Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Wrong Umarov - II

More on the strained efforts of the Moscow-backed Chechen government to claim the capture of an Umarov, even if it wasn't the Umarov they really wanted. Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.):


Ichkerian President’s brother who surrendered was abducted a year ago

Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA - On August 18 the Russian media reported a sensational item of news. Reports linked to the press service of Chechen premier Ramzan Kadyrov announced that Dokka Umarov, who replaced Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev in the post of President of Ichkeria after he was killed in June, intended to lay down his arms.

Some time later, Ramzan Kadyrov’s press secretary informed the Interfax news agency that Umarov had personally given himself up to Ramzan Kadyrov in the city of Gudermes. This did not, however, cause a sensation. Later it was announced that it was not Dokka Umarov who had turned himself in, but his elder brother, Akhmad.

At a press conference with journalists in Grozny, Akhmad Umarov said he had come to Ramzan Kadyrov voluntarily because he believed Kadyrov would deal fairly with members of illegal armed units, and because he trusted Kadyrov’s guarantees of personal safety.

"I’m tired of being constantly on the run. My father has been kidnapped. I am going to try to find him. In 2005 I was arrested by representatives of the law enforcement bodies, and they held me somewhere for almost a year," said the older Umarov. In response to a question about his brother he said he had last met him in 2004. A feature about Akhmad Umarov was shown on local television channels for several days running.

Meanwhile, according to information obtained by staff of a number of human rights organizations it has been established that the brother of Dokka Umarov who "voluntarily surrendered" was abducted by officials of unidentified law enforcement bodies back in February or March 2005, and was thought to have disappeared without trace.

"In reality, Akhmad Umarov could not have voluntarily given himself up to Ramzan Kadyrov, as he was kidnapped by law enforcement officials a year and a half ago. Abducted at the same time were Dokka Umarov’s aged father Khamad, his wife, his six-month-old son, and two of his nephews. Umarov’s wife and son were later released, but until recently nothing was known about the others," says a local human rights activist. "Now they’ve announced that Akhmad Umarov has voluntarily turned himself in. It’s interesting to speculate where he could have been all this time.”

"I consider that what has happened is just another routine PR campaign by the authorities. Since they couldn’t manage to arrest Dokka Umarov, they produced his elder brother in public, saying he had given himself up voluntarily. Though as far as I know, Akhmad Umarov isn’t guilty of anything apart from being Dokka Umarov’s brother. Unlike his younger brother, he hasn’t taken part in any military campaigns, either in the past or currently," the respondent says.

The human rights activist thinks that the authorities will most probably try to bring in Akhmad Umarov as a mediator in negotiations with his distinguished brother. Some residents of Chechnya are convinced that the showing of the “surrendered” Akhmad Umarov on local television channels was primarily intended to demonstrate to the separatist leader that his brother is still alive and that Akhmad’s life depends on how his younger brother behaves.

Contrary to popular belief, the practice of taking the close relatives of separatist leaders hostage was also employed by law enforcers during the first Chechen war. In 1995 President Dzhokhar Dudayev’s brother Makharbi, who worked as a taxi-driver, was arrested in Grozny. Makharbi Dudayev was taken to Moscow and placed in solitary confinement in Lefortovo Prison. It was proposed to exchange him for one of the Russian officers who had been taken prisoner by Chechen soldiers. Dzhokhar Dudayev condemned this seizure in extremely sharp terms and said he would not take part in an exchange of his brother – in every respect a civilian – for prisoners of war. Makharbi Dudayev was later released nevertheless.

In the course of the present military campaign the practice of taking the relatives of field commanders and separatist leaders hostage acquired a much wider scope. In March 2004 law enforcement officials under the command of Ramzan Kadyrov seized several dozen close relatives of Magomed Khambiyev, who was Ichkerian Minister of Defence in the years of President Aslan Maskhadov’s administration. It was proposed that in exchange for the lives of the hostages Khambiyev should give himself up to the authorities, which he was forced to do on March 8 of the same year.

In December 2004 two brothers of President Aslan Maskhadov, his aged sister and five distant relatives were seized in Grozny and its environs by unidentified armed men in camouflage uniform, and taken to an unknown destination. Several months after Maskhadov’s death they all were released again.

Translated by David McDuff.

See also: The Wrong Umarov
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