Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

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Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev
Order: 2nd President (acting)
Took Office: April 21, 1996
Left Office: February 12, 1997
Predecessor: Dzhokhar Dudaev
Successor: Aslan Maskhadov
Date of Birth: September 12, 1952
Place of Birth: Vydrika, Soviet Union
Date of Death: February 13, 2004
Place of Death: Doha, Qatar
Political party: Vainakh Democratic Party

Zelimkhan Abdumuslimovich Yanderbiyev or Yandarbiyev (Russian: Зелимхан Абдумуслимович Яндарбиев) (September 12, 1952February 13, 2004) was an acting president of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (1996-1997).

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[edit] Political career

Originally a literary scholar, poet and children's author Yanderbiyev became a leader in the Chechen nationalist movement as the Soviet Union began to collapse. In May 1990, he founded and led the Vainakh Democratic Party (VDV), the first Chechen party, which was committed to an independent Chechnya. The VDV initially represented both Chechens and Ingush until their split after Chechnya's declaration of independence from the RSFSR.

In November 1990 he became a deputy chairman to the newly formed All-National Congress of the Chechen People, 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 committee. Since 1991 he served as Vice-President of the self-proclaimed republic.

[edit] War and radicalisation

During the 1994-1996 First Chechen War, Yandarbiyev had little connection with military operations, spending his time writing books on the independence effort. In April 1996, following the assassination of his predecessor Dzhokhar Dudayev, he became an acting President. In late May 1996, Yanderbiyev headed a Chechen delegation that met Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for peace talks that resulted in the signature of a ceasefire agreement on May 27.

Yandarbiyev stood in presidential elections held in Chechnya in February 1997 but was defeated by Aslan Maskhadov, a senior military leader, getting only 10 per cent of the votes. The two men fell out badly the following year, when Yanderbiyev was accused of being behind an assassination attempt against Maskhadov. In September 1998, Maskhadov publicly denounced Yanderbiyev, accusing him of importing the radical Islamic philosophy of Wahhabism and of being responsible for "anti-state activities" including anti-government speeches and public meetings, as well as the organisation of illegal armed groups. Yanderbiyev subsequently joined forces with the hard-line Islamist opposition to Maskhadov's rule.

[edit] Exile activity

Yanderbiyev was seen as a key figure behind the 1999 attack by Shamil Basayev's Islamist Chechen guerrillas on the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan. That led to the start of Second Chechen War in late 1999, following which Yanderbiyev travelled abroad to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates and eventually settled in Qatar in 2001, where he sought to obtain Muslim support for the Chechen cause. This became a cause of considerable friction between Russia and Qatar, which refused to extradite Yanderbiyev despite an Interpol arrest warrant issued in 2001.

Yanderbiyev was mentioned on a United Nations list of groups and people with suspected links to the al-Qaeda organisation and is said to have had contacts with the Taliban movement in Afghanistan (there was a separatist Chechen Embassy in Kabul until the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001). He was believed to have been a key figure in the international network of Chechen separatist fundraisers in the Islamic world. He was also accused of involvement in the October 2002 Moscow Theatre Siege, in which around 120 hostages and guerrillas were killed.

[edit] Assassination

On February 13, 2004, Yanderbiyev was assassinated when a bomb ripped through his SUV in the Qatari capital, Doha. Two of his bodyguards were killed as well and his 12-year-old son was seriously injured. It was unclear who was responsible for the blast, but suspicion fell on Russia's intelligence services, who denied any involvement, and internal feuding among the Chechen rebel leadership. Maskhadov's separatist Foreign Ministry condemned the assassination as a "Russian terrorist attack", comparing it to the attack that killed Dudayev.

The car bomb led to Qatar's first anti-terrorism law, declaring lethal "terrorist acts" punishable by death or life imprisonment. On February 19 the Qatari authorities arrested three Russians in the Russian embassy villa for the murders. One was released due to his diplomatic status and the remaining two SVR agents: Anatoly Yablochkov (Анатолий Яблочков) and Vasili Bogacheov (Василий Богачёв), were charged. According to Moscow, they were secret intelligence agents sent to the Russian Embassy in Doha to collect information about global terrorism.

The trial proceedings were closed to the public after the defendants claimed that one of the prosecution witnesses, the Qatari Colonel Dawi or Dawdi, had tortured 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 and attacks by guard dogs. Russia used these torture allegations and the fact that the two officers were arrested within an extraterritorial compound belonging to the Embassy (i.e. effectively on Russian soil) to demand the immediate release of her citizens. On June 30, 2004 both Russians were sentenced to life imprisonment; passing the sentence, the judge stated that they had acted on orders from the Russian leadership. [1]

The verdict caused severe tensions between Qatar and Russia, and on December 23, 2004, Qatar agreed to extradite the prisoners to Russia, where they would serve out their life sentence. The agents 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. [2]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Dzhokhar Dudaev
President of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
19961997
Succeeded by:
Aslan Maskhadov
de:Selimchan Abdumuslimowitsch Jandarbijew

et:Zelimhan Jandarbijev ja:ゼリムハン・ヤンダルビエフ ko:젤림한 얀다르비예프 ka:იანდარბიევი, ზელიმხან pl:Zelimchan Jandarbijew ru:Яндарбиев, Зелимхан Абдумуслимович

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev

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