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Associated Press
In this Sept. 16, 2007 file photo, Sulim
Yamadayev is seen at Hankala airport,
a military base outside Grozny,
Chechnya.

Death of Chechen Sulim Yamadayev is Latest Chapter in Chechnya-Russia Conflict

April 01, 2009 12:00 PM
by Liz Colville
Yamadayev, a Chechen and former Russian military official, had recently opposed pro-Kremlin Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

One of Several Recent High-Profile Chechen Deaths

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Yamadayev was shot dead in the basement parking garage of a residential building in Dubai on March 28. His body has been identified by his family, and the death was confirmed by Russian Consul Sergei Krasnogor. Dubai police have since detained a Russian national suspect in connection with the killing, according to The Moscow Times.

Yamadayev “was a former separatist rebel who later switched to the Russian side,” becoming a leader of the country’s prominent Vostok security force, according to the BBC. In 2005, he was named a Hero of Russia, the country’s top honor. But in 2008, his family had a falling out with the pro-Kremlin president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. Yamadayev was fired and fled to the United Arab Emirates.
The murder follows several other recent killings of prominent Chechens. Notably, Yamadayev’s brother Ruslan was killed while driving in Moscow in September 2008. Ruslan was also a former rebel who later worked as a deputy in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, as a member of the United Russia faction.

But the Yamadayev family, a “powerful clan,” had been closer with the previous Chechen president, Kadyrov’s father Akhmad, writes The Moscow Times. Ruslan was not reelected to his parliamentary position in 2007, which was seen as “a sign that Chechen authorities no longer wanted him in such a high-profile post.”

Sulim Yamadayev’s murder came just two days before United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum arrived in Moscow for scheduled talks with President Dmitri Medvedev.

The BBC also notes that Russia is “poised to declare a formal end to its 10-year war in Chechnya this week,” but “bloody struggle for control” of the region is ongoing. Last week, President Kadyrov intimated that Russia’s anti-rebel activity in Chechnya would soon be coming to an end.

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Recent Developments: Deaths of prominent Chechens and Kremlin critics

The former deputy mayor of Chechen capital Grozny, Gilani Shepiyev, was shot dead in a contract killing “directly linked to the victim’s former activities,” on Feb. 5, Russia’s RIA Novosti reported. Between 2004 and 2006, Shepiyev supervised law enforcement agencies in Chechnya’s North Caucasus republic, “which saw two Kremlin campaigns against separatists” during that time. Shepiyev was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2006.

President Ramzan Kadyrov’s former bodyguard, Umar. S. Israilov, was shot dead on the street near his home in Vienna on Jan. 13. Israilov had filed legal complaints that “described many brutal acts by Mr. Kadyrov and his subordinates, including executions of illegally detained men,” The New York Times wrote.
 
Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a critic of former President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow in 2006. She had been finishing a report on human rights abuses in Chechnya. Politkovskaya reported on both Chechen wars in the late 1990s and became a leading advocate for families who had lost relatives in the violence, going so far as to act as a mediator during the 2002 Moscow theater hostage situation.

In February 2009, three men implicated in Politkovskaya’s killing were acquitted in a trial that some called a systematic breakdown of the Russian judicial system.

Background: The Russia-Chechnya Conflict

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the region of Chechnya, led by President Dzhokhar Dudayev, declared independence, according to a Radio Free Europe timeline. In 1994, the Russian military moved into Chechnya to “quash the independence movement,” beginning years of military struggle. The first war, begun in 1994, saw Russian forces defeated. The second, begun in 1999 just prior to President Putin’s arrival in office, is technically ongoing, though current Chechen President Kadyrov is pro-Kremlin, as was his father. For the elder Kadyrov, this stance led to his assassination in 2004.

On March 26, President Kadyrov said that Russia’s anti-rebel activities in Chechnya “are due to end shortly,” claiming that the “insurgency by separatists and Islamist militants had been virtually wiped out,” the BBC reported. The BBC details more about the conflict in a 2006 Q&A.

Reference: Chechnya

Chechnya is located in southwestern Russia in the northern part of the Greater Caucasus mountain range. The largest ethnic group in Chechnya is the Chechen. The minority groups are Ingush and Russian. Both the Chechen and Ingush are Muslim, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on Chechnya. Chechnya’s two wars with Russia are believed to have claimed upwards of 100,000 lives and displaced approximately 400,000 people during the 1990s.
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