A serviceman with a Russian Defense Ministry special unit was severely wounded on February 23 when he stepped on a mine in Chechnya’s Shatoi district. According to Kavkazky Uzel, the incident took place in woods near the village of Kharsenoi during a special operation targeting an area where rebels were believed to be located.
RIA Novosti reported on February 22 that two police officers were killed and one wounded in an attack by an unidentified assailant in Chechnya. The news agency quoted a local police source as saying that the attack occurred February 21 in a toy store in the town of Urus-Martan when the assailant opened fire with a pistol, firing six shots at the police.
These attacks took place just a few days after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov held a four-hour meeting with several leading rebel officials who switched sides over the last several years. Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on February 20 that representatives of Chechnya’s intelligentsia and clergy also attended the meeting, which was broadcast not only in the republic on Chechen state television, but also abroad via satellite.
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, during the meeting, Kadyrov once again called on his former enemies to “forgive one another for the sake of peace in the republic” and also again asked separatist leaders living abroad to return home. A famous Chechen actor, Dagun Omaev, appealed to Akhmed Zakaev, the London-based rebel prime minister and former actor, to return, calling him a “talented actor” and saying that if he is not indifferent to the fate of Chechnya, “his place is here.” Kadyrov, for his part, said Zakaev’s return would cause problems for him personally, but added that he cares about “the fate of each Chechen” and that his goal is to “bring people together” and “achieve peace and accord.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that the audience for the meeting included young people who had recently left the rebels’ ranks, and that Kadyrov noted the presence of dozens of former members of the “illegal armed formations” who had not been killed because they had “come to their senses” and switched sides. Many of these former rebels are today commanding police units and have been decorated, said Kadyrov, citing the example of Magomed Daudov, who is now a police lieutenant colonel and winner of the Hero of Russia award. Kadyrov said that there is no going back to the “period of Ichkeria” and that Chechnya has chosen “unity with Russia,” but admitted that the rebels who remain at large in the republic are recruiting “unwise” youths into their ranks.
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Ayb Khataev, described as a former close associate and “spiritual guide” of Aslan Maskhadov, claimed during the meeting that in October 2004, Maskhadov offered the Russian leadership a deal according to which the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) would drop its separatist ambitions and join the Russian Federation. Khataev claimed the agreement, which he said was developed by Zakaev and approved by Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and Shamil Basaev, provided for the deployment of three Russian garrisons in the republic and the use of Chechens to guard Russia’s border with Georgia. In addition, rebels would study at three Russian Interior Ministry educational institutions and then join the republic’s police force. The rebels’ condition was that Maskhadov be made the head of the republic.
The meeting was also addressed by Magomed Khambiev, former defense minister in the separatist ChRI government under Maskhadov, who accused the London-based exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky of financing radical Chechen rebel ideologist Movladi Udugov and Basaev and of broadcasting “Wahabbi ideas” (North Caucasus Weekly, February 20).