Doku Umarov, the newly appointed Chechen resistance commander, has quickly stepped in and took over the leadership position after his predecessor Abdul Khalim Sadulayev was killed by Russian forces in mid-June . Umarov, who previously held the position of ‘vice-president’ in the rebel group, had been anticipated to assume the leadership. Umarov has vowed to continue the fight against the perceived Russian occupation of Chechnya. Intelligence sources indicate that Umarov controls a vast army of rebels, holds considerable respect and credibility amongst his comrades and is therefore likely to pose a significant challenge to the Russians.
Under Sadulayev the Chechen resistance group had vowed to spread their fight to Russia. Following his antecedent’s footsteps, Umarov has insisted that this mission will be completed: “We intend to complete preparations this summer for a significant widening of the area of military actions, to include not only the Caucasus but many regions of Russia.”
Meanwhile, five Russian diplomats were kidnapped in Iraq in early June and later beheaded by insurgents who claimed to be supporting the Chechens . The Iraqi insurgent group had demanded that Russia withdraw their troops from Chechnya and release all Muslim prisoners from Russian jails. The incident has sparked great anger in Russia and increased the resentment against the Chechen conflict, which many Russians feel amplifies the country’s vulnerability to terrorism not only in Chechnya but also around the world as Jihadists repeatedly claim sympathy with the regional conflict.
The incident in Iraq has prompted President Putin to order Russian security services to immediately ‘find and kill’ those responsible as well as submit a proposal to the parliament that allows for Russian troops to be deployed to other countries to avert terrorist actions against their nation and representatives.
Although the Kremlin has stated that no country is being targeted by the Russian military, it is clear that the act will upgrade current operations in the Chechen region. With Russia expanding their jurisdiction to advance their fight against all terrorism directed against the state and the rebel group concurrently swearing to increase the warfare in the Russian mainland, the conflict is likely to soon reach a culmination.
It should also be noted that Russia currently holds the presidency of the G8 and is preparing to host the G8 summit from July 15-17 in Saint Petersburg. As Chechen rebels prepare to launch a summer offensive, security within St. Petersburg is being increased to deter possible attacks. President Putin has informed G8 participants that global security and the prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will top the debate.
Russia has likened the conflict in Chechnya to the Long War on Terror, insisting that Chechen radicals seek the establishment of an Islamic religious state in Chechnya. The regional consequences of an Islamic state are as yet unknown although Russia insists that such an occurrence would destabilize the whole region. The Russian government continues to seek the assistance of the US in this war, insisting that a Chechen Islamic victory would be detrimental to both Russia and the US . However, western states and non-governmental international human rights organizations remain reluctant to join the Russian cause, accusing the Russian government of employing atrocious methods such as forced disappearances of journalists and torture . The coming months should indicate Russia’s renewed resolve to combat Islamic extremism.