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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW6515 2006-06-20 09:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #6515/01 1710931
O 200931Z JUN 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 006515 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/20/2016 
Classified By: A/POL Bruce Donahue.  Reason 1.4 (b, d) 
1. (C) Summary:  Accounts of the June 17 killing of Chechen 
rebel "President" Sadullayev vary, but it was probably a 
chance firefight.  Reaction has been low-key.  Sadullayev's 
relevance was more political than military, and his death 
will probably have little effect on the rebels' military or 
terrorist operations.  End Summary. 
2. (C) Chechen police killed rebel "President" Abdulhalim 
Sadullayev June 17 in a suburb of Argun, in Chechnya. 
Accounts of the operation vary widely.  Chechen Prime 
Minister Ramzan Kadyrov claimed in the press that one of 
Sadullayev's companions sold him out for 1500 rubles to buy 
narcotics.  Kadyrov claimed that Sadullayev had been outside 
Chechnya until the previous week and had returned to plan a 
terrorist operation.  "Kommersant" gave a more believable 
account:  a construction worker had tipped police off that 
there were suspicious-looking bearded men hiding in the house 
next to his site.  The police, suspecting a cell of fighters 
-- but without a clue as to their identity -- sent a large 
force which quickly got into a firefight with the men in the 
house.  Two of the militants succeeded in escaping.  When the 
firing ended, a body found in the basement was soon 
identified as Sadullayev's. 
3. (C) Local press commentary has been low-key, with 
commentators pointing out that Shamil Basayev wields the real 
power among the fighters.  Indeed, the fact that Sadullayev 
was hiding in Argun is indicative of his irrelevance to the 
armed conflict.  Argun is where Sadullayev might feel safest 
-- it is his home town as well as the seat of his "teyp," or 
clan.  However, it is in the lowlands and firmly in the 
control of Chechen government security forces.  Sadullayev's 
communication with fighters would have been tenuous. 
4. (C) Russian nationalist pundit Sergey Markedonov pointed 
out two significant differences between Sadullayev's killing 
and that of his predecessor, Aslan Maskhadov, in 2005.  When 
Maskhadov was killed, he told us, the Western press played it 
up.  This time, the West was silent:  "they are no longer 
interested."  When Maskhadov was killed the Kremlin also 
played it up, and took credit for a great victory.  This 
time, the only person taking the credit was Ramzan Kadyrov. 
In Markedonov's view, the killing represents only further 
evidence of the split in the ranks of the separatists: 
between those who remain loyal to the rebellion and those who 
have pursued separatism by making a deal with the Kremlin -- 
i.e., Kadyrov. 
5. (C) An official of the Presidential Administration told us 
that Sadullayev was respected among the fighters because he 
never engaged in the factional fighting that characterized 
rebel politics.  However, he was little known in the rest of 
Chechen society.  The official said that whoever replaced 
Sadullayev would be from Maskhadov's faction, but that would 
be irrelevant:  "Basayev considers himself the lord of 
Chechnya, and will kill Sadullayev's successor the moment he 
gets in Basayev's way."  More in sorrow than in anger, the 
official noted that the desperation of the population and the 
"stupidity" of the security services were combining to 
strengthen armed Islamic jihadism throughout the North 
Caucasus.  The Chechen people, he thought, were on the verge 
of destruction.  Owing to Kremlin policies, they were caught 
between Ramzan Kadyrov with his "repellent" cult of 
personality and Basayev's murderous radicalism. 
6. (C) The effects of Sadullayev's death will be more 
political than military.  Sadullayev's function seems to have 
been no more than hortatory -- appearing on the Kavkaz-Tsentr 
website and communicating with Chechens promoting the rebel 
cause in the West, such as "Foreign Minister" Akhmad Zakayev. 
 Sadullayev's actual presidential powers appear to have been 
minimal and his command of rebel forces theoretical at best. 
 Sadullayev's "legal" successor is the field commander Doku 
Umarov, last seen in a camera-phone video touring the 
Caucasian hills with Shamil Basayev.  Basayev will continue 
to exercise real power through his leadership of the Defense 
Council.   Umarov will probably continue his operations as 
field commander as before.  The minimal political role that 
Sadullayev played will either lapse or gravitate to Chechens 
abroad such as Zakayev and Movladi Udugov. 
7. (C)  Sadullayev's death may have one other effect.  The 
rebels have pulled off no spectacular military or terrorist 
acts in over a year.  This failure has had a negative effect 
on their fundraising abilities, especially as they are 
competing for funds with Jihadist insurgents in Iraq and 
Afghanistan.  On a recent visit to Chechnya, we were told 
MOSCOW 00006515  002 OF 002 
that the security services there expect a major terrorist 
operation; the insurgents' goal would be to prove they are 
still a potent force "and earn
their money," as the 
Presidential Administration official put it.  Our 
interlocutors agreed that a spectacular terrorist operation 
outside Chechnya would be easier for the rebels to pull off 
than a military attack inside Chechnya. 


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