Aslan Aliyevich Maskhadov
On September 21, 1951, Aslan Aliyevich Maskhadov was born in the Karagandy Province of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) of the Soviet Union, in the small village of Shakai. He was born during the mass deportation of the Chechen people which was ordered in 1944 by Joseph Stalin. His family was of the Alleroi teip. In 1957, his family returned to Chechnya where they settled in Zebir-Yurt which is in the Nadterechny District.
Maskhadov joined the Soviet Army, trained in the neighboring Georgian SSR and graduated from the Tbilisi Artillery School in 1972. He then graduated with honors from the Leningrad Kalinin Higher Artillery in 1981. He was posted in Hungary with a self-propelled artillery regiment until 1986 and then after 1986 he was in the Baltic Military District. He served from 1990 as the chief of staff of the Soviet missile and artillery forces in Vilnius, the capital of the Lithuanian SSR. In January 1991, Maskhadov participated in the January Events, which was the seizure of a television tower by Soviet troops (which he regretted later), but didn’t participate in the assault itself. During his service in the Soviet Army, he was presented with two Orders for Service to Homeland. Maskhadov retired from the Soviet Army in 1992 with the rank of a colonel and returned to his native land.
From 1992 Maskhadov served in the Chechen armed forces and was appointed as the chief of staff in March 1994. From 1994 to 1996 he led the resistance against the Russian Army. As the First Deputy Chairman of the ChRI State Defense Council (ChRI President Dudaev was the chairman) and the chief of staff, Maskhadov organized the defense of the Chechen capital during the Battle of Grozny. Maskhadov commanded the city from the Presidential Palace in Grozny, where on one occasion a Russian bunker buster bomb landed 20 meters from him but failed to explode. In February 1995, Dudaev promoted Aslan to Divisional General.
From June 1995, Maskhadov took part in peace talks in Grozny to resolve the crisis in Chechnya. In June 1996, at the negotiations in Nazran, Ingushetia, Maskhadov on behalf of the ChRI administration, signed the Protocol of the Commission’s Meeting on Ceasefire and Measures to Resolve the Armed Conflict in the ChRI. In August 1996, after Grozny’s seizure by Chechen units, he repeatedly held talks with Alexander Lebed and on August 31, 1996, the signing of the Khasav-Yurt Accord took place, a ceasefire agreement, and peace treaty which marked the end of the First Russian-Chechen War.
On 17 October 1996, Maskhadov was appointed to the position of Prime Minister of Ichkeria, while he also remained Chief of Staff and Defense Minister. Maskhadov nominated himself for President of Ichkeria on December 3, 1996, for the January 1997 free democratic presidential and parliamentary elections held in Chechnya under the aegis of the OSCE, running primarily against Shamil Basayev and Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.
The elections were conducted on the basis of the Chechen constitution adopted in March 1992, according to which the Chechen Republic was an independent state. Representatives of more than 20 countries, as well as the United Nations and the OSCE, attended the elections as observers. Running with Vakha Arsanov, who became his Vice-President, Mashkadov won a majority of 60% of the votes and was congratulated by the President of Russia Boris Yeltsin, who pledged to work towards rebuilding relations with Chechnya. Maskhadov was inaugurated on February 12, 1997, and at the same time he assumed the office of Prime Minister and abolished the office of Defense Minister he had occupied since late 1996. Maskhadov remained commander-in-chief of the republican armed forces. On May 12, 1997, Maskhadov then attained the apex of his political career when he signed a peace treaty with Yeltsin at the Kremlin.
On October 1, 1999, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared the authority of President Maskhadov and his parliament illegitimate. Putin sent Russian forces into Chechnya, and his promise of a quick and decisive victory propelled him to the Russian Presidency.
On October 11, 1999, Maskhadov outlined a peace plan offering a crackdown on renegade war lords but the offer was rejected by the Russian side. In response, President Maskhadov declared a gazavat (holy war) to confront the approaching Russian army. Soon, martial law was declared in Ichkeria and reservists were called, and the building of his Presidential Palace was one of the targets of the disastrous Grozny ballistic missile attack on October 23, 1999.
Maskhadov was one of the main commanders in the Battle of Grozny (1999–2000) along with Shamil Basayev, Ruslan (Khamzat) Gelayev, Aslambek Ismailov and Khunkarpasha Israpilov. Aslan Maskhadov, along with his men, launched daring counter-attacks against the Russian troops while fighting in Grozny and also effectively used the sewer systems to attack Russian troops from behind. After a meeting with top commanders, Maskhadov and others agreed to withdraw from Chechnya and continue to attack Russian forces in the cities and towns surrounding Grozny.
Maskhadov offered his readiness for unconditional peace talks with Moscow several times in 2000 alone, continuing in the following years, but his appeals for a political solution were always ignored by the Russians.
Maskhadov advocated armed resistance to what he saw as a Russian occupation but condemned attacks on civilians. He allegedly supported the assassination of pro-Russian Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov in Chechnya, whilst condemning the Russian assassination of Chechen separatist ex-President Yandarbiyev in Qatar in 2004. Maskhadov often denied responsibility for the increasingly brutal terrorist acts against Russian civilians, continually issuing denunciations of such incidents through spokesmen abroad.
On January 15, 2005, Maskhadov issued a special order to stop all military operations except those in self-defense, both inside and outside Chechnya, until the end of February (the date marking the anniversary of the Stalin’s Vainakh deportations of 1944) as a gesture of good will, and again called for a negotiated end to the Chechen conflict. Umar Khambiev, his designated negotiator said the Ichkeria Government were no longer seeking independence, but only “guarantees for the existence of the Chechen nation.” This surprise unilateral ceasefire was supported by Basayev but flatly rejected by the Russian and pro-Russian leaders who once again refused to negotiate. His policy of pursuing peace with Russia was unsuccessful.
On March 8, 2005, less than a month after Maskhadov announced the cease-fire, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) head Nikolay Patrushev announced that special forces attached to the FSB had “today carried out an operation in the settlement of Tolstoy-Yurt, as a result of which the international jihadist and leader of armed groups Maskhadov was killed, and his closest comrades-in-arms detained“.
On April 24, 2006, the General Terrorist Office of Russia officially refused to turn the remains of Aslan Maskhadov over to his relatives for burial. The refusal was described as legal:
“Maskhadov A.A., in connection with terrorism, was criminally responsible for many separate serious crimes on the territory of the Russian Federation. Taking this into account, it was decided to suppress Maskhadov’s activities and Maskhadov was being pursued for our protection. The burial of such persons is carried out in accordance with the rules concerning the burial of those whose death was a result of the suppression of their terrorist actions, affirmed by the government of the Russian Federation on 20 March 2003, in Order No. 164. In this case, the body is not handed over for burial, and the location of the burial is not communicated.”
Maskhadov’s family has since been campaigning to have his remains released to them or to at least disclose what happened to the body.