Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 2

It would seem that Akhmad Kadyrov now has the upper hand over Mikhail Babich in the power struggle within the Moscow-appointed Chechen administration. The Itar-Tass news agency reported on January 23 that Prime Minister Babich has suddenly left for vacation. In mid-January Babich had vigorously attacked Kadyrov for appointing a new minister of finance without Babich’s knowledge or consent.

The pro-Kremlin website Strana.ru quoted Kadyrov as saying that “the situation has been normalized, the administration of the Chechen Republic is unified and supports its leader”–that is, Kadyrov himself. According to the website, the conflict was resolved in a four-hour, closed-door meeting on January 22 between the two in Moscow. Present at that meeting were Viktor Kazantsev, plenipotentiary representative of President Putin for the southern federal okrug, and Stanislav Ilyasov, the federal government’s minister for Chechnya.

Though Kadyrov thus appears to beaten back Babich’s attack for now, the Russian press continues to publish leaks from the former’s enemies in Moscow. A January 23 article by Vadim Solovev and Mikhail Khodarenok in the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted unnamed sources–with little concrete evidence, as is often the case in both Russian and Chechen periodicals–as alleging that Russia’s security agencies are working to replace Kadyrov with a former commander of Russian military forces in Chechnya.

The sources, according to the article, claim that the heads of “three security departments” (not specified in the article, but presumably the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior as well as the former KGB, now called the Federal Security Service–all of which are heavily involved in the Chechen fighting) sent “coordinated” denunciations of Kadyrov to President Putin last year. A roughly similar, also vague account of anti-Kadyrov denunciations from these same three agencies was published by Izvestia on January 14 (see Chechnya Weekly, January 22).

The security officials reportedly told Putin that Kadyrov still has connections with the Chechen militants with whom he used to be allied, and that he is turning the pro-Moscow administration’s police force into “not so much a body for maintaining law and order as Kadyrov’s personal guard.” The anti-Kadyrov charges also included allegations, wrote Nezavisimaya Gazeta, that he still holds secret accounts in foreign banks which he probably opened before the second Chechen war, when he was still one of the leaders of the separatist movement. “The security officials admit,” wrote the newspaper, “that they cannot establish where the enormous sums from these accounts go.”

From these facts–if they are indeed facts–it is said that powerful forces within the Russian government have concluded that Moscow needs a Russian general, not a Chechen civilian, to head the civil government of Chechnya. In a maneuver which the Nezavisimaya Gazeta article called “pragmatic to the point of cynicism,” General Gennady Troshev and his allies within the Kremlin are said to planning a scenario which would include the “complete illusion that Troshev is gaining power contrary to the Kremlin’s wishes.” Under this scenario the general would run and win as an opposition candidate in Chechnya’s presidential election, which would thus appear to be “honest and free from pressure from above.” (Putin fired Troshev in December from his post as commander of Russian troops in Chechnya after the popular general refused a transfer to Siberia. Troshev has now moved to Moscow, where he seems to be laying the groundwork for a new career as a politician.)

Troshev grew up in Grozny, the population of which consisted largely of ethnic Russians like himself before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The quasi-anarchic conditions of the early 1990s, including attacks on Russian civilians by Chechen militants, forced many of these Russians to leave–and many have since favored especially harsh measures against the Chechen separatists. In June 2001 Troshev told the Moscow daily Izvestia that he would like to see public, summary executions of separatist guerrilla fighters.