On July 9, Ramzan Kadyrov marked his 100th day in office as Chechnya’s pro-Russian president with his first state-of-the nation address. The address was full of triumphal rhetoric and fantastic promises, such as turning Chechnya into another Switzerland. Kadyrov’s address started with the claim that “the hostilities have stopped once and for all. The Chechen Republic is turning from a conflict zone into the most stable region of the North Caucasus.” Then Kadyrov declared that “there will be no more hostilities in Chechnya” and that “colossal results have been achieved” in different spheres of the economy and public life.
In his address to the Chechen nation, Ramzan went even further, stating that “the republic’s authorities are combating drug addiction and alcoholism. We have gotten rid of one-armed bandits and gambling machines; other North Caucasian republics, and even Moscow, are following the example of Chechnya” (Interfax, July 9).
Kadyrov’s address was most likely intended to be the final declaration of Russia’s victory in the war against the Chechen resistance. However, the real situation in the region looks absolutely different, and this makes Ramzan Kadyrov look like a lunatic in a permanent state of euphoria.
While Kadyrov talks about creating a new Switzerland, the rebel Kavkaz-Center reports that the Chechen mountains are under the firm control of the insurgency. “Subunits of the Chechen armed forces (rebel forces) have established firm control over most of the mountainous and wooded areas of southern Chechnya as a result of active offensive operations and sabotage strikes carried out during the past four months,” the website quotes a source in the rebel command as saying. On July 8, Kavkaz-Center reported that the rebels had conducted several attacks on police and army garrisons as well as pro-Russian administration headquarters in the mountainous part of Chechnya (Vedeno, Itum-Kale, Nozhai-Yurt, Sharoi, Shatoi and Kurchaloi districts). This information was confirmed by independent sources like the Caucasus Times news agency, which on July 7 reported a rebel attack on a garrison in Vedeno. The agency also reported that similar attacks took part in other Chechen districts.
On July 6, the Caucasus Times reported that some militant squads are now daring enough to move around the republic and enter settlements in broad daylight. They have also set up checkpoints on the roads.
After a long period of silence, the Russian media has also begun to admit that the war in Chechnya is continuing. Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote on July 9 that “the situation in Chechnya remains alarming” and that the casualties among servicemen and policemen have increased compared to last year’s numbers, while “young people are leaving for the mountains in big numbers.”
On July 11, Nezavisimaya gazeta published an article stating that a recent rebel attack on a Russian motorcade in Vedeno disproved Ramzan Kadyrov’s claims that the war in Chechnya is over.
In addition to the newspapers, politicians and officials have also begun to openly criticize Kadyrov for his groundless optimism. “What Kadyrov is saying is just wishful thinking,” said Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy head of the State Duma’s Security Committee (Regions.ru, July 10). Viktor Alksnis, a State Duma deputy, said the same day that “what is going on in Chechnya cannot be called peaceful life.” Alksnis added: “Kadyrov discredits himself by asserting that the republic is the most stable in the North Caucasus, even as an armed rebellion continues in Chechnya and people are dying there. I feel ashamed for him.”
“Kadyrov’s statements cannot be trusted; there are hardly any reasons for optimism,” said Gennady Gorbunov, a parliamentary representative of the Astrakhan oblast in the Russian Federal Council (Regions.ru, July 10).
The criticism of Kadyrov comes as the first sign of growing distrust in Moscow. There is no doubt that criticism of the pro-Russian government in Chechnya will strengthen as soon as rebel attacks become more painful for the Russian troops in the Chechen Republic.