Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 26

Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov announced on July 4 that the “Phoenix: Return to Life” rock concert that had been scheduled to take place the following day in Gudermes, the republic’s second-biggest city, would be postponed until September because the concert’s organizers said military officials had advised them to call it off. The postponement came just three days after ten Interior Ministry troops were killed in a bombing in neighboring Dagestan. Moskovsky komsomlets on July 5 quoted Valery Yedinov, deputy head of the regional operational headquarters for the Russian military operation in the North Caucasus, as saying that “federal security organizations” had asked the Chechen government to cancel or postpone the concert “for security reasons.” As the newspaper noted, several days earlier, a convoy of trucks carrying equipment for the concert had been stopped by federal forces in the Ingushetian town of Sleptsovskaya on the administrative border with Chechnya, forcing the trucks’ drivers to spend three nights in their vehicles.

The concert, as the Moscow Times noted on July 5, was to have been held “under the watchful eye of the event’s security chief, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov.” Moskovsky komsomolets reported that Kadyrov had cabled the Russian military’s regional operational headquarters saying that “a rock concert that has been so long in preparation and that Chechen young people have been so eagerly awaiting cannot be canceled under any circumstances.” As the newspaper noted, Kadyrov’s request was not heeded.

Moskovsky komsomolets put forward two theories as to why the concert was postponed. One is that there was “specific information” that the event was being targeted by terrorists and that even though the kadyrovtsy claimed they had the situation under control, the federal authorities thought it prudent to postpone it. The second theory is that Ramzan Kadyrov’s opponents managed to bring about the cancellation of an event that was “supposed to boost the prestige of Chechnya’s first vice premier.” The newspaper noted that Gudermes had been under the control of the Yamadaevs since 1999 and “without their support, it would be hard to ensure concert security.” The Yamadaevs plan to support opponents of Kadyrov in this autumn’s Chechen parliamentary elections, Moskovsky komsomolets wrote, and it is “quite possible” that the federal center backed them in an “intrigue” involving the concert’s cancellation. It is worth noting that some observers have speculated that the violent security operation on June 4 in the village of Borozdinovskaya, which has been blamed on Sulim Yamadaev’s Vostok battalion, may have been carried out by forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov with the aim of discrediting the Yamadaevs (see Chechnya Weekly, June 30).