Thursday, October 03, 2002

Gelaev: The Bio
When the Kremlin and the military need a boost in their Chechnya campaign, there is one Chechen warlord who seems to magically ride to the rescue time after time -- Ruslan Gelayev.
Do tell? That's mighty nice of him...
Gelayev inexplicably pulled his fighters out of Grozny when the military told rebels to withdraw from the Chechen capital in January 2000, paving the way for the city's recapture by federal forces. Until Gelayev left, the rebels could have indefinitely held off federal troops, according to military experts.
"Ruslan! Get outta town now, or we'll kill you all!"

In a baffling decision that handed the military a stunning battle victory later that year, Gelayev stayed put in his hometown of Komsomolskoye on the Chechen plains despite an order by Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov to move his men into the mountains. Federal forces surrounded the village and killed several hundred rebels before Gelayev managed to escape with a handful of his men.
"Well, there was this Rula Lenska film festival they wuz runnin'..."
Last month Gelayev ordered 150 of his fighters to move into Ingushetia -- precisely when Moscow needed fresh evidence of Chechen rebels crossing into Russia from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge to justify threatened strikes. Seventeen Russian soldiers died in an ensuing battle near the village of Galashki late last week.
And almost half Ruslan's force...
Chechens who know Gelayev, 38, call him a sharp, independent-minded man with simple ways. They expressed doubt that he works hand in hand with Russian forces, but said perhaps he is unwittingly being manipulated by the secret services. "Gelayev is a clever man, but he is a peasant and his mentality is that of peasant," said Shamil Beno, who served as foreign minister under first Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev. Gelayev is narrow-minded and would not consent to assisting Moscow, he said.
"He ain't a traitor. He's jest stoopid..."
Sharip Asuyev, a Chechen journalist who has interviewed Gelayev several times, agreed. "I don't think he plays games with the Russian secret services," he said. "But it is quite possible that they use him without his knowledge."
"Hey, Ruslan! Over there! Is that Elvis?"
"Huh huh. Where?"
"(Har har. Got 'im again!)"

A fighter in Gelayev's group told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Gelayev was wounded in the Galashki fighting.
"Don't kill him, Volodya! They might get somebody who ain't a screw-up!"

Gelayev is thought to be currently hiding in Chechnya. "Gelayev is the most independent of all warlords, and he acts separately from rebel leaders Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev," said Alexei Malashenko, a Chechnya expert at the Moscow Carnegie Center.
"Duh. Ain't nobody tells me what to do. Huh huh."
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told Georgian television last year that Gelayev was "noble" and "an educated man with common sense." He echoed the statement last month, saying he had seen no proof that Gelayev was a terrorist and that he considers him an "educated person." Subsequent attacks by Gelayev's men against Russian troops on Chechnya's border with Georgia only increased the Kremlin's resolve.
And didn't help Shevardnadze's case one little bit...