Propaganda Boost

Akhmed_Zakayev_0003.fine.jpgYesterday we reported about how the financial crisis might effect Russia’s hold on the north Caucasus, including Chechnya. Less money, it seems, could mean less loyalty from a propped-up, pro-Kremlin government all too capable of collapse.

But another barometer of Chechnya’s near future is in its former freedom fighters, some of whom are returning home from exile abroad. Will they again pick up arms, or reintegrate into a Kremlin proxy state? Most notable is Bukhari Barayev, the father of the man responsible for the 2002 seizure of 900 hostages from a Moscow theatre, who has returned to Chechnya after many years living in Vienna, where he was a European envoy for the Chechen rebels.

Vienna, of course, was the site of the recent murder of Umar Israilov, the former body guard to Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin President, Ramzan Kadyrov. But although Barayev allegedy accused Kadyrov of murder for Israilov’s death, apparently he wants to put his fighting days behind him, which one report says could be “a substantial propaganda boost” for Kadyrov.

“I don’t want to be on the side of those people whose names will be eternally cursed by my people,” Barayev said, according to a statement from Kadyrov’s office. He asked the rebels to “unite with your people and begin a peaceful life.”

And another former Chechen separatist leader, Akhmed Zakayev, has echoed Barayev’s sentiments. Zakayev, a commander in the First Chechen War and during the subsequent raids on Grozny, has been living in exile in Britain since 2002. But in a recent radio interview he indicated that he wanted to come home, and that he was ready for talks with Kadyrov.

“I will definitely return to my motherland. I cannot abide the idea ofliving in a foreign land either for myself or for my children andgrandchildren,” he said.

Kadyrov yesterday:

“I approve of Zakayev’s determination to return to Chechnya. I am surethat he has made the right decision and will be able to find a place inChechen society.”