Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 6

As was noted in a previous issue of this newsletter, Stanislav Il’yasov, formerly the head of government of Stavropol Krai, has been named prime minister of the pro-Moscow government of Chechnya. In press interviews, Il’yasov has drawn attention to the fact that he was born in Kizlyar, Dagestan, just five kilometers away from the border with Chechnya. He was trained as an energy specialist and began work as a lowly foreman in that field. Later he rose to the post of vice president of the huge Russian energy monopoly UES and was for a time the head of “Yuzhenergo,” a concern employing 100,000 workers. In Stavropol Krai, he served as deputy chairman of the Stavropol City Executive Committee and, two years later, was made chairman of government for the entire krai (Kommersant Vlast, January 30).

How did an ethnic Russian come to be named Chechnya’s new premier? According to the official who, at least in some sense, is Il’yasov’s superior, Vladimir Elagin, the Chechens themselves wanted a Russian for the post: “I listened to a large number of authoritative [Chechens],” he stated in a radio interview, “and they all said it would be better in this situation to name a Russian. Why? Because if you appoint one of us [that is, a Chechen], there will immediately arise opposition to him from some side, because someone will have accounts to settle with him” (Ekho Moskvy Radio, January 29).

It seems, however, that Il’yasov was not the choice for premier of the pro-Moscow Chechen head of administration Akhmad Kadyrov. Indeed, Il’yasov himself has admitted that Kadyrov had a different candidate in mind for the position. (Kommersant Vlast, January 30). There can be little doubt that this individual was Khamzat Idrisov, a Chechen, who had formerly served as Kadyrov’s first deputy. On January 24, Kadyrov named Idrisov to the post of first deputy chairman of the Chechen cabinet of ministers. (Russian agencies, January 24).

That Kadyrov and his close ally Idrisov intended to push Il’yasov aside became clear on February 1, when, at 4:05 p.m., the Interfax News Agency reported: “In Chechnya, there has been formed a commission on cadres. It will select candidates for the highest posts in the government. The head of administration for Chechnya Akhmad Kadyrov signed a decree to that effect on February 1. Khamzat Idrisov is to head the commission.” Kadyrov, thus, was attempting a kind of administrative coup, placing the selection of ministers and high-ranking Chechen officials in the hands of a commission headed by an ally and client.

Only forty minutes later, however, at 4:45 p.m. on February 1, Interfax carried a second statement, this one issued by Shamil Beno, the plenipotentiary representative of Chechnya to the administration of President Putin. “Kadyrov,” Beno’s statement underlined, “has given the chairman of the government carte-blanche for the formation of his cabinet.” Rubbing salt in the wound, Beno then added: “Kadyrov does not have the intention of proposing his own candidates for the posts of ministers.” It was clear that Beno, whose political profile has been rising of late, was speaking for the Putin leadership on this question; Kadyrov’s thrust for power had been, at least temporarily, blunted.

In one sense, this struggle can be seen as a tussle over which group–pro-Moscow Chechens or Russians–should control key economic decisions relating to Chechnya. It is noteworthy in this regard that Il’yasov apparently has the intention of naming another ethnic Russian, Andrei Razin, a former close associate, as minister of culture and the social sphere (, January 30). For a Russian to assume the sensitive post of minister of culture for Chechnya would, one suspects, be likely to result in a political scandal.

In his aforementioned interview with Itogi magazine (no. 4, 2001), Duma faction leader Boris Nemtsov scored the administrative anarchy presently obtaining in Chechnya: “I have gained the impression,” he observed, “that to find the person responsible for Chechnya (besides the president, of course) is impossible.” And Nemtsov went on: “Vladimir Elagin, the federal minister for the affairs of Chechnya, and Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of administration, supposedly answer for Chechnya. But which of them is the chief one? It’s not known. And then there is the mayor of Djohar (Grozny), Bislan Gantamirov. Formally he is supposed to be subordinated to Kadyrov. But could Kadyrov, for example, remove him? No, he could not, because in fact Gantamirov was approved by the president. Then there is the commission for the affairs of Chechnya under deputy premier Viktor Khristenko. What is it responsible for? What does it do? There is no response to such questions.”

On the subject of Il’yasov’s appointment, Nemtsov commented: “Recently a prime minister for the Chechen Republic, Stanislav Il’yasov, was named. To whom will he be subordinated? It’s impossible to fathom.” The journalist interviewing Nemtsov pointed out that “Kadyrov insists that Il’yasov reports to him.” But Nemtsov countered: “Yes? But Elagin, for example, maintains that Il’yasov reports only to him. I was a boss for many years. The best way to report to no-one, to steal, to do nothing, to be responsible for nothing is to have two or even three bosses.”

Nemtsov’s comments guide us into a topic which has been raised by a number of press commentators concerning the Il’yasov appointment: namely, possible large-scale corruption. In a recent interview with the weekly Argumenty i Fakty, minister Elagin was asked about the almost unprecedented plundering of the Russian treasury–under the guise of reconstruction–which had occurred during the previous 1994-1996 conflict. “Trillions of rubles,” the paper’s reporter noted, “disappeared in an unknown direction. Were they ever located?” Seemingly uncomfortable over this line of questioning, Elagin replied: “They could be found, but so far no one has occupied himself with that question. A part of the funds remained in Chechnya, a part returned to Russia, and a part is abroad in the accounts of former bureaucrats and major businessmen” (Argumenty i Fakty, January 31).

But what about a large-scale pilfering of funds during the present 1999-2001 conflict? In an article appearing in Moskovskie novosti (no. 5, 2001), leading military journalist Pavel Felgenhauer observed that for budget year 2000 seven billion rubles had been designated for Chechnya. These funds, he noted, “have vanished no one knows where.”

Reporting on the recent decision by the Russian government under prime minister Mikhail Kas’yanov to set a budget for Chechen reconstruction in calendar year 2001, the newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta reported: “They have no doubts in the [Russian] government that there will be attempts to plunder [the funds earmarked for Chechnya]. Incidentally, when yesterday journalists asked Stanislav Il’yasov what part of the funds earmarked for Chechnya last year were used for the designated purpose, he preferred to refrain from answering.” Fourteen billion rubles, the paper went on, have been earmarked for Chechnya in 20001, with 4.4 billion of that sum coming directly from the federal budget and the rest from “extra-budget” sources (Nezavisimaya gazeta, January 26).

In a scathing article appearing in the no. 6 (2001) issue of Novaya gazeta, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya concluded that, “Moscow has made a decision as to who will rob Chechnya,” namely, the new premier, Stanislav Il’yasov. Politkovskaya focused her attention upon a recent statement by Il’yasov that he intends “to raise from the ashes [Chechnya’s] destroyed petrochemical plants,” located in the capital. However, the official program of restoration for Chechnya, she pointed out, does not envision investing a ruble in these plants because “the [Russian] State Committee for Construction, having carried out an appropriate examination during the summer of last year, deemed them unsuitable for restoration.” Why? Because large bands of adroit criminals, having supplied themselves with a protective “roof” in the Russian military, hauled away, in enormous columns, the constituent parts of these once-vast petrochemical plants to neighboring regions of Russia, and especially to Stavropol Krai (for the official Russian program for the restoration of Chechnya, see, January 25).

During the beginning phase of this “process of robbery,” Politkovskaya wrote, Il’yasov was serving as chairman of government in neighboring Stavropol Krai and was fully aware of what was transpiring in Chechnya. Il’yasov’s training in the energy business, Politkovskaya added, should help him and his associates to make super-profits from the long-delayed supplying of electricity to Djohar (Grozny). “How much,” Politkovskaya asked in conclusion, “will Il’yasov himself cost Chechnya? How much will the exhausted republic have to pay for yet another appointee from Moscow?”

To conclude, one wonders whether the Russian Auditing Chamber, headed by former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, will be able to do anything about this specter of yet another mass looting of Chechnya. In a recent statement, Stepashin pledged that his agency would be taking a close look at what happens to Russian budget funds allocated for Chechnya in 2001 (RIA novosti, February 1). It will be interesting to learn what the Auditing Chamber discovers (though, it should not be forgotten that nearly 10 billion rubles earmarked for Chechnya in 2001 will be coming from “extra-budget” sources).