Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 19

After the May 5 meeting of the Russian power ministers and the heads of regions in the Southern Federal District had concluded, the chairman of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, and his prime minister, Stanislav Il’yasov, left for Chechnya. Following their departure, the director of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, held a press conference in Essentuki at which he announced that the Chechen administration would not, as had previously been stated, be moving from the republic’s second city, Gudermes, to the capital, Djohar [Grozny]. “For the time being,” Patrushev said, “the necessary conditions for work and security have not been created [in Grozny].” Il’yasov learned of Patrushev’s announcement only when he had returned to his new offices… located in Djohar (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 8).

The following day, May 6, Il’yasov and Kadyrov decided to hit back. Kadyrov underlined to the Interfax News Agency that he and Il’yasov had moved back to the Chechen capital “forever.” Kadyrov emphasized that he had no intention of moving back to Gudermes. For one thing, he said, “the authorities cannot expect to convince refugees to return to Grozny while they remain outside the city” (Russian agencies, May 6). Il’ya Maksakov of Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Anna Politkovskaya of Novaya Gazeta–two journalists who seldom agree in their interpretations of the war–have provided similar information on the reasons behind this new conflict between Moscow and the pro-Moscow Chechen administration.

“Both Kadyrov and Il’yasov,” Maksakov noted in the May 8 issue of Nezavisimaya, “say that they have been experiencing colossal pressure.” The move from Gudermes to Djohar represents a major reason for this pressure. The federal authorities appear to want the war to continue; a transfer of operations from Gudermes to Djohar might be interpreted as a return to normalcy and a harbinger of peace. Writing in the 7 May issue of Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya observed that the move to Djohar “was achieved by Il’yasov due to his extraordinary persistence and exertion of will. Everyone tried to convince him not to move, except for Nikolai Britvin, the deputy plenipotentiary presidential representative for Chechnya in the Southern Federal District. Il’yasov experienced enormous pressure… from the military, the MVD and the FSB.” And she continued: “Is it necessary to end the war? This is the reason for the pressure. Those who pressured [Il’yasov] consider that it is too early.”

At a press conference held in Djohar on May 6, which marked the first hundred days of the new Chechen government, Il’yasov stressed his firm intention to have all government ministries and departments present in the capital by the end of May. He cited such recent achievements of his administration as putting the transportation network into operation, launching railway communication and commuter trains, and conducting agrarian campaigns “despite the absence of funds” (RIA Novosti, May 6).

The Chechen administration has also clashed with Moscow over the “anarchy” (bespredel) caused by Russian troops based in Chechnya. Every day, Kadyrov has complained, he has to listen to complaints from local inhabitants that “the Russian military have once again swept up their relatives and, having beaten them, carted them off in an unknown direction.” Il’yasov contends that “the military themselves are provoking the populace and eliciting from them distrust for the authorities” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 8).

Writing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Il’ya Maksakov reported the extraordinary news that, several days previously, Il’yasov had been fired at from a grenade launcher as he was touring the new government headquarters in the capital; two of his aides were wounded in the attack. The intimation seemed to be that it was Russian soldiers who fired at Il’yasov. In addition, Maksakov wrote, recently, next to the House of Government in Djohar, “drunken soldiers from the [Russian military] commandant’s office had opened erratic fire.”

Another influential pro-Moscow Chechen spokesman, retired MVD General Aslambek Aslakhanov, the elected representative from Chechnya to the Russian State Duma, recently excoriated the behavior of Russian military and MVD troops in Chechnya: “The [Russian] power structures,” he maintained, “act as a rule according to the principle, ‘When you chop down a forest, chips fly,’ and they are conducting operations as a result of which the peaceful population suffers. They ‘mop up’ everyone, and perhaps among that number they occasionally get someone who is truly guilty. All of this is accompanied by the fullest lawlessness. Because, according to the law, if a person his taken into custody, his relatives have to be informed within twenty-four hours where he is located…. There are not a few cases in which they beat and cripple those taken into custody, and when people disappear.”

What should be done with such Russian troops? “From my point of view,” Aslakhanov continued, “they should withdraw from the republic those units which are ‘causing anarchy.’ People with a sick psyche should be replaced by psychologically healthy people who perform their duty and don’t take revenge because they have had an unsuccessful life, and so on. These ‘anarchists,’ who consider that a peaceful inhabitant is not a human being and that he may be crushed with an armored vehicle or executed without an investigation and trial, should not be given weapons. They should be given medical attention” (Strana.ru, May 8).

Responding to criticisms on the part of MVD minister Boris Gryzlov that he should have been present in the Chechen capital at the time of the pogrom perpetrated by MVD internal troops on 1 May, the mayor of Djohar, Bislan Gantamirov, responded angrily: “I think that Gryzlov’s words refer least of all to me. If I had been present in Grozny, I do not think that I would have been able to avert the incident at the city’s Central Market. The [Russian] soldiers do not submit to us, do not report to us, and do not keep us informed of the special operations they conduct in Grozny. Hardly would anything have changed if I had been present.” And Gantamirov concluded: “Concerning the events at the market I can say this: There took place a mopping-up operation, and then bodies were found…. It was not dark forces from above who came down from the skies and killed those people.” It would not be difficult, Gantamirov intimated, to identify and arrest the perpetrators of the May 1 pogrom.

An even more serious charge leveled by the pro-Moscow Chechen administration concerns the alleged collusion of the Russian power ministries with the “terrorists” they are supposedly fighting. Akhmad Kadyrov recently asserted that “the rebels feel themselves ‘free’ since individual officials of the [Russian] law enforcement organs provide them with all necessary documents…. They commit major crimes, kill representatives of the [Chechen] clergy and administration and then, keeping their weapons, quietly depart the place of the incident, certain that no one will take them into custody” (Strana.ru, May 8). Kadyrov, Il’ya Maksakov wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (May 8), “says that people very close to [Shamil] Basaev, whom he has known for many years, are traveling about the republic with identity cards from the FSB.”

The quite growing alienation from Moscow of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration could have serious consequences in the future. “Kadyrov and his people,” the web site Grani.ru commented on May 3, “have been driven into a corner. They are unable to show their [Chechen] countrymen that the federal forces take them into consideration.” Additional events like the May 1 pogrom could induce Chechens to “cease distinguishing [Kadyrov and his administration] from the federal troops.” And this observation leads Grani.ru to speculate: “Kadyrov could really explode the situation if he and his police–who easily turn into rebels and back again–were to leave for the mountains. Although such a development seems fantastic, it is possible. As is a [future] union with Maskhadov. It would constitute the sole way out of the dead-end into which Kadyrov has been driven by the federals.”