Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 11

In a live interview with Akhmad Kadyrov aired on March 26, Vladimir Varfolomeyev of the radio station Ekho Moskvy made a crucial distinction–one that has rarely been made either before or since the referendum. Varfolomeyev asked Kadyrov if it had been possible for Chechens who opposed not the idea of a constitutional referendum itself, but rather the particular constitution proposed in this referendum, to voice their opinions in the republic’s print or broadcast media. Kadyrov answered bluntly that there had been no such publications or broadcasts. Those who opposed the constitution, he said, were not “normal opponents” but “enemies,” and therefore there was no need to allow them access to the media.

Kadyrov also used the interview to continue pushing for a transference of power into his hands at the expense of officials more consistently loyal to the federal center. He said that the Ministry of the Interior of the Chechen Republic, which he clearly thought should be subordinated to himself, as president, ought to be in sole charge of security in Chechnya. That suggestion is not likely to endear him to the Russian Ministry of Defense or the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Kadyrov even echoed the charges of human rights advocates suggesting that federal forces were responsible for the many kidnappings of Chechen civilians. “In order not to have to search for who is behind this sort of thing–the FSB or the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Defense–in order not to have to check several agencies, we need to have just one body operating in Chechnya. That agency should be the Ministry of the Interior,” he said. Varfolomeyev then asked about suspicions in the Russian military that Chechen police officers serving under the interior ministry are sometimes allied with the federals by day but with the rebels at night. Kadyrov replied that, in order to restore order in the republic, it would be necessary to trust the Chechen people.

Kadyrov is now an announced candidate for president of Chechnya, as is Moscow-based Chechen businessman Malik Saidullaev.