Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 43

Akhmad Kadryov spends relatively little time in his presidential office in Grozny, according to a report by Anna Politkovskaya in the November 20 issue of Novaya gazeta. His life is mostly spent either at his “house-fortress” in his home village in eastern Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district, or in Moscow–and more in the latter. According to Politkovskaya’s information, “Kadyrov’s Moscow ‘work’ most recently has been connected with the long drawn out resignation of [Aleksandr] Voloshin, Putin’s chief of staff. Kadyrov was literally never absent from the Kremlin while all this was being decided….For Kadyrov, to be without Voloshin is like being without his own head. That is why he became so agitated when Khodorkovsky was imprisoned, and flew to Moscow so as to avoid finding himself without a new and equally powerful patron.”

A November 18 article by Vladimir Agapov for the pro-Kremlin website provided further evidence that many in the Moscow elite remain unreconciled to Kadyrov’s ever tightening grasp on power within Chechnya. The article, much of which resembled a polemic from the anti-war press, noted severe injustices in the payment of compensation for homes destroyed in the two Chechen wars. The whole issue, wrote Agapov, has turned into a “headache” both for the populace and for the Kadyrov administration. Some people have been refused compensation simply because they had previously received financial help from foreign humanitarian organizations–even if that assistance was not nearly enough to rebuild more than one room. Others have been turned down because they had already taken the initiative to restore their bombed-out houses with their own labor.

Yet another injustice: No compensation is available to those who fled Chechnya during the war, even if their flight was only temporary and was the only way for them to save their lives. As one would expect from an correspondent–though not unreasonably–Agapov emphasized this policy’s disproportionate impact on the republic’s ethnic Russian citizens, who, for obvious reasons, were more likely than their ethnic Chechen neighbors to find refuge elsewhere in the 1990s.

Agapov also discussed an issue that has become almost as popular with Kadyrov’s foes among the Russian nationalists as with human rights advocates: Corruption. One Grozny woman told him that it is possible to receive compensation in that city only by paying a kickback to Kadyrov’s bureaucrats. At first this sum was equal to 10 percent of the amount received, but it soon grew to 30 percent and then 50 percent. The woman said that her cousin had recently been asked to pay 60 percent.

Another sore point for the correspondent is Kadyrov’s growing control over Chechnya’s Interior Ministry. According to Agapov, it is gaining strength at the expense of the local branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB). One of the Interior Ministry’s police officers told him that his colleagues “are either striving in every way to demonstrate their personal devotion [to Kadyrov] and thus keep their positions, or are already looking for new jobs outside the republic.” Among the most discontented police officers, according to Agapov, are the “kontraktniki” who have been hired from across Russia to serve in the republic’s Interior Ministry for terms as short as one year. “They don’t really want experienced people like us here,” complained a “kontraktnik” from Pskov in northwestern Russia. “And that is in spite of the fact that the qualifications of the local police, above all in procedural matters such as legal questions, are often quite low. Even in the best case they limit our participation only to preparing documents.”

Agapov quoted the complaint of unnamed “analysts,” with whom he manifestly agrees, that Chechnya is “on the road to becoming a separate principality, in which Moscow’s ability to influence the state of affairs is shrinking.” Unless Putin radically changes his policies, such complaints seem bound to grow even within his own circle.