The embezzlement of funds supposedly intended for the restoration of Chechnya, a practice already taken for granted by most observers, is now further testing the limits of cynicism. According to a May 21 report in Rossiskaya gazeta, so much has been stolen that the republic’s schools may not be able to open in September.
Earlier this year, some 30.7 million rubles (about US$1 million) were allocated for the construction or restoration of various social service establishments in Chechnya, including fourteen schools. The funds came from the budgets of various Russian provinces, with specific donor regions paired with specific places in Chechnya: The Astrakhan Oblast at the mouth of the Volga River agreed, for example, to subsidize the Nadterechny District in northern Chechnya, while funds from the Stavropol Krai were to help Chechnya’s Shelkov district. The work on the schools was to have been completed by late August. But Viktor Kazantsev, President Putin’s representative for the Southern Federal Okrug, recently told a meeting of local branches of federal ministries in the okrug that at least 20 million of this sum has been siphoned off by bureaucrats before it could reach the building contractors. Kazantsev threatened that “heads will roll” if the embezzlement does not cease.