Chechens Have Doubts About Ramzan’s Anti-Corruption Drive

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 26

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is vowing to crack down on corruption. Yet according to the Kavkazky Uzel website, Chechens are skeptical that his anti-corruption push will amount to anything.

ITAR-Tass reported on June 18 that Kadyrov had ordered the creation of a special commission to look into the abuses by officials, to be headed by Apti Alaudinov, head of the republican Interior Ministry’s anti-organized crime directorate. During a meeting with cabinet ministers on June 17, Kadyrov strongly criticized the government’s performance in the area of providing social services, referring specifically to cases of machinations involving the provision of apartments to internally displaced persons and the provision of automobiles to veterans of the Great Patriotic War.

“From the first day of my work in the post of chairman of the government and president of the Chechen Republic, I have demanded that the most steadfast attention and care be shown toward the socially unprotected layer of the population,” Kadyrov told the ministers. “However, [the facts] show that certain individuals are trying to fill their pockets at the expense of destitute people.” According to ITAR-Tass, Kadyrov vowed to toughen anti-corruption measures. “We carried out enormous work to help destitute people, and someone decided to use it to line their pockets. I will never resign myself to that and will seek to bring them to justice. An investigation is now going on, at the end of which the guilty will incur the strictest sentences the law allows.”

At the same government meeting, it was announced that the Ruslan Zakharov, head of the Oktyabrsky district administration, and Dhzamlail Khadashev, head of the Shatoi district administration, were being removed from their posts for dereliction of duty. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Kadyrov accused Zakharov of “violations of law” and abuses in the distribution of housing.

Kavkazky Uzel, on June 27, quoted local residents as saying that they expect little to come out of Kadyrov’s anti-corruption drive. “In fact, all of the officials are tied to each other,” Abumuslim Vakhidov, a 53-year-old Grozny resident, told the website. “All of this comes out of Moscow; it is known, after all, that the fish rots from the head. Bribery and corruption are spread so widely because no one is seriously fighting it. All of this began after the collapse of the [Soviet] Union, when unprincipled individuals, who desired only to enrich themselves by any methods and means available to them, came to power in Russia. That’s where all of this came from.”

According to Kavkazky Uzel, Chechens are disturbed most of all by the actions of officials responsible for registering the documents needed to receive compensation payments for dwellings and property lost during Chechnya’s wars. In order to get the 350,000 rubles (around $13,540) they are legally entitled to receive, people eligible for such compensation payments must pay various officials 30-50 percent of the total amount.

In 2005, the former head of the Chechen government’s committee for compensation payments, Abubakar Baibatyrov, who held that post from 2003 to 2004, was detained on charges of having abused his official position and stealing more than 18 million rubles (more $696,000) in budget funds. Baibatyrov was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. In the autumn of 2006, the Chechen branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained the head of the secretariat of the committee for compensation payments, Sultan Isakov, on bribery charges. However, he was released after just a few hours – reportedly, according to Kavkazky Uzel, on Ramzan Kadyrov’s orders. In April of this year, the head of the Chechen government’s construction and reconstruction directorate, Danilbek Khazhiev, was arrested on charges of misappropriating more that 180 million rubles (around $6,963,000) in funds earmarked in 2002 for flood relief. Khazhiev was also quickly released.

“Corruption in the bureaucratic sphere today has reached unheard-of proportions,” an anonymous political analyst told Kavkazky Uzel, emphasizing that corruption is on “a horrifying scale” today in Chechnya. “The citizens have to pay literally everyone for everything,” he said. “Any more-or-less serious document – for admitting children into college, employment, registration for pensions and benefits, not to mention such things as receiving compensation for dwellings and property lost during warfare – costs money.” Isolated instances of officials being prosecuted for taking bribes will not change the basic situation, he said. “The republican leadership’s declared plans for a tough fight against corruption remain only words, because literally all of the officials here are tied to one another and cover up crimes of this kind,” the anonymous political analyst said. “They take bribes to get into college and to get a job. As far as I know, the sums vary from a thousand to several thousand dollars. Yet for some reason, I’ve never heard of the leadership of this or that college or of officials who collect payments for jobs being criminally prosecuted. The fact that a few bribe-takers here have been removed from their jobs or imprisoned doesn’t represent a real fight against corruption. It is more likely an imitation of such a fight.”