Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 34


The pro-Kremlin mass media were circulating a report in mid-September to the effect that Aslan Maskhadov had been impeached by his own parliament, or at least by what remains of that parliament after years of war. If that report is true, it would of course go far to shatter Maskhadov’s moral and political legitimacy as the legally elected head of Chechnya’s underground separatist government. Not surprisingly, Kremlin aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky immediately declared that even in the eyes of hard-core separatists, Maskhadov could now claim no higher status than that of just another field commander. But after reading Orkhan Dzhemal’s detailed investigation of this report, as published in the September 18 issue of Novaya gazeta, one can only conclude that the media have been circulating a classic piece of Soviet-style disinformation.

Like Maskhadov, the separatist parliament came to power in 1997 in elections recognized by international observers as free and fair. Its 49 members included one Isa Temirov, who now claims to be the parliament’s acting speaker. It was Temirov who announced Maskhadov’s “impeachment” to the receptive Moscow media.

According to Temirov, forty-three of the forty-nine parliamentary deputies elected in 1997 are still alive, and all forty-three of them took part in the impeachment vote. He said that forty-two voted in favor of removing Maskhadov and only one against.

Novaya gazeta journalist Dzhemal, however, found that seven of the original forty-nine deputies are now dead, and nine are currently living abroad. Akhyad Idigov, one of those still alive and still in Russia, told Dzhemal that he had contacted more than half of those deputies who theoretically might have taken part in a vote on impeachment–and that they all told him they knew of no such parliamentary session. Temirov’s announcement failed to specify where the parliamentary session that ostensibly voted impeachment took place, or which deputies were present.

Temirov fought on the separatist side in both the first and second Chechen wars, but in the spring of 2003 his colleagues expelled him “for cooperation with the Russian authorities through the agent of the Russian special services Kh. Terkibaev….” Last spring he signed an appeal for Chechens to support the pro-Moscow constitutional referendum; Dzhemal noted that “it is curious that he announced Maskhadov’s impeachment according to the old constitution.” This past summer Temirov called on rebel guerrillas to make use of the amnesty enacted by the federal Duma in June. According to Dzhemal, some ten or eleven other members of the Chechen parliament, all now living in Moscow, also supported the referendum and the amnesty–a stance that was promptly repudiated by their colleagues as “not reflecting the official position of the Chechen parliament.”

Dzhemal concluded that the alleged “removal” of Maskhadov “is yet one more link in the chain of ousting Kadyrov’s opponents. Maskhadov, unlike Dzhabrailov, Aslakhanov or Saidullaev, has not announced that he is a candidate. Moreover, the Russian authorities consider him not a president but a criminal–but, obviously, only in words. Subconsciously he retains some kind of legitimacy for them–otherwise why oust him?”