The end of 2002 saw Akhmad Kadyrov trying to complete the consolidation of his control over the pro-Moscow government apparatus in Chechnya. As of the deadline for this issue of Chechnya Weekly, he apparently has yet to achieve two key breakthroughs that he is seeking–but he may be on the verge of doing so.
It is increasingly clear that Kadyrov wants to replace his prime minister, Anatoly Popov, with an ethnic Chechen who is totally loyal to Kadyrov himself–preferably Eli Isaev (see Chechnya Weekly, December 17.) According to an article by Sergei Migalin and Andrei Riskin in the December 18 issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kadyrov has won the strong support of the Kremlin’s minister for Chechen affairs, Stanislav Ilyasov, on this issue. Ilyasov has been calling for Popov to resign completely from his position–not just to continue his current leave of absence, said to be caused by illness–so that he can be formally replaced.
Popov himself told Nezavisimaya gazeta that he still intends to return to work. Correspondents Migalin and Riskin reported, however, that according to their sources Kadyrov has already been lobbying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s staff for authorization to replace the prime minister, but that he had not yet succeeded as Russia entered the December-January holiday season. One possibility was that the change would take place only in March, after Putin’s own reelection.
But Kadyrov may gather enough allies to achieve his goal fairly soon; he has now won the support of Viktor Kazantsev, the presidential representative for the southern federal okrug. Another sign, small but telling, that Kadyrov is gaining the upper hand on this issue: Official communications now refer to Isaev as “acting,” no longer just as “temporarily acting,” prime minister.
The second potential breakthrough for Kadyrov and his followers lies in his quest for a new treaty formally redefining Chechnya’s administrative relations with the federal center–and increasing Grozny’s control over federal subsidies. The Kremlin has moved slowly in responding to Kadyrov’s entreaties on this point, probably because of the reports of massive embezzlement of those subsidies that Kadyrov’s allies already control. According to Migalin and Riskin, in the coming year Chechnya is to receive about a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies and income from state-controlled monopolies. This makes Kadyrov all the more eager to have those sums controlled by officials absolutely faithful to him.