Two days after Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, Russia's main enemy of the state Doku Umarov was declared dead by the official propaganda arm of the Caucasus Emirate, an armed separatist movement in Russia's south. The announcement followed over three months of speculation about Umarov's status and whereabouts.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov bragged as far back as December, 2013 that Umarov had been killed by Chechen special forces, but gave no details and could produce no evidence to substantiate his claims. Back then, Kavkaz Center denied Umarov’s death, and uploaded a video [ru] to YouTube as proof. The video appeared to have been recorded in September 2013 at the latest, and raised more questions than it answered over Umarov’s death and the future of his paramilitary organisation.
The twin acts of terror in Volgograd [Global Voices report] fed the speculation, when Umarov did not claim responsibility for the bombings. Shortly thereafter Kadyrov made another claim that Umarov had died. He also alleged that he had evidence of a split in the Emirate leadership over who would replace Umarov. An audio clip [ru] of two men debating who would succeed Umarov was leaked on YouTube after Kadyrov's comments.
The Kavkaz Center announcement of Umarov’s death seems to vindicate Kadyrov’s earlier claims, something that Kadyrov had no problem boasting about on his Instagram account [ru]:
Мы ранее говорили, что Умаров не представляет никакой угрозы для Олимпиады Сочи2014, также мы заявляли, что уничтожим его до начала олимпийских игр. В ходе одной из спецопераций Умарова ликвидировали, о чем я и написал ранее. Теперь это подтверждено самими крысятами. Что еще нужно для спецслужб и СМИ, чтобы поверить в смерть террориста?
We previously said that Umarov posed no threat to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, we also announced that we would eliminate him before the Olympic Games. During one of the special forces operations Umarov was liquidated, as I wrote earlier. Now this is confirmed by the rats themselves. What else do the security services and mass media need to believe in the death of this terrorist?
The Russian blogosphere was relatively quiet upon the news, possibly due to the fact that Umarov's death had been reported so many times, but also likely because the news of Crimea's annexation has put all other news on the back-burner.
The newspaper Kommersant [ru] was able to get a contact Akhmed Zakaev, the Chechen Diaspora leader, who claimed that Umarov had possibly died as early as August of last year. Kommersant also posited that the cause of death could have been gangrene resulting from diabetes complications. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee refused to comment [ru] on these developments.
Little is known [ru] about the new leader, only that he is not a Chechen, but an Avar from Dagestan. What this means for the insurgency in the North Caucasus is open for debate.