A serene sky over Ichkeria

The organisers of the shoot-out in Grozny are interested in exporting the Islamic revolution
By Maxim Byshchovets


On June 21 supporters of commander of the "General Dudayev army" Salman Raduyev gathered in the Teatralnaya Square of Grozny. The rally, at which the notorious terrorist assailed Aslan Maskhadov and his policy, ended with a shoot-out. Several people died, including National Security Service director Lechi Khultygov and chief of the Raduyev "army" staff Vakha Dzhafarov, who found themselves "on the opposite sides of the barricades."

President Aslan Maskhadov declared in the republic a three days' mourning, for the first time in the two postwar years. A moratorium was imposed on any political speculations over the incident until the truth is ascertained--who is right, who is at fault - in a shariat court. And right after this, again for the first time, the state of emergency and a curfew were imposed.

Nothing of this kind had occurred before, that in an open, highly politicised confrontation recent brothers-in-arms in the "Russian- Chechen war"--that's how and only so the combat operations of 1994-1996 are officially called in Chechnya--should have been killed. Up to June 21 a powerful restraining factor had operated: the custom of vendetta. Now the situation is different. The conflict between Raduyev and official Grozny authority is prone to grow into a serious relations issue.

Why Raduyev? He was more than once dismissed with a wave of the hand: why, Salman after the wounds "is not quite all there."

First, by virtue of the support which the enfant terrible continues to enjoy among a part of the field commanders, including the Jordanian Khattab with no financial constraints. Second, because Raduyev quite deliberately overstepped a certain bound by publicly at a rally accusing Maskhadov of involvement in the attempt on Dudayev's life, his father-in-law, in April 1996. Third, Raduyev is perhaps a character figure for today's Chechnya, and in a certain sense--for the entire North Caucasian area. Either he and his bellicose friends go home, and in the leadership of Ichkeria the policy of peaceful development of the republic completely wins out, or the "moderates" in the Chechen leadership find themselves in a minority, and the "party of war" wins, which feels comfortable only in the conditions of a permanent revolution and jihad. Especially as revolutionary romance is not far to seek, Daghestan is nearby.

According to some, still unconfirmed data, Ichkerian NSS director Khultygov by no means died as the result of an accident, due to somebody's hot temper. The one who shot aimed most carefully and fired more than one bullet. Whose path Khultygov had crossed and who could have been interested in having him removed?

Primarily, of course, Raduyev. It is reported that after the commander of the "Dudayev army," using his own, Marsho (Freedom) television channel, called upon his supporters to come to the rally, Khultygov with a Spetsnaz group burst into the television station and raked the whole equipment with fire from sub-machine guns. This was why Raduyev sent the rally participants on June 21 with a demand for air time to the republican television studio. Somewhat earlier Khultygov had on Maskhadov's orders liquidated in the centre of the town the tent village of Raduyev's supporters, built and maintained by them with money of dubious origin.

But then, Chechen law enforcement agencies are well aware of where this money comes from. But they prefer not to say about this aloud. They speak aloud, as a rule, only about the "dirty games of Russian secret services," sincerely believing that Moscow with the help of its agents in and around the republic is fanning up tensions in North Caucasus. If there is any talk about the activity of other secret services, it's in a low voice. Somehow it isn't convenient to point the finger at yesterday's associates in the sacred war against the Russian infidels. Perhaps only Khultygov spoke quite definitely of the divergence of the interests of the Chechen republic and those forces in the West and the Arab East which are not interested in stability in the Black Sea-Caspian region. In the newspaper Groznensky Rabochiy, Khultygov wrote: our wolf is not getting into their Arab desert, so let them not get with their camel into our place. At a meeting of the Chechen parliament he stunned the deputies with a figure--740 million dollars--this sum, according to his information, had been brought illegally into Chechnya to destabilise the situation in the Chechnya-Daghestan border area. At the same meeting he expressed anger at the growing appetites of Khattab, who had demanded for the needs of his centre for training saboteurs the territory of the Shali Tank Shooting-Range belonging to the Ichkerian army. It's time, Khultygov told Khattab, to return home. Who will like such frankness?

With the removal of Khultygov the "pro-Daghestan lobby" will be greatly strengthened in Maskhadov's entourage--those who think that a condition of the survival of an independent Chechen state is to have Daghestan torn away from Russia for its "historical reunification" on an anti- Russian basis with Ichkeria. Incidentally, the most active figures of the Congress of the Peoples of Ichkeria and Daghestan, created in April, along with Khattab and Raduyev are "minister of foreign affairs" of Ichkeria Movladi Udugov and Shamil Basayev, who has joined them at the latter's insistence.

Admittedly, if Udugov needs the export of the jihad into Daghestan so that he is simply not forgotten, for Basayev this is the only way out Moscow has left for him. Having won no laurels in the field of activity as acting premier of Chechnya (without financial injections by Russia this is now unrealistic), the charismatic leader, from whom the charge of terrorism has not been lifted, will have to return to his customary job.

Thus, Maskhadov is facing a very difficult task: to restrain his entourage from adventurist plans in respect of Daghestan, to show, as he has long since promised, some people the door, to deal a decisive blow to crime and to give a last chance to the Chechen economy. If he fails to do that at present, Moscow will have to deal in Grozny with other people. And very soon.

In its turn, Moscow should also make up its mind. Either the centre goes on pretending that what is happening in Chechnya does not concern it, or Moscow will seriously start honouring its obligations under a number of agreements with Grozny. There is no room left for political manoeuvring any more.


© 2007 Chechen Republic Online