Khamzat Ruslan Gelayev was born in 1964, 10 years after his parents had returned from the Stalinist deportation of Chechens into Kazakhstan, in a village near Urus-Martan, about 50 km South of Chechnya’s capital Grozny. In 1992-1993, he took part in the conflict in Abkhazia as a Muslim volunteer on the Abkhaz side alongside Shamil Basayev. After his return to Chechnya, Ruslan Gelayev became a commander in Dzhokhar Dudayev’s Spetsnaz (the Russian term for Special Forces) unit Borz (Wolf).
In the 1994-1996 First Chechen War Ruslan Gelayev fought against the Russians, including as a senior commander in the first bloody battle for Grozny. Ruslan Gelayev was one of the first Chechen fighters awarded by the Chechen republic highest medal.
In early 1995 Ruslan Gelayev became the commander of the South-Western Front of the Chechen separatist forces. In 1995 Ruslan Gelayev units defended the village of Shatoy, in Southern Chechnya, where Gelayev was wounded several times.
On 05/27/1995, Ruslan Gelayev announced that if the bombing of the town of Shali, also in Southern Chechnya, continued, five Russian prisoners would be executed a day. Eventually 8 prisoners were executed while carrying this threat.
On 03/06/1996, Ruslan Gelayev led a surprise raid on Grozny, regaining large parts of the city for two days, inflicting serious losses on Russian Federal forces and leaving with more than 100 hostages. The attack was a prologue before the recapture of Grozny from the Russians in 08/1996 in an operation under Shamil Basayev command, which ended the first war in Chechnya and became a model for guerilla urban warfare.
The future Chechen presidents Doku Umarov and Ahmed Zakayev were both initially serving under his command, before leaving to form their own units.
After the first war, Ruslan Gelayev became the Chechen Deputy Prime Minister under the new Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in April 1997. Also in 1997 Ruslan Gelayev went on a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
In 1998, Ruslan Gelayev was appointed the Defence Minister of Chechnya, the post which he held until he was replaced by Magomed Khanbiyev in 1999. Gelayev maintained links with Aslan Maskhadov as well as his rival Zelimkhan Yandarbiev.
At the start of the Second Chechen War, in 11/1999, Ruslan Gelayev commanded a large force of some 1,500 fighters in the third battle for Grozny. He withdrew from the city in 01/2000, which left it open to attack and for which he was later severely criticized. Following the inexplicable retreat from Grozny, Ruslan Gelayev was demoted from General to Private and stripped of all military decorations.
In February-March 2000, Gelayev's forces were taking heavy losses as they withdrew to the mountain forests in southern Chechnya, when a warlord Arbi Barayev contacted Gelayev promising him aid and transportation to a safe area (see - Movsar Barayev ).
When Gelayev's forces arrived at the specified meeting place, they were instead ambushed by a large number of Russian troops and retreated to the Ruslan Gelayev's native village of Komsomolskoye. There, more than a thousand rebels were besieged and pounded for weeks by the Russian army in the largest battle of the Second Chechen War. The battle ended with some 800 rebels and more than 50 soldiers dead (according to Russian figures). Ruslan Gelayev himself escaped the encirclement with just few hundred of his men. Some time after the disaster at Komsomolskoye, Russian government had attempted to negotiate with him since he was believed to be at odds with some of the Chechen Islamist commanders, especially Arbi Barayev after Barayev's betrayal at Komsomolskoye, and the Arab warlord known as Abu al-Walid. In 11/2000, a Kremlin envoy confirmed that Russian federal authorities were involved in talks with Gelayev, but this information was refuted later.
By mid-2001, Ruslan Gelayev decided to rebuild his forces in the Pankisi Gorge across the Georgian border. There, Gelayev had built up a significant armed force of 800 Chechens, together with about 80 international Mujahideen (Holy Warriors -mostly Turks, Arabs and members from the French Lyon Cell ). Georgian authorities were accused of negotiating a deal to supply and arm Ruslan Gelayev's force in return for the 10/2001 raid into Kodori Gorge, held by Muslim seperatists, in Abkhazia.
Ruslan Gelayev earned admiration from senior Georgian politicians. President of Georgia at that time – Eduard Shevardnadze described him as "noble man and an educated person who is well-disposed toward Georgia."
From Georgia, Ruslan Gelayev led hit-and-run attacks against the Russian army in the Russian Caucasus. Russians responded in a series of airstrikes on a Georgian territory, during which a Georgian civilian was reported killed.
In 08/2001, Ruslan Gelayev played a crucial role in releasing Russian human rights activist Svetlana Kuzmina, who was held in Chechen captivity in Chechnya more than two years. Gelayev acted upon the request of Louisa Islamova, the wife of his fellow rebel commander Lechi Islamov, who was held in Moscow’s. Ruslan Gelayev wrote a note warning Kuzmina’s captors that if they did not free the woman, they would become his deadly enemies. Lechi Islamov was later reportedly murdered with poison in captivity.
In September 2002, Ruslan Gelayev's forces comducted the Galashki Raid into the Russian republic of Ingushetia, capturing the villages of Tarskove and Galashki. Ruslan Gelayev's fighters were surrounded, took large losses and were dispersed. Among those killed in the battle was Roddy Scott, a British freelance reporter who travelled with the militants. 7 to 40 Chechen fighters were killed and five were captured, while 17 Russian soldiers were also reported killed by the official reports. In 12/2003, Ruslan Gelayev was incorrectly reported dead after a firefight that left nine Russian soldiers dead. In an interview, Gelayev said he would "continue to fight until not only our country (Chechnya) but all the nations of the Caucasus are freed from Russia.
On 02/28/2004 Ruslan Gelayev was killed in a skirmish with a Russian border petrol attempting to cross the border from Ingushetia into Georgia alone. Ruslan Gelayev shot and killed both guards, but soon after he died from bleeding as a result of an arm gunshot wound he suffered.
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