The spokesman for the regional operations headquarters of the Russian military operation in Chechnya, Major-General Ilya Shabalkin, claimed that rebel fighters loyal to Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basaev have been extorting local administration heads in Chechnya, RIA Novosti and Newsru.com reported on November 17. “The heads of several settlements in the Vedeno District received letters signed by a ring leader nicknamed Asadulla,” Shabalkin said. “The bandits demanded that the officials collect several thousand dollars from villagers and hand the money over for the needs of the illegal armed formations.” Shabalkin said the letters referred to orders given by the rebels’ State Defense Committee and a ruling by the Shariah court ordering the death penalty for anyone who refused to hand over the money. Shabalkin also claimed that rebels loyal to field commander Doku Umarov had raided the house of a 40-year-old businessman in the Urus-Martan Distrcit, threatening him and his family and stealing 55,000 rubles (more than US$1,900) and gold jewelry.
The Chechen rebel newspaper Kavkazsky vestnik said that Shabalkin’s allegations about rebel extortion simply prove that the Russian government’s claims of “international financial support” and “cash accounts” for the rebels are “a myth.”