The exact nature of the relations that exist between Shamil Basaev and Russia’s security organs have long been a topic of speculation, especially in light of the federal forces’ continuing failure to capture the country’s most wanted terrorist in such a tiny area as Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov, head of his father Akhmad’s personal security service, made a sensational allegation about this subject in an interview with Yelena Shesternina of Russky kurier, published on February 19. The allegation would not have been newsworthy if it had been seen on a pro-separatist website, but it is not what one expects to hear from an ostensible ally of the Russian armed services.
Pointing out that the younger Kadyrov has offered a substantial cash reward–5 million rubles, the equivalent of about US$170,000–for Basaev’s death or capture, Shesternina asked, “why haven’t you found him?”
Ramzan Kadyrov replied, “You know, I have developed the impression that he is very well guarded.” Shesternina asked who was guarding him–the rebel guerrillas?
“No,” was Kadyrov’s startling answer. “The [federal] special services. Chechnya is not such an enormous place that he could lose himself there. I have enough resources to find Basaev–but I can’t. The only people who could hide him so well are the special services.”
Asked why Russia’s security agencies would do such a thing, Ramzan said that “when this war is over, there won’t be anyone to blame terrorist attacks on. And nobody will be handing out medals and promotions to the special services…What happens now is that army or security service officers come and spend some time in Chechnya, and within a month get promoted several times. That’s not possible in any other region. It’s well known that lots of money is being made in this war, and also careers that will make your head spin. The special services need to keep Basaev alive and healthy so as to cover themselves with him.”
Asked by Chechnya Weekly in a February 23 telephone interview to comment on the exchange, veteran Chechnya journalist Musa Muradov said that “of course there is a basis for thinking this” [i.e., that Basaev has an on-going special relationship with Russia’s security services]. But, he added, “it’s surprising that Ramzan would say it.”