Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 25

The Kremlin has officially announced that Sunday, October 5, has been set as the date of Chechnya’s presidential election. That early date (almost as early as possible under the new pro-Moscow constitution, which requires an interval of at least six months after the constitutional referendum) is thought to be advantageous for frontrunner and de facto incumbent Akhmad Kadyrov. The same is true of President Putin’s statement on July 4 that, after the election, “the full plenitude of power” will be in the hands of the winner. Though the federal center is capable of instant surprises and reversals, this and other signals suggest that for the time being Putin is still placing his stake on Kadyrov. For example, Kremlin loyalist Anatoly Popov, the ethnic Russian now serving as prime minister in Chechnya’s Moscow-appointed government, publicly predicted on July 8 that Kadyrov would win the forthcoming presidential race. “The question is clear to everyone,” he said.

Yet another such indication was the July 8 announcement by the head of Chechnya’s electoral commission that the October election will be conducted according to the same rules as the Kadyrov-dominated March constitutional referendum. According to an article by Andrei Riskin in the July 7 issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta, the head of the federal election commission in Moscow had called for the election to take place in December, but he was overruled. One can understand why Kadyrov seems increasingly confident, even hubristic. According to a July 6 article on the Gzt.ru website, his office in Grozny is already using letterheads for presidential correspondence and other official documents on which is printed the phrase, “President of the Chechen Republic Akhmad Kadyrov.” That is, he is not using “Acting President” as the March constitution manifestly requires, but “President” pure and simple.

Though Kadyrov’s recent string of tactical victories is impressive, it is clear that he has many unreconciled foes in Moscow–and that they are not shrinking in number or in the intensity of their opposition. Riskin of Nezavisimaya gazeta, whose articles have taken on an increasingly anti-Kadyrov tone in recent weeks, grumbled that “one is now getting the impression…that this man has been getting so many concessions lately from the Kremlin that it is impossible to believe what the federal center might now refuse him.” Riskin cited reports from Putin’s meeting last week with Kadyrov, during which (according to newsru.com) the latter freely admitted that there are traitors in the Chechen Interior Ministry and that it would be impossible to get rid of them all. Kadyrov was quoted as saying that the head of internal affairs for the city of Argun constantly receives complaints that he has thirty traitors working for him, “and he answers that he knows this but cannot do anything about it because he does not have proof.” That sort of thing infuriates even moderate Russian nationalists, and they may yet succeed in bringing Kadyrov down.