Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 32

Chechen rebel leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, who is president of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), issued three decrees, which were published by the Kavkazcenter and Chechenpress websites on August 14. Decree No. 13 named Idris Khasanov head of the ChRI presidential administration and gave him “additional powers for control over the activities of all ChRI institutions of state power functioning beyond the borders of the country.” In Decree No. 14, Sadulaev stated that on the basis of the article in the ChRI constitution “On martial law” and “with the aim of reforming the system of state power of the ChRI and providing protection for the sovereignty of the ChRI under the martial law conditions introduced in the country in connection with Russian Federation’s aggression against the ChRI in the fall of 1999,” he was replacing the ChRI’s cabinet of ministers, but that the cabinet would continue to serve until the promulgation of a new decree naming a new cabinet. Decree No. 14 also ordered the State Defense Committee – ChRI Madzhilisul Shura – to take two weeks “to examine the structure and payroll of the members of the reformed ChRI cabinet of ministers.” In Decree No. 15, Sadulaev wrote that “in connection with the absence of efficient interaction and appropriate coordination in the work of the different ChRI representatives in foreign countries,” he was abolishing the positions of general representative of the ChRI president abroad and the institutions of special and authorized representatives of the ChRI president, and was giving the former ChRI representatives abroad a week to present the ChRI presidential administration with reports on – and documentary evidence of – their work.

Whether these changes are mere formalities or represent a change in strategy and/or ideology is not clear. It is worth noting, however, that on August 11, Kavkazcenter posted excerpts of a paper criticizing the Chechen separatist government that has existed since the mid-1990s and taking particular aim at the Chechen separatist representatives abroad. Signed by “The Islamic Center of Strategic Research and Political Technology” and entitled “Reflections of a Mujahid,” the paper criticized the separatists’ “official representatives” for continuing to “build policy” and “word their speeches” in such a way “as to get the Western community to recognize us” even though “the Russian infidels, with the clear support of the European countries and other infidels, have shown such indiscriminate and cruel brutality” over the last nine years. The paper accused “the Europeans” of adhering to realpolitik and thus having “no intention of complicating relations with Russia just because the latter is destroying the Chechens,” while “playing the so-called ‘Chechen card'” to put “occasional political pressure on the Russian leadership.” It also stated that the Europeans seek to recruit “agents of influence from among Chechen representatives in Europe” and “obtain information about the real state of the forces of the mujahideen and to expose areas where we are vulnerable.” The paper added: “With this in mind, permanent contact is maintained with Chechen representatives abroad and numerous human-rights campaigners and representatives of humanitarian missions and journalists are sent to Chechnya.” The paper also took aim at European social mores – criticizing Switzerland, for example, as “a country where 52 per cent of the population have expressed their agreement that single-sex marriages should be legalized.”

The paper concluded: “We have no objection to our representatives abroad embarking on a path of realpolitik. But in order to do so they must proceed from the following concepts: first, they must always remember that God alone is the greatest real being and everything that happens does so only through His will. Second, we Muslims are aware that we will achieve victory in the war against the non-believers not by force of arms and numbers of troops, but by the grace of God, who will reward us because there are God-fearing Muslims among us…We must not simply place our hopes in God but we are obliged to know our religion. We derive true information about the nature of non-believers and hypocrites, their aspirations, their tactics and about what they hide in their hearts and what they show, in what aspects they are united and in what they are divided, from the Koran and the Sunna. Only in this way can we shape our realpolitik in our relations with those who are without faith.”

Meanwhile, Chechenpress, citing Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s North Caucasus Service, reported on August 10 that Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev held a meeting of rebel field commanders in Urus Martan the night of August 7-8. According to the separatist website, Akhmed Zakaev, who is the ChRI’s minister of culture, information and press and was the ChRI president’s special representative, told RFE/RL that the field commanders discussed issues of “a military-political character,” and that the most important result of the meeting was to create a unified intelligence and counter-intelligence service for the Caucasus front on the basis of the existing ChRI Anti-Terror Center. Zakaev said that the main responsibility that Sadulaev took on when he assumed the separatist movement’s leadership was to ensure that “the processes and undertakings in the North Caucasus take place under a unified government and on the basis of international law.” The main thing brought out in Sadulaev’s meeting with the field commanders, Zakaev said, was the need “to conduct the struggle against the Putin regime on the basis of international law.”