Kadyrov Expands His Influence in Moscow

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 7

In order to avoid a potential weakening of his position after the next president of the Russian Federation takes office, Ramzan Kadyrov has been working to boost his influence in Moscow by installing his people in Russia’s power apparatus. (As in Soviet times, the identity of Russia’s next leader has been known for a while now: the new president will be Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin’s designated successor.) Inside Chechnya itself, Kadyrov has no need to strengthen his position because his status there is unshakable due to his authoritarian style of government and President Putin’s personal support (Lenta Ru, March 2, 2007). It is worth noting that Putin himself is usually ambiguous about his support for Kadyrov personally, preferring instead to focus on successes in promoting peace or rebuilding the economy in Chechnya or the changes in Grozny without referring to President Kadyrov by name. Ramzan Kadyrov, however, tries to present himself as Putin’s man at every opportunity. “Let me clarify,” he said last year. “I’m not a president’s man. I’m not an FSB, Interior Ministry, GRU or Prosecutor General’s Office man. I’m Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s man” (Moskovsky Komsomolets, November 27, 2007).

In contrast to Putin’s understatements, one of the Kremlin’s leading politicians, deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vladislav Surkov, has said: “Stability in the Caucasus today rests on the shoulders of people like Ramzan Kadyrov. As long as people like Kadyrov are around, we can rest assured that constitutional order in the republic will prevail and every possible effort will be made to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in Chechnya” [1].

Interestingly, Kadyrov has not been able to build a relationship with another political heavyweight, Kremlin deputy chief of staff Igor Sechin, who is also chairman of the board of the state-owned Rosneft oil company. Sechin is seen as an informal rival of Vladislav Surkov in the Kremlin’s power games (Newsweek [Russia], May 11, 2007), which means that all of the behind-the-scenes developments in Moscow and inside the Kremlin should be carefully analyzed. Although Sechin’s standing is bound to diminish once Medvedev assumes office, Sechin’s personal friendship with First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov means that he will remain a man to watch. Some believe that the law-enforcement ministers were the ones who supported Alu Alkhanov, the former Chechen President who was Ramzan Kadyrov’s opponent in Chechnya. Alkhanov had the rank of a police general and is currently a deputy Justice Minister of the Russian Federation.

Therefore, given the changes anticipated in Moscow, it is logical that Kadyrov would try to install people loyal to him in the new State Duma. The four members the United Russia party who were elected to represent Chechnya in the State Duma have secured some of the Duma’s most prominent and influential posts. Magomed Vakhaev was made deputy chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee; Akhmar Zavgaev was made deputy chairman of its Budget Committee; Alid Yakhikhadjiev was made deputy chairman of its Health Committee; and, finally, the most trusted of Ramzan Kadyrov’s lieutenants, Adam Delimkhanov, was made deputy chairman of the Duma’s Regional Policy Committee (Yuga.ru, February 5). Concurrently, Kadyrov announced the appointment of Delimkhanov as the advisor to the Chechen president for law enforcement and general matters (Rosbalt, February 5). Prior to being elected as a parliamentary deputy, Delimkhanov was first deputy chairman of the Chechen Cabinet of Ministers in charge of the government’s security bloc, and was considered a right-hand man to Ramzan Kadyrov.

These appointments will allow Ramzan Kadyrov to make the best use of his insiders in the State Duma while lobbying Chechnya’s interests in Moscow and to enjoy access to any Russian government minister through these important Duma committees. It should also be noted that the staff of the State Duma administration includes some 10 ethnic Chechens, who were formerly Duma deputies or aides to Duma deputies and would be supportive of Chechnya’s interests. Thus, for the first time since Chechnya became part of Russia, Chechens have been able to form what is in effect their own lobby. There are also two ethnic Chechens in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament—Umar Dhzabrailov and Mussa Umarov. They are both successful businessmen, which is the likely reason they were appointed to the Federation Council.

In addition, Ramzan Kadyrov enjoys the full use of resources at the disposal of Doku Zavgaev, another Chechen appointee who is currently director general of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the rank of deputy foreign minister. The name of Aslanbek Aslakhanov, an advisor to President Putin, would also merit a mention except for his dislike for Kadyrov, which in all likelihood makes his services unavailable to the Chechen president.

Considering that Ramzan Kadyrov during his rise to power declined to pursue either the cause of self-determination of the Chechen people or plans to establish a free economic zone inside the republic, today, with his hold on power secure, he needs independent leverage to manage the economy (Rusk.ru, March 19). To make that happen, he needs unlimited access to oil—meaning he has to get hold of the major block of Rosneft shares in Chechnya. To receive sizable cash injections, Kadyrov needs to announce his support for establishing a free economic zone, which he rejected prior to being elected Chechnya’s president in order to appease the ambitions of Russia’s leaders. Today, he has to re-establish control over all of the above. He cannot fail to understand that the substantial cash infusions into the Akhmad Kadyrov Regional Foundation—funds that have never been recorded anywhere or accounted for by anyone— can stop at any time, and that he needs to search for other ways to support his image as the Chechen people’s “benefactor” in the long term.

Ramzan Kadyrov has an altogether different attitude towards the Chechen businessmen in Russia, whom he regards exclusively as a source of replenishment for his coffers. This attitude is likely encouraged by the Kremlin: during a meeting with Chechen public figures in 2002, Putin himself suggested that Chechens living in Moscow should step up their efforts to resolve the conflict in Chechnya, which according to Putin meant holding elections and a referendum to give a carte blanche to unleash propaganda about the “internal Chechen conflict.” (Yabloko.ru, November 11, 2002). Generally, few Chechens with first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground in Chechnya would willingly invest their money in Chechnya’s economy. However, pressure from Moscow forces them to pretend to be “patriots” of their republic, although everyone knows this stand is assumed under duress (Vremya Novostei, May 22, 2007).

Therefore, Ramzan Kadyrov is presently building up his support base at various levels of government power in Moscow in order to buy time after Dmitry Medvedev is elected and formulates his views regarding Kadyrov’s activities in Chechnya. Although even today it is obvious that the new Russian president will still have a need for Ramzan Kadyrov in order to make sure things in Chechnya appear to be under control, relatively speaking, regardless of Kadyrov’s authoritarian government and total ignoring of human rights. Moreover, if Vladimir Putin continues to maintain a strong presence in Russia’s political arena after the new president comes to power, Ramzan Kadyrov will be able to continue in his role as the Chechen sovereign.

Things are looking bright for Ramzan Kadyrov’s designs for the territory under his control, and nothing except the actions of the Chechen resistance movement will be able to spoil those rosy plans.

Notes

1. Surkov’s comments can be found at: http://www.ramzan-kadyrov.ru/position.php.