Akhmed Umarov, whose younger brother Doku Umarov is president of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, reportedly surrendered to Chechen authorities Aug. 18. Initial reports stated it was Doku himself who surrendered, but that was not the case. Regardless, the Russian-supported Chechen authorities and their Russian counterparts will take advantage of Akhmed's surrender to promote their amnesty campaign.
Chechen government spokesman Lyoma Gudayev announced Aug. 18 that Doku Umarov, president of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, took advantage of the Russian offer of amnesty and surrendered. The report was quickly changed to say it was Umarov's younger brother who had given himself up. Confusion ensued as Chechen media outlet Kavkaz-Center denied that Umarov had a younger brother. The man who surrendered is now reported to be Umarov's older brother Akhmed Umarov. He has since spoken to the Russian press at Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov's residence in Gudermes, saying he has not seen Doku since 2004 and has lived in Grozny "the entire time." What Akhmed has not said is whether or not he has ever actively participated in the insurgency. And the Russian authorities prefer it that way; the perception that a prominent insurgent has taken advantage of their amnesty offer will be used to show that the Russian campaign against the Chechen rebels is working. Following the death of another Chechen rebel leader, Shamil Basayev, Russian Federal Security Services head Nikolai Patrushev announced July 15 that Chechen rebels who have not committed "serious crimes," such as attacking Russian forces, are eligible for amnesty if they lay down their arms. This is the seventh time Russia has offered amnesty to the rebels, and the campaign has had limited success so far, with 119 rebels turning themselves in as of Aug. 18. It is debatable whether all of them turned themselves in voluntarily, or whether they all were indeed separatist rebels. However, having a man with the last name Umarov in custody could be used as a show of the amnesty's success. Akhmed's surrender will do nothing to impede the rebellion. Though the Russians are holding Doku's wife and child, his insurgency has not waned. Attacks continue in the North Caucasus, and more are likely. The Russians are holding a man whose significance is questionable, but they will parade him in front of the cameras as the best example of their success so far.