On November 24 the Russian newspaper Gazeta quoted Magomed Khambiev, the former defense minister of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) and current deputy in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow parliament, as saying that three pending criminal cases against former Vostok battalion commander Sulim Yamadaev will be transferred to military investigators. Citing sources in Chechnya’s law-enforcement bodies, Khambiev said the criminal cases have been given to the Federal Investigative Committee and would later be handed over to military investigative bodies.
According to Gazeta, the three cases involve the 1998 murder of Usman Batsaev, a resident of the village of Dzhalka in Chechnya’s Gudermes district; the death of an unidentified man whose body was discovered in 2003; and the disappearance of a resident in Chechnya with the last name Musliev in 2002. All three cases were launched by investigators in Chechnya’s Gudermes district.
Khambiev told Gazeta that the cases being transferred to military investigators would not help Yamadaev, whose battalion operated under the Russian armed forces’ Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). “The military wants to save him, but nothing will come of this,” Khambiev said. “Such people [as Yamadaev] were needed during the times of trouble, but now the situation has changed. The Yamadaevs have thousands of enemies, including me.” Khambiev promised to ensure that Yamadaev’s case is heard in a civilian court, arguing that is the proper venue because his victims were civilians and he has already been discharged from the military.
During a meeting in Grozny on November 22, the Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, said that Sulim Yamadaev is guilty of the deaths of “many people,” including Yusup and Yunus Arsamakov—brothers of Moscow Industrial Bank President Abubakar Arsamakov, and the well-known Chechen singer Milana Balayeva and her mother.
During a meeting with Khalid Vaikhanov, the Chechen deputy prime minister with responsibility for the republic’s security bodies, on November 21, Kadyrov complained that the federal Interior Ministry has not taken the steps necessary to find and detain Sulim Yamadaev. Kadyrov said that he was certain that the federal law-enforcement bodies know the whereabouts of Yamadaev who, according to the Chechen leader, is hiding somewhere in Moscow. Kadyrov claimed Yamadaev has threatened former Vostok battalion members including Ruslan Baimuradov who, according to Kadyrov, has testified against Yamadaev in connection with the murder of the Arsamakov brothers.
On November 23 Gazeta quoted Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think-tank, as saying that he thought the conflict between Kadyrov and the Yamadaev brothers was far from over. Pribylovsky also stated that “Although Sulim Yamadaev still has protectors is Moscow, they are military men, generals, who sympathize with Yamadaev. However, generals do not have big political resources at the moment and therefore cannot completely shield their protégé from persecution,” Pribylovsky said.
Meanwhile, Sulim Yamadaev told Novaya Gazeta in an interview published on November 21 that most of the former Vostok battalion members have gone over to Kadyrov and that he does not blame them for doing so since it was done under pressure. He also said that he did not blame those former battalion members who are making accusations against him because they would be killed if they refused. At the same time, he said that he could count on “50 or so” former battalion members “even now.” Yamadaev, of course, again denied the charges that have been leveled against him.
Yamadaev said that a 12-man “spetsnaz group” has been dispatched from Chechnya to Moscow, ostensibly to arrest him, but that the unit’s real mission “is not to take me alive.” He said that the Chechen authorities want to eliminate him the way they eliminated Movladi Baisarov, head of the FSB’s Gorets spetsnaz group who was shot to death in Moscow in November 2006 (Chechnya Weekly, November 22, 2006). Yamadaev also stated that Baisarov was shot and killed by Adam Delikhmanov, a close Kadyrov associate who is now a United Russia deputy from Chechnya.
Interestingly, Yamadaev said Kadyrov “had nothing to do” with the murder of his brother, Ruslan Yamadaev, who was shot to death in Moscow in September (North Caucasus Weekly, September 26). Yamadaev said he knows who killed his brother and “will settle things with them in accordance with the law."