Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 35

The Chechen parliament, which is dominated by deputies loyal to Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, has taken what Kommersant on September 7 described as “the final step toward the creation of an autonomous republic within the structure of Russia.” The legislature introduced into the State Duma a draft law entitled “On special conditions for entrepreneurial activity on the territory of the Chechen Republic,” which, according to the newspaper, envisages the Chechen government acting as “the main regulator of investment activity in the republic” until 2020 and calls on the federal authorities to transfer to powers to Grozny allowing to create an “ultra-liberal [economic] regime with the goal of reconstructing the Chechen economy.” The draft proposes, among other things, exempting the republic from paying customs tariffs and exempting investment projects in the republic from taxes. Perhaps more significantly, the draft law, according to Kommersant, also calls on the federal authorities to hand over to the Chechen government control over the republic’s mineral wealth, including oil and gas.

Kommersant, as well as Vremya novostei, suggested that the draft law in unlikely to pass the State Duma. The latter reported in its September 12 edition that some Duma deputies fear that the draft, if passed, would mean in essence “the separation of the Chechen economy from the rest of Russia.” Vremya novostei added that “from here it’s not far to the next attempt at political separatism. Part of the draft law’s provisions actually includes claims by the republic for status as a subject of international relations: the federal government, for example, would have to coordinate with the Chechen government any economic agreements that in any way affect the republic.”

Another long-time Chechnya-watcher, Moskovsksy komsomolets correspondent Vadim Rechkalov, was even more skeptical about the Chechen parliament’s draft law on economic activity. “The initiative is unlikely to pass the State Duma, because it is stupid to give money to someone you don’t trust,” Rechkalov wrote in the newspaper’s September 14 edition. “But it is a really good proposal. With such money, Grozny could be completely reconstructed in about five years. But in order for this money to be used as intended and not accumulate in the Kadyrov Foundation in Chechnya, the federal authorities must govern with an honest and industrious governor, and not with the authoritarian regime of a close relative of the former president. All that is known about the notorious Kadyrov Found is that it is headed by Ramzan’s mother; where it gets its funding from is not known. Ramzan claims that Chechen entrepreneurs living in Russia and abroad donate the money. There is another opinion—that Ramzan himself gives the money; he has, they note, the ‘Leader’ chain of gas stations across the whole republic. That is also understandable. But the gas stations—where did they come from? And isn’t this foundation a banal structure for laundering money?”

Meanwhile, a State Duma deputy and member of the Rodina (Motherland) party, Andrei Savelyev, told Ekho Moskvy radio on September 13 that his party’s Duma faction is preparing an appeal to President Vladimir Putin and Chechen President Alu Alkhanov to look into removing Kadyrov as Chechnya’s prime minister, charging that his comments about the recent unrest in Kondopoga clearly contained calls for inter-ethnic strife. Following violence between Slavs and Caucasus nationals in the Karelian town, Kadyrov warned that that if the Karelian authorities did not resolve the conflict, “then we will find methods to bring the situation into the legal field” (Chechnya Weekly, September 8). Some observers interpreted this as a threat to intervene with Chechen security forces. On September 11, Ekho Moskvy quoted the press service of the Chechen government as saying that that when Kadyrov announced readiness to intervene in the events in Kondopoga, he “on no account” meant using force. The press service called on journalists to be objective in covering events like those in Kondopoga and not to take statements out of context.