Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 38

Chechenpress on September 30 published a series of decrees by Chechen rebel leader Dokku Umarov “on the reorganization of the fronts the ChRI VS [Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Armed Forces] and on new appointments of commanders.”

The 13 decrees—the texts of which, according to the separatist website, were provided by the press service of the ChRI President [that is, Umarov’s office], promoted Col. Suleiman Imurzaev (aka Khairulla), Col. Rabbani Khalilov and Col. Akhmed Yevloev (aka Magas) to the rank of brigadier general; created two new ChRI VS fronts, the North-Eastern Front and North-Western Front, on the basis of the Northern Front, and transformed the Eastern Front into the South-Eastern Front; named Col. Tagir Bataev as commander of the North-Eastern Front, Brig. Gen. Suleiman Imurzaev (aka Khairulla) as commander of the South-Eastern Front, Brig. Gen. Tarkhan Gaziev as commander of the South-Western Front, Col. Abubakar Elmuradov as commander of the North-Western Front, Col. Abubakar Basaev as commander of the Central Front, Brig. Gen. Rabbani Khalilov as commander of the Dagestani Front, Brig. Gen. Akhmed Yevloev (aka Magas) as commander of the Caucasus Front, Col. Abdurrakhman Kamalutdinov (aka Dzhundulla) as commander of the Povolzhsky Front, and Col. Mikhail Zakharov (aka Asadulla) as commander of the Uralsky Front.

Kommersant on October 2 called the changes in the rebel ranks a “large-scale reorganization,” and drew particular attention to the appointments of Rappani Khalilov [sometimes called Rabbani Khalilov] as commander of the Dagestani Front and Magomed Yevloev (aka Magas) as commander of the Caucasus Front. As the newspaper reported, Khalilov has long been on the wanted list for terrorist attacks, including the May 9, 2002 bombing in Kaspiisk, Dagestan, which killed 43 people. Describing Yevloev as “the organizer of practically all the large sabotage acts of recent years in Ingushetia,” Kommersant noted that he would now command rebel fighters in all the republics of the North Caucasus other than Chechnya and Dagestan.

The newspaper added, “The names of the other heads of the fronts—Uralsky’s Mikhail Zakharov (aka Asadulla) and Povolzhsky’s Abdurakhman Kamalutdinov (aka Dzhundulla)—were unknown even to the siloviki, even though the latter field commander has already had time to distinguish himself. On the Kavkaz website [the separatist website], he claimed responsibility for the explosion of the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline in Volgograd Oblast on September 28, reporting that ‘a sabotage group of mujahideen delivered a blow to energy service lines.’ And he declared that such service lines ‘are our constant military targets.’” (Kommersant quoted unnamed law-enforcement officials in Volgograd Oblast as saying that the pipeline explosion was the result of “technological wear and tear,” but sources inside the Volgogradtransgaz company told the newspaper that wear and tear did not appear to have caused the blast.)

Kommersant quoted a high-ranking Chechen Interior Ministry officer as saying that the rebel’s command system was disrupted by the death of Shamil Basaev earlier this year and that many rebels have since taken advantage of the federal amnesty offer, so that Umarov’s reorganization was an attempt “to show that the resistance wasn’t crushed, that they simply needed time to reorganize the forces” and thus was “nothing more than just another PR campaign from their side.” However, an unnamed Chechen government source noted that Umarov’s decrees appeared just a few days before the 30th birthday of Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov (on October 5). “I don’t rule out that those who are in the woods are also preparing for the holiday,” the source said.