rush of fresh applicants” over the prior four weeks as the deadline neared. Of the 467 former militants who had registered for amnesty, 305 had been granted amnesty and 19 were under criminal investigation because they were suspected of committing crimes too serious to waive, Kalugin said. He told the newspaper that the remaining cases were still under review and that the total number of applicants might grow as up-to-date tallies are included from the neighboring republics. On January 15, The Associated Press quoted Dagestan’s Interior Ministry as saying that 40 militants had surrendered in Dagestan since the amnesty was announced last July.

Kavkazky Uzel, on January 15, quoted an unnamed Chechen Interior Ministry officer as saying that “more than 400” rebels had surrendered under the amnesty. The website reported that according to “various Chechen force structures,” 430 to 470 rebels and rebel accomplices had given up, including more than 30 since the start of January alone.

ITAR-TASS reported on January 16 that “more than 460” rebels had used the amnesty, including six who put down their weapons on January 15, the amnesty’s final day. RIA Novosti, for its part, quoted Federation Council deputy chairman and NAK member Aleksandr Torshin on January 16 as saying that about 550 people had surrendered under the amnesty.