Viktor Bout: GRU, not KGB?

Just a quick little thought. As it becomes increasingly possible that international arms-mover, hot-landing-supremo and man of mystery Viktor Bout will be extradited to the US, there is a fair amount of excited coverage about what secrets he could tell, if he were minded to do so. A common assumption is that he was a KGB officer and is thus now on at least nodding terms with its foreign intelligence successor, the SVR. I’m not convinced. If he has a secret service connection — and my wholly instinctive assumption is that he does — I would suggest that it is with the GRU, military intelligence, the Main Military Directorate of the General Staff. This is just a personal hunch, but is based on his trajectory, contacts, business and field of operation.

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One more rebel leader down: Seyfullah’s death further weakens Umarov

One of Chechen ‘emir’ Doku Umarov’s closest allies has been the movement’s qadi (supreme judge) and ‘emir of Dagestan’ Seifullah of Gubden (Magomed Vagabov) – not to be confused with the Kabardino-Balkarian Emir Seifullah (Anzor Astemirov), who was killed in March. In the current leadership crisis, Seifullah strongly backed Umarov. However, according to both the Russians and the rebel mouthpiece website Kavkazcenter, Seifullah was killed by government forces on 20 August. No need to mourn for the mastermind of the March Moscow metro bombings, but Umarov may well have particular cause to regret his departure. Seifullah was a very useful ally and supporter: he was from the younger generation of field commanders who generally gravitate towards Umarov’s rival, Vadalov; he had a track record of murderous results that the notably-unsuccessful Umarov needs; he has both spiritual/judicial as well as military authority; and he could deliver a degree of support in Dagestan, bolstering the claims of the ‘emirate’ to be a pan-Islamic North Caucasus entity. For Umarov, engaged in a political struggle to wrest momentum from his younger rival (and hoping to do so in part through engineering some terrorist ‘spectacular’, precisely Seifullah’s forte), this is the worst news – at the worst possible time.

Incidentally, there is a good profile of the latest fallen Seifullah by Mairbek Vatchagaev on the Jamestown Foundation website, here.

Umarov’s volte-face opens split in the Chechen rebel ‘Caucasus Emirate’

Given the whole resignation-to-rebutal farce around Doku Umarov’s position, it is dangerous to leap to conclusions, especially on the basis of news of uncertain validity, but if the latest from rebel mouthpiece Kavkaz Center is to be believed, deputy-turned-successor-turned-deputy Aslambek Vadalov has resigned his position as deputy emir.

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What’s in a name: Russian militia to be called police again

The draft of the new Law ‘On the Police’ has been released for public comment, and bears some more detailed consideration, to follow. [Edit: though do take a look at this excellent and detailed study in A Good Treaty.] In the mean time, though, one element which Dmitry Medvedev has proposed is that the militsiya regain their old, pre-revolutionary name, the politsiya, police. On the one hand, this might sound a little like rechristening the Titanic in the hope that this will make it float again, but it is in fact not quite as tokenistic a move as it may at first glance appear.

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Umarov steps back from stepping down

So, on 24 July Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov names Aslanbek Vadalov as his deputy and successor. On 1 August, he then announces that he is stepping down, a fact duly reported on rebel mouthpiece websites. And then a couple of days later they are posting his retraction, and his claim that the initial video message from him was “completely fabricated.” What on earth is going on?

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Who is Aslambek Vadalov?

Following the surprise news of the resignation of Doku Umarov as ‘Emir of the Caucasus Emirate’ and commander of the Chechen rebel forces, attention has inevitably focused on his successor, Aslambek Vadalov, and the trajectory he followed to his new position.

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