Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 120

Akhmed Kadyrov’s swearing-in as head of Chechnya’s provisional administration has again been postponed. Kadyrov reportedly refused to attend the ceremony in the town of Gudermes marking his accession to the post until Viktor Kazantsev, President Vladimir Putin’s representative in the North Caucasus federal district, was present. Kadyrov claimed that Nikolai Koshman, the Russian government’s authorized representative in Chechnya, and his subordinates were hindering the transfer of power. In fact, ten out of eighteen heads of Chechnya’s regions and nineteen out of twenty-seven heads of departments in Koshman’s apparatus sent a letter to Putin saying that it was “impossible for us to work with Kadyrov” (Russian agencies, June 19; Kommersant, June 17). The dissatisfaction of the previous apparatus of the Russian representation in Chechnya is the result, first, of the fact that a number of contenders were vying for the post of Chechnya’s provisional administration chief, including Koshman himself and several of Moscow’s Chechen proteges–Bislan Gantemirov, former head of the Chechen militia, and Malik Saidulaev, head of Chechnya’s unrecognized State Council. Naturally, these men are now trying to discredit their luckier competitor, Kadyrov, all the more so given that they have rather strong reasons not to trust Kadyrov. During the 1994-1996 military campaign, Kadyrov fought against the federal forces. After becoming Chechnya’s mufti in 1996, Kadyrov was one of the main initiators of the idea of creating an Islamic state in Chechnya. An adherent of Sufi Islam, he was forced to switch over to Moscow’s side as a result of his fight with local fundamentalists. After the fundamentalists made four attempts on his life, Kadyrov appealed to Aslan Maskhadov for help, but the Chechen president was powerless to deal with the fundamentalists.

The opposition from Koshman’s apparatus probably plays into Kadyrov’s hands, given that an overwhelming majority of Chechens views those who worked in the Russia government’s apparatus in Chechnya as traitors. Thus that apparatus’s resistance to Kadyrov shows him to be an atypical Moscow protege. Much more dangerous for Kadyrov is his conflict with the leaders of the Chechen resistance. Maskhadov called Kadyrov a traitor who deserves the harshest form of punishment. Meanwhile, on June 16, Umar Idrisov, a Kadyrov supporter, was murdered in Urus-Martan. Idrisov was considered the most likely candidate for the post of Chechnya’s mufti (Kommersant, June 17).

The atmosphere in Chechnya, meanwhile, remains very tense. Russian military officials themselves are saying that a large-scale guerrilla war has begun and could last for years. Over the evening of June 18 into the early hours of June 19, there were nineteen attacks on Russian check-points, military command posts, local police headquarters and border posts. A building belonging to the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Stapropromyslov region of Djohar [Grozny], Chechnya’s capital, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Also on June 19, there was an armed confrontation in a village approximately twelve kilometers west of Djohar, where a rebel unit loyal to former Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov was known to be operating. There was also an attack on a small Russian military armored column on the outskirts of the village of Dolinsky. According to Chechen sources, three armored personnel carriers were destroyed in the attack and their crews killed. The attackers reportedly used rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Another Russian unit in the area reportedly came under rebel fire, and responded with fire from tanks and armored personnel carriers. Meanwhile Russian Interior Ministry units detained more than sixty Chechens during a special operation in Urus-Martan, Sharo-Argun, Beno and other towns. Eight land mines were discovered on the road between the villages of Engena and Krelo-Engena. Russian aviation carried out four intensive bombing raids in the wooded mountainous areas along the Chechen-Georgian border (Radio Liberty, June 19).