Against the backdrop of the general security situation across the North Caucasus, where in May alone 164 people were victims of the conflict between the government and the armed opposition, the situation in Chechnya appears to be less intense. Violence in the republic in May claimed only ten victims – six killed and four wounded (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/208147/).
Therefore, it was unusual to hear news of a police operation in Chechnya that disrupted a plot against the republic’s head, Ramzan Kadyrov. Two insurgents who allegedly planned a suicide attack targeting Kadyrov were killed in the operation, conducted on the night of June 15-16 (http://ria.ru/defense_safety/20120616/674249277.html). News of the alleged assassination attempt was quickly disseminated by the Russian media and abroad. The media’s sensationalism was understandable. Such sensitive news is usually suppressed in Russia, following the Soviet-era tradition of avoiding doing anything to undermine the authority of a government that is supposed to be able to control everything and everyone. The news of the assassination attempt arrived unexpectedly amid the usual flow of daily reports in the media in Grozny describing the near universal prosperity in the Chechen Republic.
According to Chechen officials, the operation was carried out inside the city of Grozny. However, there was a level of discrepancy in the reports, given that some of the reports said the operation occurred in Grozny’s Oktyabrsky district while others said it took place in the town of Kirovo, which is situated on the outskirts of the city, in Grozny’s Zavodskoy district. The reports emphasized that only highly trusted associates of Kadyrov took part in the operation – namely, five people led by the Kurchaloi district police chief, Khamzat Edilgireyev. According to Edilgireyev, an informer who had been planted inside the insurgency’s network signaled that Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, sent suicide bombers to Grozny to try and kill Kadyrov. The official said that the militants were killed in a shootout after resisting capture (www.top.rbc.ru/incidents/16/06/2012/655353.shtml). The website of the head of the Chechen government quoted the Kurchaloi police chief as saying: “Firearms and explosives have been seized; the police are taking steps to establish the identity of the militants. There were no victims among the police forces.”
Eventually, the insurgents killed in Chechnya on June 16 were identified as 25-year-old Saikhan Kusuev and 26-year-old Albert Alikhajiev – both, according to the Chechen Interior Ministry, from the village of Samashki in the republic’s Achkhoi-Martan district. The Chechen police stated that Doku Umarov had introduced the slain Alikhajiev as Grozny’s emir and Kusuev as emir of Shatoi district at an earlier insurgent meeting (http://www.mvdchr.ru/rus/news/5165.html). Chechen Deputy Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov said the slain militants were involved in a range of high-profile crimes, including the murders of the chief of the Shatoi district criminal police, the chief of Samashki’s police, the chief of the criminal police in Zavodskoi district and the wounding of the deputy head of Zavodskoi district criminal police. The militants also fired shots at Federal Security Service (FSB) officers near the Achkhoi-Martan district village of Yandi (www.chechnya.gov.ru/page.php?r=126&id=11249). It is quite strange that the authorities had so much information about these two militants but never made their names public prior to their killing. It is probably yet another case in which a number of unsolved crimes are indiscriminately attributed to slain insurgents. As of June 20, insurgent information sources had not confirmed the status of the two slain militants (http://kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2012/06/16/91309.shtml).
In fact, the alleged status of the slain militants raises questions. Why did sector emirs agree to become suicide bombers, and when did they become prospective suicide bombers? Why were there no lower-ranking subordinates to carry out this operation? Thus the information about the killing of the two militants from Samashki, which is in the western part of Chechnya, in Grozny, by the chief of Kurchaloi district police, which is in the eastern part of Chechnya, raises more questions than it answers.
Grozny’s propaganda machine alleged that Umarov had to resort to an attempt to assassinate Kadyrov because killing other Chechen officials had no effect on the situation in Chechnya. It would be strange if the armed opposition had only just decided to kill Ramzan Kadyrov so many years into his tenure. Kadyrov has likely always been a top priority person on the insurgents’ hit list since his father became an opponent of Aslan Maskhadov’s rule at the end of 1999.
Referring to Umarov’s statements at the meeting of the commanders of the western sector of the Chechen insurgency in April (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85O60jAfV1s), Kadyrov severely criticized the authorities in Ingushetia. According to Kadyrov, the militants, including Umarov, find refuge on the territory of the neighboring republic with the local authorities’ consent. Kadyrov complained that Ingushetia’s police obstruct joint police operations on its territory (Grozny TV, June 17). Kadyrov has long dreamed of expanding Chechen police operations into the neighboring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan and appears to be using the latest incident as a means to further that aim. Likewise, Dagestani and Ingush authorities understand that if Kadyrov’s police operations spread to their territories, so will his influence, and that Moscow will also recognize Kadyrov’s supremacy over the other leaders in the region, who have been weak figures since their appointment. So, unsurprisingly, the leaders of Ingushetia and Dagestan regard Kadyrov’s influence as much more dangerous than the insurgents operating in their republics.
Meanwhile, Kadyrov has started to search for the militants in the mountainous terrain of Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan and Sunzha districts. The latter district borders Ingushetia. Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry forces are also participating in the operation (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/205033/).The Chechen authorities are trying to seal off this area to prevent the militants, who attended the meeting with Umarov there back in April, from leaving. The Chechen authorities harbor unrealistic hopes of finding the insurgents in the foothills of Chechnya and Ingushetia one and a half months after Umarov met with commanders of the insurgency’s western sector. If it is confirmed that the rebels really tried to assassinate Kadyrov, it will testify to their strength, which will make the situation in the republic even more tense against the backdrop of more possible suicide attacks.
However, it is hard to believe the Chechen government’s official version about the assassination attempt. It is more likely that the killing of the two suspected suicide bombers was used as a pretext for expanding the Chechen police’s operations into the neighboring republics, specifically in Ingushetia. Grozny sent a signal chiefly intended for the Russian authorities, designed to force Moscow to pressure the neighboring republics into allowing Kadyrov’s commandos in. The most interesting thing to take away from the ensuing events is that it shows that Moscow refused to help Kadyrov and that the Ingush authorities did not allow Chechen commandos to enter their republic to search for the militants – an obvious blow to Kadyrov and his enormous ego.