The chances of ordinary Chechens receiving anything resembling fair compensation for their homes and other property destroyed by Russian carpet bombing and other military action now appear increasingly remote. Before September it seemed that Akhmad Kadyrov would use the payments as a tactic to boost his own popularity before the October 5 presidential election, but with that election now flagrantly rigged in his favor the urgency of such vote buying schemes has disappeared. Moreover, the usual corruption and inefficiency of the Moscow and Grozny bureaucracies has so grossly distorted the compensation program that it now seems likely to function as just one more mechanism for officials to line their own pockets by means of embezzlement and bribery.
In a September 22 report published by the Caucasus Reporting Service of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, freelance journalist Asya Bulatova wrote that the federal authorities have allocated 14.5 billion rubles (about US$48 million) for property compensation. It estimates the number of Chechens entitled to such compensation as 39,000. (This seems like far too low a number to any objective observer who has visited Grozny, the ruins of which resemble those of Berlin in 1945.)
The head of the Kadyrov administration’s committee for compensation, Abubakir Baibatyrov, admitted to Bulatova that nearly half of his agency’s inventory of destroyed properties and their former occupants is false. The journalist was unable to establish what portion of such errors and omissions were introduced by local district administrations before the lists reached Baibatyrov’s agency, and what portion should be blamed on that agency itself.
Typical of what Bulatova called the “fiasco” was the experience of Abyaul-Khalim Agamerzaev, who told her that “My house on Buachidze Street [in Grozny] was razed to the ground in 1995, during the first campaign. But for some reason my name is not listed among those entitled to compensation, although I applied to the district administration together with others back in spring…. What’s even more surprising is that houses [that remain intact] on the same street are on the list. How come the committee didn’t notice my totally destroyed house?”
Bulatova also found instances of bombed out residents paying kickbacks to officials so as to guarantee that they would receive the compensation payments to which they are ostensibly entitled. In some cases, officials even suggested that citizens exaggerate the harm done to their partially damaged homes so that such kickbacks would be larger.
In any case, according to a September 20 article by Timur Aliev for Prague Watchdog, thanks to repeated delays not one rank-and-file citizen had yet received any money under the program as of the date of his article. Aliev cited a discouraging precedent from historian Murad Nashkhoev, who found that “between 1819 and 1859 the inhabitants of Chechnya were subjected to destruction no less than fifty times; and each time their own resources were used to rebuild their homes.”
Itar-Tass reported on September 23 that compensation payments would begin on September 25, with the first 150 recipients already selected. If it takes place as scheduled, that event will at least give the Kadyrov campaign some favorable publicity during the last ten days before the presidential election–no matter how many Chechen citizens end up being disappointed afterward.
Bulatova’s article is available in full on website www.iwpr.net, and Aliev’s on website https://www.watchdog.cz.