Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

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Zelimkhan Abdumuslimovich Yandarbiyev (September 12, 1952 – February 13, 2004) was a Chechen writer and a politician, who served as acting president
Acting president
An Acting President is a person who temporarily fills the role of an organization's or country's president, either when the real president is unavailable or when the post is vacant .-See also:*Acting *Acting President of Pakistan*Acting President of Malta*Acting President of...

 of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria is the unrecognized secessionist government of Chechnya. The republic was proclaimed in late 1991 by Dzokhar Dudayev, and fought two devastating wars between separatists and the Russian Federation which denounced secession...

 between 1996 and 1997. In 2004 Yandarbiyev was killed in exile in Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

 by Russian military intelligence.

Life


Originally a literary scholar, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and children's literature
Children's literature
Children's literature is for readers and listeners up to about age twelve; it is often defined in four different ways: books written by children, books written for children, books chosen by children, or books chosen for children. It is often illustrated. The term is used in senses which sometimes...

 writer Yandarbiyev became a leader in the Chechen
Chechen people
Chechens constitute the largest native ethnic group originating in the North Caucasus region. They refer to themselves as Noxçi . Also known as Sadiks , Gargareans, Malkhs...

 nationalist
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 movement as the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 began to collapse. In May 1990, he founded and led the Vainakh Democratic Party (VDP), the first Chechen political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

, which was committed to an independent
Independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 Chechnya. The VDP initially represented both Chechen and Ingush
Ingush
Ingush may refer to:* The Ingush language* The Ingush people, an ethnic group of the North Caucasus...

 until their split after Chechnya's declaration of independence
Declaration of independence
A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

 from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

.

In November 1990 he became a deputy chairman to the newly formed All-National Congress of the Chechen People
All-National Congress of the Chechen People
The All-National Congress of the Chechen People of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria came to power on 1 November 1991 under president Dzhokhar Dudayev, a former commander of the Soviet air force base in Tartu, Estonia. Since its formation, the organization advocated sovereignty for Chechnya as a...

 (NCChP), which was led by Dzhokhar Dudayev and which ousted the Soviet-era leadership. With Dudayev, he signed an agreement with Ingush leaders splitting the joint Chechen-Ingush republic in two. In the first Chechen parliament, from 1991-1993, Yandarbiyev headed the media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 committee
Committee
A committee is a type of small deliberative assembly that is usually intended to remain subordinate to another, larger deliberative assembly—which when organized so that action on committee requires a vote by all its entitled members, is called the "Committee of the Whole"...

. Since 1991 he served as Vice-President of the self-proclaimed republic.

In April 1996, following the assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 of his predecessor Dzhokhar Dudayev, he became an Acting President
Acting president
An Acting President is a person who temporarily fills the role of an organization's or country's president, either when the real president is unavailable or when the post is vacant .-See also:*Acting *Acting President of Pakistan*Acting President of Malta*Acting President of...

. In late May 1996, Yandarbiyev headed a Chechen delegation that met President of Russia Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 and Prime Minister of Russia
Prime Minister of Russia
The Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation The use of the term "Prime Minister" is strictly informal and is not allowed for by the Russian Constitution and other laws....

 Viktor Chernomyrdin
Viktor Chernomyrdin
Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin was the founder and the first chairman of the Gazprom energy company, the longest serving Prime Minister of Russia and Acting President of Russia for a day in 1996. He was a key figure in Russian politics in the 1990s, and a great contributor to the Russian...

 for peace talks at the Kremlin that resulted in the signature of a ceasefire
Ceasefire
A ceasefire is a temporary stoppage of a war in which each side agrees with the other to suspend aggressive actions. Ceasefires may be declared as part of a formal treaty, but they have also been called as part of an informal understanding between opposing forces...

 agreement on May 27, 1996.

In 1997, during the signing of the Russian-Chechen Peace Treaty in Moscow, Yandarbiyev famously forced his Russian counterpart President Yeltsin to change seats at a negotiating table so he would be received like a head of sovereign state. Yandarbiyev stood in the presidential election
Presidential election
A presidential election is the election of any head of state whose official title is president.- United States :The United States has elections on the state and local levels...

 held in Chechnya in February 1997, but was defeated by the Chechen separatist top military leader, General Aslan Maskhadov
Aslan Maskhadov
Aslan Aliyevich Maskhadov was a leader of the Chechen separatist movement and the third President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.He was credited by many with the Chechen victory in the First Chechen War, which allowed for the...

, getting 10 per cent of the votes and landing third behind Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev
Shamil Basayev
Shamil Salmanovich Basayev was a Chechen militant Islamist and a leader of the Chechen rebel movement.Starting as a field commander in the Transcaucasus, Basayev led guerrilla campaigns against the Russian troops for years, as well as launching mass-hostage takings of civilians, with his goal...

. Together with Maskhadov, Yandarbiyev took part of signing of the "lasting" peace treaty in Moscow. The two Chechen leaders fell out badly the following year, when Yandarbiyev was accused of being behind an assassination attempt against Maskhadov. In September 1998, Maskhadov publicly denounced Yandarbiyev, accusing him of importing the radical Islamic philosophy of "Wahhabism
Wahhabism
Wahhabism is a religious movement or a branch of Islam. It was developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian from Najd, Saudi Arabia. Ibn Abdul Al-Wahhab advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations...

" and of being responsible for "anti-state activities" including anti-government speeches and public meetings, as well as the organisation of illegal armed groups. Yandarbiyev subsequently joined forces with the hard-line Islamist
Islamism
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

 opposition to Maskhadov's rule.

In August-September 1999, Yandarbiyev was assumed as a key figure behind the invasion by the Islamic International Brigade
Islamic International Brigade
The Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade was the name of an international unit of Islamist mujahideen founded in 1998....

-led coalition of Islamist guerrillas on the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan
Dagestan
The Republic of Dagestan is a federal subject of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region. Its capital and the largest city is Makhachkala, located at the center of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea...

. At the beginning of the Second Chechen War
Second Chechen War
The Second Chechen War, in a later phase better known as the War in the North Caucasus, was launched by the Russian Federation starting 26 August 1999, in response to the Invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade ....

, Yandarbiyev traveled abroad to Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 and eventually settled in Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

 in 1999, where he sought to obtain Muslim support for the Chechen cause.

After Yandarbiyev's involvement in the October 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis
Moscow theater hostage crisis
The Moscow theater hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege, was the seizure of the crowded Dubrovka Theater on 23 October 2002 by some 40 to 50 armed Chechens who claimed allegiance to the Islamist militant separatist movement in Chechnya. They took 850 hostages and demanded the...

, Yandarbiyev was placed on Interpol's most wanted list and Russia made the first of several requests for extradition
Extradition
Extradition is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state. Between nation states, extradition is regulated by treaties...

 in February 2003, citing Yandarbiyev as a major international terrorist and financier of the al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

-backed Chechen resistance. In June 2003, his name was consequently added to the United Nations Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee's blacklist of al-Qaeda-related suspects. Yandarbiyev played a key role in directing funding from foundations in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf
Arab states of the Persian Gulf
"Arab states of the Persian Gulf" or "Arab Persian Gulf states" or "Persian Gulf Arab states" or "Arabic Persian Gulf states" or "Arab States of The Gulf", are terms that refer to the six Arab states of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, bordering the Persian Gulf....

 in order to support a radical Chechen faction dubbed the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment
Special Purpose Islamic Regiment
The Special Purpose Islamic Regiment , also known as the al-Jihad-Fisi-Sabililah Special Islamic Regiment, was a Chechen criminal organization loosely formed by renegade Chechen warlord Arbi Barayev in 1996...

, a militant group responsible for the Moscow theater hostage crisis
Moscow theater hostage crisis
The Moscow theater hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege, was the seizure of the crowded Dubrovka Theater on 23 October 2002 by some 40 to 50 armed Chechens who claimed allegiance to the Islamist militant separatist movement in Chechnya. They took 850 hostages and demanded the...

. In January 2004 he was interviewed extensively in Qatar for the BBC Four
BBC Four
BBC Four is a British television network operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation and available to digital television viewers on Freeview, IPTV, satellite and cable....

 documentary The Smell of Paradise, where the film-makers called him the "spiritual leader of the Chechens and a poet on the road to jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

."

Death


On February 13, 2004, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was killed when a bomb ripped through his SUV
Sport utility vehicle
A sport utility vehicle is a generic marketing term for a vehicle similar to a station wagon, but built on a light-truck chassis. It is usually equipped with four-wheel drive for on- or off-road ability, and with some pretension or ability to be used as an off-road vehicle. Not all four-wheel...

 in the Qatari capital, Doha
Doha
Doha is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar...

. Yandarbiyev was seriously wounded and died in hospital. His 13-year old son Daud was seriously injured. Some, but not all, reports said two of his bodyguards were killed, but this has not been confirmed.

It was initially unclear who was responsible for the blast, but suspicion fell on SVR
Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia)
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service is Russia's primary external intelligence agency. The SVR is the successor of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB since December 1991...

 and/or GRU
GRU
GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye is the foreign military intelligence directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation...

, Russian intelligence agencies denying any involvement, or internal feuding among the Chechen rebel leadership. Aslan Maskhadov
Aslan Maskhadov
Aslan Aliyevich Maskhadov was a leader of the Chechen separatist movement and the third President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.He was credited by many with the Chechen victory in the First Chechen War, which allowed for the...

's separatist foreign ministry condemned the attack as a "Russian terrorist attack", comparing it to the 1996 attack that killed Dzhokhar Dudayev. The car bomb
Car bomb
A car bomb, or truck bomb also known as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device , is an improvised explosive device placed in a car or other vehicle and then detonated. It is commonly used as a weapon of assassination, terrorism, or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle,...

 eventually led to Qatar's first counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to prevent or in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments...

 law, declaring lethal terrorist acts punishable by death or life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

.

The day after the attack, Qatari authorities arrested three Russians in a Russian Embassy villa. One of them, the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Qatar, Aleksandr Fetisov, was released in March due to his diplomatic status and the remaining two, the GRU agents Anatoly Yablochkov (also known as Belashkov) and Vasily Pugachyov (sometimes misspelled as Bogachyov), were charged with the assassination of Yandarbiyev, an assassination attempt of his son Daud Yandarbiyev, and smuggling weapons into Qatar. According to Moscow, Yablochkov and Pugachyov were secret intelligence agents sent to the Russian Embassy in Doha to collect information about global terrorism. Russia’s acting Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov
Sergei Ivanov
Sergei Borisovich Ivanov is a Russian senior official and statesman. He was Minister of Defence from March 2001 to February 2007, Deputy Prime Minister from November 2005 to February 2007, and the First Deputy Prime Minister from February 2007 to May 2008...

 pledged state support to the suspects and declared that their imprisonment was illegal. There were some speculations that Fetisov had been released in exchange for Qatari wrestlers detained in Moscow.

The trial proceedings were closed to the public after the defendants claimed that the Qatari police had torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

d them in the first days after their arrest, when they had been held incommunicado; the two Russians alleged that they had suffered beatings, sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function. Few studies have compared the...

 and attacks by guard dog
Guard dog
A guard dog, an attack dog or watch dog is a dog used to guard against, and watch for, unwanted or unexpected people or animals. The dog is discriminating so that it does not annoy or attack familiar people.-Barking:...

s. Based on these torture allegations and the fact that the two officers were arrested within an extraterritorial
Extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. Extraterritoriality can also be applied to physical places, such as military bases of foreign countries, or offices of the United Nations...

 compound belonging to the Russian Embassy, Russia demanded the immediate release of its citizens; they were represented by the attorney
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 of the law firm founded by Nikolai Yegorov
Nikolai Yegorov
Nikolay Dmitriyevich Yegorov was a Russian politician. He was the Governor of Krasnodar Kray in 1992 - 1994 and in 1996 - 1997, Minister for the Ethnic Affairs of the Russian Federation in 1994-1995 and the representative of the President of Russian Federation in Chechnya,the chief of the Russian...

, a friend and fellow student of Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin served as the second President of the Russian Federation and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when...

 at Leningrad State University
Saint Petersburg State University
Saint Petersburg State University is a Russian federal state-owned higher education institution based in Saint Petersburg and one of the oldest and largest universities in Russia....

. The Qatari prosecutors concluded that the suspects had received the order to eliminate Zelimkhan Yandarbiev from Sergei Ivanov personally.

On June 30, 2004, both Russians were sentenced to life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

; passing the sentence, the judge stated that they had acted on orders from the Russian leadership.

The verdict of the Doha court caused severe tensions between Qatar and Russia
Qatar–Russia relations
Qatar–Russia relations refers to bilateral foreign relations between the two countries, Qatar and Russia.-Soviet-era relations:Following Saudi Arabia's lead, Qatar refused for many years to have diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. This changed in the summer of 1988, when diplomatic...

, and on December 23, 2004, Qatar agreed to extradite the prisoners to Russia, where they would serve out their life sentences. The agents however received a heroes' welcome on returning to Moscow in January 2005 but disappeared from public view shortly afterwards. The Russian prison authorities admitted in February 2005 that they were not in jail, but said that a sentence handed down in Qatar was "irrelevant" in Russia.

External links

  • Obituary: Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev, BBC News
    BBC News
    BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

    , February 13, 2004
  • OBITUARY: Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, The Independent
    The Independent
    The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

    , February 14, 2004