Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 1

Radio Liberty’s Andrei Babitsky recently traveled to Chechnya for the first time in a year. On January 3, he shared his observations with colleague Andrei Sharyi. According to the veteran Chechnya correspondent, there have been no “significant changes” over the last year. Babitsky quoted a top republican Interior Ministry official who is a “friend and backer” of Alu Alkhanov, who was elected the republic’s president in August 2004, as admitting that Alkhanov’s tenure has been undistinguished. Babitsky himself described Alkhanov’s reputation in Chechnya as a “hopeless politician” and a “weak person” who ended up succeeding Akhmad Kadyrov as Chechen president as the result of an “agreement” hammered out between the Kremlin and Kadyrov’s son, Ramzan, who is now Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister.

Ramzan Kadyrov, said Babitsky, is essentially “boss of the republic,” and the fact he was awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation confirms that the Kremlin views him as heir to his father’s “repressive policy.” Like Alkhanov, Sergei Abramov, who is Chechnya’s prime minister and thus technically Ramzan’s boss, is a “dependent figure” who tries to avoid dealing with any serious issues.

Babitsky quoted the Chechen Interior Ministry official as saying that the pro-Moscow forces are having real success against the rebel forces. “The mood in Chechnya is such that people believe that…this repressive policy, and the federal center, and Ramzan Kadyrov, will sooner or later manage to gain the upper hand on the Chechen armed underground,” Babitsky said. “People have reconciled themselves to the idea that this government has come seriously and for a long time.”

At the same time, the pro-Moscow regime is characterized by “sadism,” Babitsky said, citing the case of an acquaintance whose joints were “chopped up” with a sledgehammer after he was arrested. “This person was doomed to be slaughtered; he died, they shot him,” Babitsky said. “A train of crimes that he committed as fighter for the armed underground stretched behind him; there was a vendetta against him. It’s understood that he had to be killed. But why this non-functional, monstrous persecution? When I was in Grozny, the body of a crucified youth was found on the banks of the Sundzha [River]. A third-year student of Grozny University’s philology faculty.” As a result of the proliferation of “Kadyrovite,” GRU and FSB paramilitary groups, Babitsky said, “forms of arbitrariness that are beyond good and evil are reaching full flower.”