Sulim Bekmirzayevich Yamadayev (Russian: Сули́м Бекмирза́евич Ямада́ев; 21 June 1973 – 30 March 2009) was a Chechen rebel commander from the First Chechen War who had switched sides together with his brothers Dzhabrail, Badrudi, Isa and Ruslan in 1999 during the outbreak of the Second Chechen War. He was de facto commander of the Russian military Special Battalion Vostok unit belonging to the GRU. As such, until 2008, he was officially in command of the biggest pro-Moscow militia outside the control of the current Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov. From 1 to 22 August 2008 Yamadayev was wanted in Russia on a federal warrant. Nevertheless, he served as one of the Russian military commanders in Russia's war with Georgia during the same period.
Suleiman (Sulim) Bekmirzayevich Yamadayev
|Born||21 June 1973|
Benoy village, Nozhay-Yurtovsky District, Chechen-Ingush ASSR, USSR
|Died||30 March 2009 (aged 35)|
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
|Allegiance||Chechen Republic of Ichkeria|
|Service/||GRU (direct subordination)|
|Years of service||1999–2008|
|Commands held||Special Battalion Vostok|
|Battles/wars||First Chechen War (separatist side)|
Second Chechen War
2008 South Ossetia War
|Awards||Hero of the Russian Federation|
On 5 March 2003, Sulim's brother Dzhabrail Yamadayev was assassinated by a bomb. On 24 September 2008 Sulim's brother Ruslan Yamadayev was shot dead on Smolenskaya Embankment in Moscow. Initial press responses reported name of the victim as Sulim Yamadayev; the name was corrected later. Sulim Yamadayev was shot in Dubai on 28 March 2009, and died in hospital on 30 March 2009.
Yamadayev studied business in Moscow before returning to Chechnya. He once said that his dream was to become a fighter and that during a time he decided to go to Afghanistan to train. Yamadayev's political interests were tightly tied with those of his teip (clan) Benoi, which has long-standing claims to the town of Gudermes. Under the Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, he served as a field commander and commanded a special forces detachment which routed a radical Wahhabi militia at Gudermes in 1998.
During the Second Chechen War, the Yamadayevs and Akhmad Kadyrov arranged for their stronghold of Gudermes to be taken over by federal forces without a fight. Later, Sulim became leader of the GRU Spetsnaz unit called the Special Battalion Vostok ("East") of nearly 600 men, succeeding his brother Dzhabrail Yamadayev following his assassination in 2003. While working closely with the General of the Army Alexey Maslov, Sulim Yamadayev received the medal and title of Hero of the Russian Federation after his Vostok battalion killed the commander of the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya, Abu al-Walid, in April 2004. Together with his paramilitary soldiers known within Chechnya as Yamadayevtsy, which are alleged to be unruly and prone to mix warfare with crime, Yamadayev often conflicted with Ramzan Kadyrov (the son of Akhmad) and Said-Magomed Kakiyev over who controls overall military authority in Chechnya. Isa and Badrudi, the younger brothers of Sulim, became the company commanding officers in the battalion.
On 14 April 2008, the forces loyal to Yamadayev and Ramzan Kadyrov engaged in one of the biggest battles between rival Chechen factions. The clash occurred when convoys from each group ran into each other in Gudermes and reportedly resulted in around 18 dead. A bitter conflict between the men loyal to Yamadayev and forces of Kadyrov followed. In this conflict, Kadyrov prevailed and eventually Yamadayev was sacked from his post and declared a wanted "criminal" in Chechnya. On 6 August, the previous 'Hero of Russia' Yamadayev and some of his commandos were put on a federal wanted list. According to his brother and Duma deputy Ruslan Yamadayev, Sulim still allegedly lived in Moscow and did not hide at the time of the warrant being issued. The other Yamadayev brother, Badrudi was placed on the federal wanted list earlier in 2008. According to Moscow-based defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, "It's important because this had been a rare challenge to Kadyrov in Chechnya. Now, it's clear that Yamadayev has been quashed and Kadyrov controls Chechnya."
A few days after he was declared wanted in Russia, Gazeta reported that Yamadayev was participating in military actions in the outskirts of Tskhinvali in the Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia. Novaya Gazeta military correspondent Arkady Babchenko accompanied Yamadayev and his remaining loyal men in Georgia. Following the war, on 22 August, RIA Novosti reported Yamadayev was officially dismissed from his post as commander of the Vostok battalion in Chechnya. On the same day, the search for Yamadayev was stopped, officially because the Chechen MVD had established his whereabouts (according to investigatory bodies, Yamadayev was in Moscow).
On 24 September 2008, Ruslan Yamadayev and a retired Russian army General Sergey Kizyun (protector of the Yamadayev clan) were shot in Sulim's car in the central Moscow while driving from the Kremlin; Ruslan Yamadayev was fatally wounded. Initial press responses reported the name of the victim as "Sulim Yamadayev"; this was corrected later. Sulim Yamadayev blamed Kadyrov and vowed to avenge the death of his brother.
On 29 March 2009, Sulim Yamadayev was reported to be the victim of an assassination in Dubai, where he lived for several months as Suleiman Yamadayev and/or Suleyman Madov; his two bodyguards said he was shot in the back of the neck in an underground garage. The police attempted to detain a Russian citizen in connection with the attack, but the suspect was able to flee. However, despite the early reports of death, according to his younger brother, Isa, Yamadayev survived at least three gunshot wounds and was hospitalized in critical condition. According to RIAN, Yamadayev was placed in a military hospital after surviving an assassination attempt: he reportedly returned fire on his attackers, which "saved his life." Dubai police dismissed this, reporting that Yamadayev died instantly from wounds sustained during the shooting. The Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed, on 1 April that Yamadayev had been buried in the Gulf state.
On 5 April 2009, the Dubai police accused Adam Delimkhanov of ordering the assassination. Delimkhanov is a member of the Russian State Duma for the United Russia party and Kadyrov's cousin and a close associate. He denied the accusation, saying it was "a provocation and an attempt to destabilize conditions in the Chechen Republic." Later, the Interpol has issued arrest warrants for seven Russian citizens in connection with the killing. Besides Delimkhanov, Zelimkhan Mazayev, Elimpasha Khatsuyev, Salman Kimayev, Tirpal Kimayev, Ramazan Musiev and Marvan Kimayev were named as being wanted for "crimes against life and health".
Allegations of crimesEdit
- In August 2008, Sulim Yamadayev became officially wanted for the 1998 kidnapping and murder of the local businessman Usman Batsaev, a resident of the village of Dzhalka in Gudermessky District. According to the prosecution, Yamadayev reportedly had demanded $100,000 ransom for the release of Batsaev and he later told the victims's relatives where the grave was located in April 2000. The involvement of Yamadayev in kidnappings for ransom was also alleged in 2006 in Anna Politkovskaya's last article published in her lifetime (Politkovskaya wrote that according to data of the prosecutor’s office, Yamadayev's "band" had engaged in kidnapping before the legalization as a GRU unit).
- In June 2005, his battalion carried out the Borozdinovskaya operation, a cleansing raid that resulted in the murder of an elderly man and the disappearance of 11 civilians who were never seen again. Later, one of the Vostok commanders was given a three-year suspended sentence. Yamadayev, commander of the Vostok battalion at that time, has admitted his servicemen's guilt, but claimed that the operation had been conducted without his knowledge.
- Yamadayev's men were accused of severing the heads of their dead victims, and sexually abusing, torturing and executing prisoners. In 2007, a Russian photographer by the name of Dima Beliakov followed Sulim Yamadayev and his Vostok battalion on a mission in Chechnya's Vedensky District; his pictures revealed harsh behavior of Vostok servicemen during raids. In May 2008, a Vostok unit serviceman revealed the location of a secret burial ground at the decommissioned biochemical fertilizer plant near Gudermes, from which seven completely decomposed corpses were recovered. The next day, the man revealed the burial site of Vostok's platoon leader Vakharsolt Zakayev, shot in 2003 on suspicion of having murdered Dzhabrail Yamadayev.
- There were also reports that Yamadayev was involved in extortion of money from the meat processing factory Samson in Saint Petersburg, raided by a Chechen militia (allegedly Vostok troops) in 2006.
- Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov accused Sulim Yamadayev of complicity in the assassination of his father Akhmad Kadyrov and attempts to kill Ramazan by poisoning a lake near Ramazan's residence.
According to the Russian human rights organization Memorial in August 2008, "Now we know from evidences of eyewitnesses that during the war in Georgia the fighters of the Vostok battalion were humanely treating the prisoners of war. As far as I understand, the Chechen battalion didn't take part in pogroms [of Georgians in Gori District, and everything incriminated to Yamadayev refers to the past."
- Eighteen said killed in Chechnya gun battle, International Herald Tribune, 15 April 2008
- Accused GRU battalion commander revealed in battlefields in Georgia, Axisglobe.com, 14 August 2008
- (in Russian) Kommersant, 24 September 2008 
- "Ex-Chechen commander Yamadayev dies in Dubai – relatives". Moscow. RIA Novosti. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
- Valery Tishkov, Mikhail S. Gorbachev (2004), Chechnya: Life in a War-torn Society, p. 178. University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-23887-7.
- Chechen Hero Now a Murderer Archived 29 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Kommersant, 7 August 2008
- "Going in hard with the guerrilla hunters of Chechnya". The Sunday Times. 15 May 2005. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
- Chechen ex-field commander put on Russia's wanted list, RIA Novosti, 6 August 2008
- Warrant Out for Yamadayev, The Moscow Times, 8 August 2008
- Russian manhunt for rival bolsters Chechen leader, Reuters, 7 August 2008
- (in Russian) Грузия-200: «Головы не поднять. Под таким огнем я еще не был» Archived 12 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Novaya Gazeta, 13 August 2008
- Chechen Vostok battalion commander officially dismissed, RIA Novosti, 22 August 2008
- Chechnya: search of Sulim Yamadaev, former battalion "Vostok" commander, cancelled, Memorial, 22 August 2008
- (in Russian) Ъ – В Москве убит Руслан Ямадаев, Kommersant, 24 September 2008
- In Moscow, ex-deputy of State Duma Ruslan Yamadaev was murdered, not his brother Sulim, Memorial, 24 September 2008
- Russia: Chechen Vows to Avenge Killing, The New York Times, 25 September 2008
- Sulim Goes to Chechnya to Bury Brother Despite Potential Trap Archived 30 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Kommersant, 26 September 2008
- Man killed in Dubai is Chechen chief Yamadayev-consul, Reuters, 30 March 2009
- Dubai Police tightlipped about apparent assassination at Jumeirah Beach Residence Archived 1 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Gulf News, 29 March 2009
- Report: Kadyrov Foe Sulim Yamadayev Slain in Dubai, The Moscow Times, 30 March 2009
- Dubai shooting victim identified Archived 1 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine, The National, 30 March 2009
- Foe of pro-Moscow Chechnya leader shot in Dubai-reports, Reuters, 30 March 2009
- Dubai: Former Chechen Commander Survives Assassination Attempt, Stratfor, 30 March 2009
- Chechen leader says murdered foe buried in Dubai. Reuters. 1 April 2009
- Dubai Police Link Murder of Chechen to Russian. The New York Times. 5 April 2009
- Interpol warrants in Chechen case. The BBC News. 28 April 2009
- Punitive agreement, the last published article by Anna Politkovskaya
- Russia: Officials Say Pro-Moscow Chechens Involved In Deadly Raid On Avar Village, RFE/RL, 29 July 2005
- Vostok Takes Heat for Raid on Village, The Moscow Times, 29 July 2005
- Sentence for Borozdinovskaia passed in Chechnya, Memorial, 27 October 2005
- Photographer Dima Beliakov
- A parade of corpses before the decisive battle, Prague Watchdog, 12 May 2008
- Analysis: Russian Defense Ministry Postpones Ruling in Controversial Chechen Battalion, RFE/RL, 25 April 2008
- Chuguy, Lena (6 April 2009). Кадыров обвинил Ямадаева в смерти отца. Argumenty i Fakty (in Russian). Retrieved 7 April 2009.