Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Chechen underground government reshuffle

An article I just translated for the Prague Watchdog:

Changes in the underground Chechen government

By Ruslan Isayev

There has been another series of replacements in the government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), the underground establishment representing the once independent Chechnya. Four ministers who are currently abroad have been relieved of their posts by a decree of President Abdul Khalim Sadulayev, which stipulates that heads of ministries and departments must be located in Chechnya.

The only minister of the four to receive a new post is Movladi Udugov. He will head the National Information Service of the State Defence Committee (GKO) of the ChRI, a body created by another decree.

Akhmed Zakayev has been retained as Culture Minister. However, the fact that he resides abroad may possibly deprive him of that post.

After the death last year of Aslan Maskhadov, President of Independent Chechnya, the differences of opinion between the radical and moderate representatives of the hechen resistance were obvious, but almost no one expected them to be manifested so soon.

In the view of a source close to the Chechen government in exile, the formal pretext for the sackings was a discussion between Udugov and Zakayev about the ChRI’s political system which appeared on the Chechenpress website. The real reasons, however, lie in a split in the leadership of the Ichkerian government and parliament.

The main point at issue is that a large section of the parliament, together with Akhmed Zakayev, consider that relations with international organizations should not be severed over the matter of regulating relations with Russia. The other section, composed of Islamic radicals, to which Movladi Udugov and, to some degree, warlord Shamil Basayev belong, consider that in war all methods are acceptable. In short, it can now be boldly asserted that the radicals are winning this struggle.

On the other hand, it is possible but not very likely that in these decrees Sadulayev is attempting to bring round the Ichkerian politicians in exile who are discussing “incontrovertible truths” such as the nature of Chechen statehood without consulting the top leadership.

It is also quite possible that all these changes were planned simply in order to remove Akhmed Zakayev from the political arena. Many observers note that the hand of Movladi Udugov, a master of political intrigues, can be glimpsed behind the changes.

For Movladi Udugov, to whom, not without foundation, the "information victory" in the first Chechen war was attributed, the removal of Akhmed Zakayev from the political scene signifies his own renaissance as an Ichkerian politician abroad. And it is most likely he who will draw up the ChRI’s foreign policy.

In this manner, Udugov has returned to his natural element, and it is perfectly possible that the information component of the Chechen resistance will undergo change in the direction of radicalism.

Commenting on the decrees for the Chechen desk of Radio Svoboda, Udugov welcomed them, expressing the view that the changes will be of benefit to the fight with the Russian aggressor, and that they are even long overdue. “The war will not end today, and it will not end tomorrow. We must be ready to continue the struggle,” he noted.

Akhmed Zakayev, the now former leader of the foreign policy bloc in the Ichkerian government which contained the four ministries, believes that the matter will not end with the new changes. He is apparently referring to the possibility that he may be sacked, i.e. that he will be relieved of his ministerial post.

It is unlikely that any of the sacked Ichkerian government ministers will return to Chechnya in order to try to retain their posts, and particularly not in a government that exists in the deep underground.

In fact, it is most probable that the decrees were not even aimed at this. This is now the third and most far-reaching change in the Chechen government since the post of ChRI President passed to Sadulayev, and it can indicate only one thing - that the Chechen resistance, whose activity has already gone beyond the limits of Chechnya alone, is now making long-term plans and that there is no place in its government for supporters of democratic values. This is the character that this unequal and unjust war has acquired.

www.watchdog.cz
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