As reported in last week’s issue, the Putin leadership appears to have opted, at least for the time being, for a policy of “Chechenization,” which will place additional responsibility and imbue with new powers the pro-Moscow Chechen administration of Akhmad Kadyrov, an ethnic Chechen, and of his prime minister, Stanislav Il’yasov, a Russian. This new orientation toward Chechenization vitiates the perceived need for any negotiations with the separatists led by Aslan Maskhadov, and indeed the negotiation process with the separatists has recently been significantly downgraded.
On October 15, Kadyrov met with President Putin in the Kremlin. The announced rationale for this meeting was that Kadyrov needed to report to the Russian president “concerning his recent visit to Arab countries.” It was clear, however, that the two also needed to discuss at some length the internal situation within Chechnya. Following the meeting, Kadyrov announced–without adducing any evidence–that the Chechen separatists were “secretly putting down their arms.” They were doing so secretly, he said, because they fear reprisals from extremists. “People want to return to a normal life,” he underlined. As for the separatist president Maskhadov, Kadyrov stressed that he “already represents no one” (RIA Novosti, October 15).
Arriving back in Chechnya from Moscow, Kadyrov launched what the Russian media interpreted as an assault on the fiefdom of his rival for power within Chechnya, premier Stanislav Il’yasov. On October 18, a day when Il’yasov was out of town, Kadyrov held a meeting in Djohar (Grozny) with the heads of ministries and agencies of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration. Writing in the pro-Putin Strana.ru, journalist Andrei Egorov reported that Kadyrov had conducted an aggressive “raid” on the house of government in the Chechen capital. In a meeting with the top personnel of Il’yasov’s government, conducted literally under the “muzzles of automatic weapons” of sixty armed men from his personal guard, Kadyrov criticized those bureaucrats who had come to Chechnya from outside the republic in order to make high wages but had not then moved their families to Chechnya. He accused them of “not feeling pain for Chechnya.” Kadyrov underscored that Premier Il’yasov was one of the administrators who had not moved his family to the republic, even though he, like the other bureaucrats in the room, had pledged that he would (Strana.ru, October 18-19). Kadyrov groused that “he had not even met Il’yasov’s wife” (Gazeta.ru, October 19).
During the meeting, Kadyrov also “subjected to sharp criticism the activity of the [Russian] law enforcement organs of Chechnya.” In the villages, he said, the separatists dictate conditions during most of the day. “No one shows opposition to them. When darkness begins to fall, they feel themselves free, and it is now getting dark early in the republic.” Someone, Kadyrov insisted, must shoulder responsibility “for the whole series of attacks by the rebels on population points” (Interfax, October 18).
In an interview with the Russian government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Kadyrov expanded on these themes, recalling: “I have personally spoken with the head of the General Staff [General Anatoly Kvashnin] and confirmed to him the conclusion of the recently perished commission [led by the late General Pozdnyakov] that there is no sense whatsoever in the checkpoints in Chechnya. They only hinder honest people from believing in the efficacy of the federal authorities.” At the checkpoints, he remarked, ordinary Chechens are forced to pay bribes to the military and police and “often are subjected to humiliations,” something which does not serve to restore their trust in the federal government. Kadyrov also noted that that “in a short period of time comfortable barracks have been constructed for the 15,000 men of the 42nd Division [which is to be based permanently in Chechnya]. But till now little has been done for the civilian populace of Chechnya” (Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 19).
In addition to upbraiding the bureaucrats present at the Chechen government offices in Djohar, Kadyrov announced that he was forthwith sacking the chief of the apparatus of the Chechen government, Viktor Aleksentsev, a Russian, and replacing him with 47-year-old Yan Sergunin, a lieutenant general from the Justice Ministry who has been working in Chechnya for the past two years and has in effect gone native, converting to Islam and marrying a local Chechen woman (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 19). Aleksentsev–who was made Sergunin’s deputy–was, by contrast, a protege of Il’yasov who had arrived with him in Chechnya from Stavropol Krai.
The newspaper Kommersant reported on October 19 Il’yasov’s angry comments concerning the changes introduced by Kadyrov. “This is a real provocation,” Il’yasov declared. “Some dolts advised him [Kadyrov] to do this. The restructuring, which was not even discussed with me, will lead to nothing good. It will only introduce confusion into the work of the government.” Gazeta.ru pointed out that Kadyrov did have a point in criticizing Il’yasov for not having moved his family to Chechnya: “The government and the civilian administration have now been moved to Grozny, and a guarded residential complex for government officials has been constructed” (Gazeta.ru, October 19).
Commenting on the new sharp struggle between Kadyrov and Il’yasov, the Russian media seemed unsure as to what the eventual outcome would be. “If Kadyrov,” Strana.ru commented, “represents the interests of the Chechens before the federal center, then Il’yasov, to the contrary, is the representative of the federal center in Moscow, called upon to resolve problems in the name of Moscow, chiefly economic ones.” The web site predicted that Putin would hardly decide to remove Il’yasov from the republican premiership (Strana.ru, October 19).
In similar fashion, Gazeta.ru commented: “Even though, formally, Kadyrov along with Il’yasov appoints the members of the [pro-Moscow Chechen] government, he is supposed to coordinate all cadre issues with the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev. And, ultimately, it is Kazantsev who decides upon personnel issues within the Chechen government” (Gazeta.ru, October 19).
Several Russian media referred to the emergence of what they termed a “diarchy” within the pro-Moscow leadership of Chechnya. It remained unclear how the struggle would develop, but Kadyrov evidently intended to conduct a kind of blitzkrieg offensive to strengthen his position. It was announced that on October 22 he intended to hear reports from all ministries and agencies within Chechnya, bodies which had previously been subordinate to Il’yasov (RIA Novosti, October 19). It also emerged that Kadyrov and his entourage had the intention to gain control over all extraction of oil in the republic, a highly lucrative business (Kommersant, October 17).
To conclude, the emerging “diarchy” now splitting the pro-Moscow authorities within Djohar promises further to unravel the Putin regime’s plan to pacify the rebellious Chechen Republic. As was noted in last week’s issue, “Chechenization” will predictably lead to roughly the same results as did the earlier American policy of “Vietnamization.”