INCIDENT ILLUSTRATES KADYROV’S CONTROL
A recent episode in western Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district seems to highlight both the strengths and the weaknesses of Chechen political culture–in which competing factions can quickly turn to violence, but can also quickly restore peace.
As reported by Novaya gazeta, supporters of district head Shamil Buraev rallied to his support last month after he was dismissed by the Kadyrov administration. On July 14 the pro-Buraev faction actually mounted an armed attack on the district administration building, with the goal of ousting the new Kadyrov appointee, Ali Dalnaev, and putting their own man back into office. Dalnaev’s allies resisted the attack; the July 31 Novaya gazeta account stated that there was “bloodshed” but provided no estimates of casualties. The battle ended only after intervention by the republican police, including by the elite OMON commando unit.
What followed was especially noteworthy: The two warring sides agreed to lay down their arms and to issue a joint statement in which both declared their allegiance to Kadyrov. The police agreed not to prosecute any of the combatants.
Kadyrov’s critics have strongly denounced his recent purge of the republic’s district administrations, and Buraev could have made himself a hero to those critics by publicly depicting himself as a victim of unjust personnel policies and declaring himself in opposition. The fact that he and his allies chose otherwise confirms that even if Kadyrov’s popularity ratings are low, for the time being he remains solidly in control of the administrative and political structures recognized by Moscow.