Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 141

The Chechen government’s campaign against “Wahhabis” in the republic may not be over. Its next victim may be Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov. As Ahmad Kadyrov, the Mufti of Chechnya, told the Monitor, “after Yandarbiev, Udugov is one of the most active proponents of ‘Wahhabism’ in Chechnya.” Kadyrov admitted that, earlier, both the Chechen authorities and the muftiate had tried to conceal sectarian disagreements from the public eye. But, he said, “the time came when this was no longer possible.” In Kadyrov’s opinion, the government will soon succeed in “reducing the Wahhabis’ influence to zero.”

Kadyrov’s position chimes with that of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. It therefore seems quite likely that Udugov may soon be forced to resign. The fact that the foreign minister, who used to give interviews to journalists almost every day, has been inaccessible to the media for a week, serves as indirect confirmation of his shaky position.

Udugov’s resignation would mean the end of an epoch in the history of post-Soviet Chechnya. Udugov, a graduate of Moscow State University and a journalist by profession, was the main architect of the concept of Chechen independence. During the war, Udugov was Minister of Information and waged the propaganda war against Russia so brilliantly that even his enemy, then-Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, was forced to admit that “one Udugov was worth the entire propaganda staff of the Russian army.” On the eve of the presidential elections in Chechnya, it was Udugov who advanced the idea of creating an Islamic state in Chechnya.

Nonetheless, one can hardly consider the present conflict in Chechnya to be sectarian. What seems to be happening is that the moderate government of President Maskhadov is fighting against radicals who rule out the idea of compromise with Moscow. The government is trying to split the ranks of the radicals, and has succeeded in attracting even some of the “Wahhabis” to its side. Maskhadov has, for example, struck an alliance with field commander Emir Khattab, a Jordanian citizen who was once considered the main purveyor of “Wahhabism” from the Middle East. Significantly, Kadyrov sees Khattab not as a “Wahhabi” but as “just a soldier.” Maskhadov may even form a temporary alliance with maverick field commander Salman Raduev. According to NTV, a joint operation of Maskhadov’s and Raduev’s fighters is planned. The objective is to neutralize the “Wahhabi” camp in Urus-Martan. (NTV, July 22)