Radical changes in the Putin administration’s Chechnya policies are unlikely in the few remaining weeks before next month’s presidential election, but one can make certain deductions from the way various factions are jockeying for position. Though Kadyrov still enjoys the strong personal support of President Vladimir Putin, it is noteworthy that Putin loyalists in the Duma and elsewhere continue to feel that it is safe for them to denounce Kadyrov publicly. That fact is more significant in today’s political climate, which is increasingly hostile to dissent, than it would have been even a few months ago.
On February 17 Nezavisimaya gazeta published an article by Andrei Riskin, one of Moscow’s most vigorously anti-Kadyrov journalists. The article looked at the February 16 press conference in which the Chechen dictator urged that leadership of “anti-terrorist” operations in the republic be transferred to his own interior ministry (see Chechnya Weekly, February 18). Riskin did not find it hard to collect quotations from highly placed Muscovites not only opposing the idea, but strongly criticizing Kadyrov himself.
Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chairman of the federal Duma’s committee on defense, told the journalist that the current situation reminds him of Moscow’s loss of control to Grozny during the early Dudaev years. “The figure of Akhmad Kadyrov has always seemed doubtful to me,” he said. “It is disturbing that rebel guerrillas who have laid down their arms are then accepted into the president’s personal security force, in such a way that there is now taking place a concentration of armed forces under the personal aegis of the president.”
The vice president of the Academy for Geopolitical Sciences, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, expressed optimism about the Russian security agencies’ chances of defeating Kadyrov’s latest power grab. He said that the gambit was “most likely a PR move on Mr. Kadyrov’s part, an attempt to avoid personal responsibility for what is happening in Chechnya.”