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5 Mar, 2009 09:17

Come home: Chechen president appeals to militants

Life for Chechens has changed following the bitter conflicts of the past. The Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, is encouraging militants to change their lives and return to normal life.

Kadyrov recently told a news conference that he would welcome former Chechen militant leader Akhmad Zakaev, who has been living in the UK since 2002, back to the republic.

“I talked to Zakayev personally and he is ready to come home,” said Kadyrov. “He told me that he wants to come to Chechnya and make something useful for the republic.”

Nevertheless, the president noted that Zakayev is the only one of the so-called militant leaders he was ready to talk to. Kadyrov is maintaining a tough stance towards the present leaders of fighters.

He recently told Doku Umarov, one of the militant leaders, to either surrender or commit suicide.

“In the mountains young people and teenagers die because of Umarov and the like,” the president said. “I see a solution for him – either to shoot himself or stand in front of the court if he considers himself to be not guilty.”

Kadyrov said that in mountains there are groups of hungry young people, who call themselves fighters. Some of them have killed people and it makes them hide as relatives of murders will never forgive them and they’ll become subject to vendettas.

“Umarov and the like are trying to involve young people with illegal armed groups by deceit,”
the president said. “These young people will die or get arrested shortly.”

Kadyrov’s main aim, however, is for young men to return from the mountains and forests, where he says, their lives and futures are in danger.

“We are trying to tell the militants who are out there in the forests and the mountains that this war has no sense. They either face death or prison,” said Kadyrov. “But what we're trying to tell them is, let's have a normal life instead of this kind of existence.”

Magomed Daudov, 29, is one of the former militants, who took part in a TV programme in Chechnya aimed at encouraging militants to come back home.

Daudov used to lead a group of fighters, but his life took a dramatic turn when he was arrested.

He said that the Chechen president visited him in jail and offered two options: either to leave the republic or join his team. Daudov opted for the latter and now heads the regional police department.

Meanwhile, he has a lot to say about his militant past.

“When you are with them, you are the best, you are a top fighter,” he said. “But when you realise what is happening and try to tell them it is wrong, you are the worst. They get a council together and sentence you to death.”

Forgiveness for those who repent ?

Recently, a group of young Chechens decided to join militants in the forest in search of what they thought was free and independent life. But having spent a week living rough, and not finding the real militants, the young men changed their mind and headed back home.

“We faced the cold and the hunger, and saw how hard it was,” said one of them. “After two or three nights without anywhere to sleep, we thought: where's the truth? I called my father and said sorry for acting this way.”

Although they could have faced charges for having illegal arms, the authorities turned a blind eye.
“In fact, they will get away unpunished,” said the head of the district administration, Sultan Akhmetkhanov.