Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 42

A Congress of Chechen Peoples was held in Grozny on October 31, during which Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov was elected chairman of the Assembly of Chechen Peoples. But while many of Kadyrov’s supporters had expressed hope prior to the congress that the gathering would call on Chechen President Alu Alkhanov to step down in favor of Kadyrov, that did not take place. In fact, Kadyrov himself was a no-show.

Judging by a report published in Kommersant on November 1, the congress was dominated by supporters of Ramzan Kadyrov, including Chechen People’s Assembly Speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov. When Kommersant correspondent Musa Muradov asked Abdurakhmanov to name the republic’s “real” president, Abdurakhmanov replied: “Kadyrov.” He also said that while the issue of Alkhanov’s resignation and replacement by Kadyrov was not on the congress’s agenda, the congress would be bound to respond if one of its delegates proposed this, and Alkhanov would be urged to “take a decision.” This, however, did not transpire. Alkhanov, for his part, told the delegates: “I hope the Congress will do only good to the republic and no one will attempt to put his personal ambitions above the interests of the people.” Kadyrov, for his part, sent the congress a congratulatory telegram.

Kadyrov, it should be recalled, has repeatedly claimed that he is not ready to assume the Chechen presidency, although some observers have suggested that his reticence in this regard is more tactical than genuine (Chechnya Weekly, October 5, September 28 and August 17). The real issue may be that Kadyrov’s sponsors in Moscow – and above all President Vladimir Putin – may not be ready to see him in that role. Indeed, Vedomosti reported on October 31: “A source in the plenipotentiary representative office of Chechnya in Moscow says that they are not yet ready in the Kremlin to see Kadyrov as president. A situation in which a nominal president is a factor restraining the real-but-too-active premier fully suits the federal center, the source says.” However, the newspaper also quoted Emil Pain, director of the Center of Ethnopolitical and Regional Studies in Moscow, as saying that the current situation of two rival leaders cannot continue for long and that there is a strong likelihood that Kadyrov will be boosted into sole leadership in the republic “from below.”

Meanwhile, Kadyrov traveled to Moscow on November 1, where he met with First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss “the implementation of national priority projects in Chechnya,” Itar-Tass reported. According to the news agency, he also discussed rebuilding Chechnya’s economy with Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin.