Abramov Narrowly Escapes Assassination…

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 29

A mine exploded in Grozny on July 13 just as a large, highly guarded convoy was passing which included the car of Sergei Abramov, who has of course been acting president of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration since the assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov more than two months ago. Abramov, who was riding an armored Volga limousine, was not harmed—but one of his bodyguards in an accompanying car was killed and another wounded. Abramov’s adviser Andrei Aleksintsev was also seriously wounded. An official of the republic’s Interior Ministry told journalists that the mine was probably detonated by a remote control.

Chechnya-watchers are still debating whether this was a deliberate assassination attempt aimed specifically at Abramov. If it was, then of all the recent assassination attempts in Chechnya this one is the most puzzling. It is universally agreed that Abramov is only a figurehead with no power base of his own, and that even his figurehead role will come to an end when Chechnya’s special presidential election takes place less than six weeks from now. So why bother killing him?

In a July 14 commentary for the Politcom.ru website, Vitaly Portnikov suggested that the attempt on Abramov’s life was not a meaningless demonstration of force on the part of the rebels, but was connected with the acting president’s role as the Kadyrov clan’s treasurer. Portnikov argued that unlike other ethnic Russians from the federal center previously appointed to high posts in the Kadyrov administration, Abramov has made no attempt whatever to pursue a political agenda of his own. Instead he has become a willing, pliant tool of the Kadyrov family for which he is most useful as a channel of subsidies from the federal center. As Portnikov put it, “this modest young man with his typically Slavic features seems to have become the principal manager of the most important thing in this war-ravaged republic: money…Abramov is Chechnya’s purse. There are some who want to get rid of that purse, some who want to take control of it, and some who want to destroy it.”

In any case, it is noteworthy that Abramov is now living almost full-time in the heavily fortified village of Tsentoroi, the Kadyrov family’s stronghold—where Ramzan Kadyrov and his gunmen can both protect him and keep an eye on him. An increasingly frequent overnight guest in Tsentoroi, according to a July 5 article by Anna Politkovskaya in Novaya gazeta, is front-running presidential candidate Alu Alkhanov.