Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 41

.In the period since he was the beneficiary of a meeting in the Kremlin with President Putin on October 15, Akhmad Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow head of the civilian administration of Chechnya, has significantly strengthened his position in the republic. In an article entitled “Akhmad Kadyrov Will Administer Chechnya By Himself,” which appeared in the November 8 issue of Izvestiya, journalist Anastasiya Shvedova observed: “Recently Kadyrov’s administration has undertaken a series of steps that have essentially altered the balance of forces in the republic. The key event can be considered a special meeting (or negotiations) of Vladimir Putin and Akhmad Kadyrov which took place on October 15.” And Shvedova continued: “As Izvestia has been able to elucidate, the initiator and chief lobbyist [within the Kremlin] for the meeting was the chief of the presidential administration Aleksandr Voloshin.” In the words of one high-ranking pro-Moscow Chechen administrator: “Kadyrov personally approached Voloshin and, through him, was able to convince the president that he [that is, Kadyrov] and only he knows how to administer the republic.”

In essence, Shvedova wrote, Putin and Kadyrov appeared to have struck a broad-ranging deal on October 15. Relying on the influence of his own influential clan and allied groups, Kadyrov has pledged “to drive out the Arabs and other mercenaries out of the republic.” In exchange for this pledge, he has received permission to “curtail within Chechnya the power of [prime minister] Il’yasov and of other federal structures.” Putin was reported to have “given his approval to this experiment.” The upshot of the deal, as one source for Izvestia put it, is that: “Now, in reality, all power and money belong to the clan of Kadyrov.”

Before the October 15 agreement, Shvedova noted, an elaborate vetting procedure had been in place requiring Kadyrov and his team to secure approval for major appointments in the republic from Viktor Kazantsev, plenipotentiary presidential representative in the Southern federal District; minister of the government of Russia for Chechnya Vladimir Elagin; and from FSB director Nikolai Patrushev, the formal head of the counterterrorist operation. Kazantsev’s deputy, Nikolai Britvin, de facto also had a major say in all questions of cadres. “Now,” as Kadyrov’s plenipotentiary representative to the Kremlin, Adlan Magomadov, put it, “Kadyrov does not have to vet these appointments with an enormous number of [Russian] agencies as was previously the case. To be more precise, the vettings of course remain, but in a milder form. Previously a candidate we proposed had to wait half a year for approval.” Following the mid-October meeting of Kadyrov with Putin, two pro-Moscow ministers were quickly approved: Umar Yasaev as minister of heating fuel and energy, and Said-Ali Ediev as minister of transport. In addition, it appears that an ethnic Chechen will shortly be named to replace Sergei Arenin, a Russian, as the republic’s MVD minister.

In an indication that Kadyrov might soon achieve his aim of having a Chechen MVD staffed by ethnic Chechens replace structures of the Russian MVD currently present in the republic, the Chechen head of administration, on November 6, chaired a meeting of the republic’s pro-Moscow security council. In attendance were FSB Lieutenant General Anatoly Ezhkov, head of that organization’s North Caucasus Regional Operational Headquarters (Ezhkov is also a deputy director of the FSB); Colonel General Gennady Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District; Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, commander of the Combined Group of Russian Forces in Chechnya; and Major General Sergei Kizyun, the military commandant of Chechnya. Noticeably absent from the meeting were high-ranking representatives from the Russian MVD. All of those present at the meeting were reported to have “supported the opinion of A. Kadyrov concerning the necessity of reorganizing the structure of the Internal Affairs [in Chechnya]…. A decision was taken to appeal to the MVD of the Russian Federation with this proposal” (Strana.ru, November 6).

On November 9, it was announced that the number of pro-Moscow Chechen police in the republic will be increased during 2002 from the current 6,250 persons to 10,000. A training center for the preparation of new MVD cadres has been opened in Naurskii District. Each month, the center will be able to turn out 140 new police officers (Interfax-AVN, November 9). Citing the opinion of the elected representative to the Russian State Duma from Chechnya, retired MVD general Aslambek Aslakhanov, Strana.ru wrote on November 8 that “a colonel from the FSB named Peshkhoev, who in recent years served somewhere in the Volga region,” was likely to be named the new head of the Chechen MVD.

Other initiatives spearheaded by the newly empowered Kadyrov and by his associates have also been announced. There are to be, for example, a new anthem and new coat of arms for Chechnya. A competition is to be held to help generate “the best idea” for replacing the current anthem and present national emblem. The words of the new anthem are to be sung both in Chechen and in Russian, “the state language within Chechnya” (Gazeta.ru, November 5). The pro-Moscow government has also developed a new program entitled “Youth of Chechnya,” aimed at the estimated 300,000 young people in the republic who are between the ages of 14 and 28. The goal of the program is to forestall their joining “the bandit formations” (Izvestia, November 8). Last, in December of this year republican media are to publish draft texts for a new Constitution of the Chechen Republic. A referendum on adopting the constitution will then be held in Chechnya and in fifty regions of the Russian Federation where former residents of Chechnya are said to live (RIA Novosti, November 6).

Despite the undeniable vigor and energy which Kadyrov and his entourage have injected into this new program of “Chechenization”–an initiative that President Putin is also strongly backing (at least for now)–serious questions remain as to whether the effort will succeed. On the subject of the new anthem and emblem, an official spokesman for separatist president Aslan Maskhadov, Mairbek Vachagaev, recently commented: “Everything they adopt and undertake is illegal and illegitimate, and, with the withdrawal from Chechnya of the Russian forces, it will all be annulled on the first day, in the first hour, in the first minute” (Vesti.ru, November 6).

Doubts remain as well as to whether Kadyrov and his associates will physically be around to witness the fruition of their plans. On November 6, a thirteenth assassination attempt was made against Kadyrov. While his automobile cavalcade of six cars was passing at great speed through the town of Argun, it came under heavy machine gun and automatic weapon fire from separatists, who rose up from the rubble of a ruined house. “Thanks to the great speed at which Kadyrov’s vehicle was traveling and the experience of his driver, they succeeded in escaping the fire zone” (Utro.ru, November 8; Kommersant, November 9). Kadyrov blamed Maskhadov and other separatist leaders for the attack.

Since the recent tragedy in which two Russian generals and eight colonels, many of them attached to the military General Staff, were shot down and killed by unidentified persons over the Chechen capital, Kadyrov has insisted on moving about the republic only by means of ground transportation. One week before the attempt on Kadyrov’s life, Yan Sergunin, a convert to Islam who is the newly named head of the government apparatus in Chechnya, and who is a Kadyrov protege, was fired on as he sped past in a Volga sedan. And, on the same day, in the same district in which Sergunin had been attacked, five pro-Moscow police officers, including a police colonel named Gairbakov, were shot dead in an ambush (Gazeta.ru, November 8). Due to the frequency and deadliness of such attacks, it remains unclear whether the Moscow-sponsored program of Chechenization has a realistic chance of succeeding.