Ramzan Kadyrov Reacts to Rebel Threats

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 25

On June 15, Ramzan Kadyrov declared that he opposes further amnesties of militants in Chechnya. The Chechen president said that he would not support the idea of a new amnesty even if the Russian parliament initiated it. “If anybody in the mountains believes he can fight for a while, shoot for while and then return to ask for an amnesty, he is seriously mistaken,” Kadyrov said. This marked the first time that Chechnya’s pro-Russian president openly admitted to the fact that people in the republic are continuing to join the insurgency. As Lema Gudaev, the chief of the Chechen president’s information department, commented to the Strana.ru website, Kadyrov’s words were a warning to those young Chechens “who are being persuaded to take up arms.”

Kadyrov has repeatedly denied that the insurgency in the region is continuing to receive new recruits. Last fall, when Yevgeny Baryaev, then the commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya, announced that young Chechens were continuing to join the rebel ranks, Ramzan Kadyrov insisted that the general was wrong and the situation was perfect. However, with the outflow of local youth into the mountains intensifying this spring, the Chechen president has been forced to react in some way, especially since Chechen mufti Sultan Mirzaev, some low-ranking officials, and even the Russian prosecutor’s office have admitted that such an outflow is taking place (Chechnya Weekly, June 14).

The recent declaration of the rebel leaders also forced Kadyrov to publicly warn and threaten the young rebels. On June 4, the rebel Kavkaz-Center website reported that in May, the rebel commanders’ Majlis-Ul-Shura held a meeting in the republic to discuss future war plans. A special statement was released on the results of the meeting. The statement, signed by the three top leaders – Dokka Umarov, the president of Ichkeria and the Chairman of the Majlis-Ul-Shura, Mansur Yavmirzi, the head of the Sharia Court, and Seif Islam, the head of the rebel General Staff – declared that “…in accordance with this decision, all those who work for the Russian occupation forces, from the leaders of the upper echelons of the puppet forces to ordinary traitors (members of illegal puppet formations and ‘police’), fall under Sharia Law. All forms of punishment, including execution, allowed by Sharia Law, will be applied to them, apart from those who have laid down their arms, repented and abandoned their cooperation and distanced themselves from the occupational authorities and murtads (apostates).”

Following the statement, some of the most active Chechen police officers were murdered. Moreover, the rebels made raids into the regional capital, Grozny, where they set up checkpoints and searched vehicles for policemen and FSB officers. Such rebel activity provoked not only the younger men, but also some of the members of the Chechen police structures, to go into the mountains and join the rebels (Chechnya Weekly, June 14).

Surely, in such a situation, Ramzan Kadyrov needs to demonstrate that he, and not Dokka Umarov or anyone else, is the real force in the region. In his recent statement, Kadyrov not only warned ordinary Chechens against joining or assisting the resistance, but also described Umarov as an insignificant figure, as a bandit who is doomed to be eliminated in the near future.

“Current extremists will not be pardoned,” Kadyrov said. “Dokka Umarov is hiding because he has committed crimes. He has kidnapped people, his hands are covered in blood, and we are not going to treat him with kid gloves.”

However, Kadyrov – or perhaps someone above him, sitting in the Kremlin – subsequently reconsidered the wisdom of making such threats against the rebels and Dokka Umarov, perhaps realizing that Kadyrov had been too frank in admitting that youth are heading into the mountains to join the rebels. On June 19, four days after his statement regarding the end of the amnesties, Ramzan Kadyrov said during the opening ceremony of a new sports club and mosque that it was untrue that Chechen policemen and youth are switching to the side of the rebels. “The rumors about policemen and young men going to the mountains are deliberately being spread in Chechnya to create an atmosphere of insecurity,” Kadyrov said.

Nevertheless, Kadyrov “forgot” to mention that among those who are spreading such “rumors” include a Russian general, Chechnya’s mufti and the Russian prosecutor’s office.