Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 34

On September 5, the separatist Chechenpress website posted a statement by Dokku Umarov, president of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), marking the 15th anniversary of the republic’s declaration of independence. In his statement, the rebel leader vowed that the fight for independence would continue. “For the past 15 years we have uninterruptedly contained the aggression of Russia, a militaristic nuclear power, and are sustaining large losses,” Umarov’s statement read. “We say 15 years because the enemy did not halt the subversive…war against us even during the brief lull in 1997-99. Not for a single day. But the hopes of the occupiers to break the will of the Chechen people were not realized. And these are not simply words, because we have proved and are continuing to prove our steadfastness to the enemy every day. Through such a long resistance, which has cost us heavy irreplaceable losses, we have reserved for ourselves the political, legal and moral right to independence, and we will continue a just war until it becomes a reality in our daily lives. We have managed to fit our actions into universally accepted legal requirements and to bring our hopes to the attention of the world community, although we are not receiving due and deserved support. The process of recognizing our legitimate demands is proceeding with great difficulty. But the reason for this is not us or our actions; the reason lies in the new world order and global cataclysms caused by it.”

In his statement, Umarov added that Russia had failed in its attempts to link the ChRI armed forces to “international terrorism,” to provoke a civil war in Chechnya and to “Chechenize” the conflict either along clan or religious lines. “Internal resistance exists only in the context of liquidating those who betrayed the Motherland and are serving the enemy as a traitor,” he said. “A sped up process of purgation of the people is under way.” Practically all the people of the North Caucasus have joined a “holy war” against “the colonial Russian empire,” Umarov claimed. “New liberation fronts are emerging, new people are coming to us, and the bridgehead for resisting aggression is expanding. Furthermore, the best representatives of the Caucasus people not willing to be on their knees before Russia are waging a liberation war not only in Ichkeria but also in their own lands, fighting for Faith, Freedom and Honor. This is one more blow to our enemies, the most painful one.”

Umarov expressed thanks to the people of the Caucasus for supporting the “mujahideen” and to “our public figures, politicians, representatives, rights activists and friends of the Chechen people from different countries, those who are rendering help in any form and who have accepted and sheltered Chechen refugees who refused to live under the enemy’s thumb. In this way, these countries have preserved our people from complete annihilation and have kept our gene pool safe. Our gratitude, respect and recognition go to the leaders of these states. The Chechen people will never forget their disinterested help in this difficult period of our history.” He also thanked those who are acting on the “information front,” including official and private ChRI publications and representatives of other peoples who are cooperating with those publications. “Even in Russia there are honest and courageous commentators who, despite the often deadly risk, openly support in a totalitarian society the just struggle of the Chechen people and give a fitting rebuff to mendacious Kremlin propaganda. And a truthful word is worth a lot in our cynical age.”

Umarov’s address concluded, “I congratulate the Chechen people on this memorable day and wish all of us victory on the righteous path of the Almighty! Allahu Akbar!”

On August 18, pro-Moscow Chechen officials reported that Dokku Umarov’s brother had taken advantage of the amnesty offered by the federal authorities and surrendered. The Associated Press quoted a man who identified himself as Umarov’s older brother, Akhmad, as telling reporters that he had surrendered voluntarily. “I have gotten fed up with hiding from authorities and want to return to a normal, peaceful life,” he said outside Ramzan Kadyrov’s residence in Gudermes. When asked whether he would advise other militants to turn themselves in, Akhmad Umarov said he could not decide for them: “I can’t take responsibility for them, and I can’t advise them what to do.”

Chechen officials had initially announced that Umarov himself had surrendered, and Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman Magomed Deniev subsequently said it was Umarov’s younger brother, Ruslan, who had turned himself in. Yet, the separatist website reported on August 18 that Umarov does not have a younger brother, and said that the man who surrendered to them, Akhmad Umarov, was the rebel leader’s older brother, who had been abducted by pro-Moscow Chechens two years earlier. The website noted that Dokku Umarov’s wife, 6-month-old son and 72-year-old father were abducted in May 2005, and that while his wife and son were subsequently released, nothing is known about the fate of his father.

On August 24, President Vladimir Putin’s adviser, Aslambek Aslakhanov, said Dokku Umarov should not count on being amnestied. “I don’t think he can expect an amnesty,” Aslakhanov told Interfax. “He is accused of grave crimes. No country anywhere in the world grants an amnesty for such crimes.”