Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 29

Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev put forward an offer of amnesty to Chechnya’s separatist rebels on July 15. “We urge the members of illegal armed groups to … acknowledge the truth,” Western news agencies quoted Patrushev as saying. “We offer [them] to start talks with the representatives of the legitimate authorities of Chechnya or the federal government by Aug. 1. We propose that they halt their participation in the gangs, lay down arms and join the people in return for guarantees of objective and unbiased consideration of all circumstances of their participation in illegal armed groups.”

Kommersant reported on July 19 that a draft resolution on an amnesty for members of “illegal armed formations” in Chechnya would soon be sent to both the Russian presidential administration and the State Duma for approval and that Duma members would be called back from summer vacation to take up the issue. According to the newspaper, the proposed amnesty was discussed during a July 18 meeting of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee chaired by Patrushev, who told journalists before the meeting, “Those citizens of Russia who were deceived by the leaders of armed gangs and lured into criminal activities have a real chance to return to a peaceful life. And those who continue their criminal activities will receive the punishment they deserve.” Gennady Gudkov, a member of the Duma’s Security Committee, told Kommersant that the amnesty would most likely not apply to members of law enforcement or militants who have committed premeditated murder, terrorist acts, kidnapping or violence against members of law-enforcement agencies, while Deputy Duma speaker Aleksandr Torshin said that “foreigners”—meaning, according to Kommersant, “suspected mercenaries”—and “recidivists” would be excluded from amnesty. The authors of the resolution, Kommersant reported, are targeting mainly “young rebels who have not been involved in serious crimes.”

Yet Kommersant quoted Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov, as saying it was possible that the amnesty would apply “under certain conditions” to those “involved in serious crimes.”

Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said on July 15 that the amnesty deadline should be extended to September 1. “The leaders of the militants are practically destroyed,” the Regnum news agency quoted him as saying. “Now in the mountains there remain only young people fooled by international terrorists. As for Patrushev’s statement, I would give the members of the [illegal armed formations] until September 1. After all, they need time to gather, make up their minds to lay down arms and come back, the way 7,000 amnestied [militants] have already come back.” Kadyrov added that amnestied militants make up 99 percent of the recently-formed Sever (North) and Yug (South) battalions of the Interior Ministry, and that that there are many amnestied rebel fighters in his inner circle.

Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, for his part, released a statement on July 19 addressed to members of the “illegal armed formations,” in which he said that he had asked the Russian leadership to extend the deadline for them to surrender their arms and return to peaceful lives to January 1, 2007, and to send a relevant legislative initiative to the parliament for approval. Alkhanov said in his statement that extending the deadline to the start of next year would allow rebels “to take time to think over their decision.” The statement added, “As president of the Chechen Republic, I guarantee everyone who asks for amnesty that their rights will be observed, that an objective investigation will be carried out into their cases and a fair decision will be made.” Alkhanov also promised that those who surrendered would not be imprisoned while they were being investigated, but would rather be kept under house arrest.

Alkhanov also said in his statement that the “successful operation by the Russian special services to eliminate number one terrorist Shamil Basaev” had “clearly dispelled all doubts about the future of separatism in the Chechen Republic and terrorism in the North Caucasus.” Addressing the militants, he added, “I have no doubts that you will make a sober decision, surrender your arms and stop offering resistance. This will not be your disgrace; this will save the lives of hundreds of our people and save the health of our fathers, mothers and children.” Alkhanov said that relatives of rebels had already approached the Chechen Interior Ministry for “all of the details relating to the conditions for surrendering arms.”