Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 6

Moscow’s Tverskoi district court ruled on February 7 that an article published in Kommersant last June 15 violated the honor and dignity of Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. The article, which was titled “Komandante Chechni” [Commandante of Chechnya], with a subtitle reading “kult lichnosti” (cult of personality), was about the rally held in Grozny the previous day, on June 14, marking the first 100 days of Kadyrov’s tenure as Chechnya’s prime minister, which was attended by thousands of people. Other media, including Western news agencies like Reuters, also covered the event (Chechnya Weekly, June 15, 2006).

The Caucasus Times on February 7 quoted the lawyer representing Kadyrov in the case, Aleksei Parshin, as saying that the Kommersant article quoted statements made by a resident of North Ossetia, Vissarion Aseyev, “in which, in a crude form, insults were directed at Kadyrov as a prime minister and a Hero of Russia.” Parshin said that according to the court ruling, Kommersant must publish the ruling and pay Kadyrov 10,000 rubles (approximately $377) for “moral damage.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Kommersant publishing house’s legal department, Georgy Ivanov, told Interfax that the newspaper would appeal the ruling. “We don’t regard the verdict as correct, inasmuch as the ‘information’ that the court ordered to be refuted is pure opinion and evaluation,” he said. He added that the court’s decision had only been made public but not issued formally in written form, meaning that it has not been fully registered legally. As soon as the Tverskoi court issues the ruling formally, Ivanov told Interfax, it would be appealed.

The quotes in the Kommersant article that drove Kadyrov to sue the newspaper were actually in a section appended to the article on the celebrations of his first 100 days as Chechen prime minister. The addendum contained answers given by various politicians to the question: “How do you assess Ramzan Kadyrov?” Vissarion Aseyev, who was identified as a deputy in the People’s Assembly of North Ossetia’s Pravoberezhny district, answered: “How can one assess a criminal? Chechens in Grozny say his power is supported by federal bayonets [and that] if the federal forces leave, Kadyrov will have problems. His place is not in the premier’s chair, but in the electric chair. And the fact that he received the Hero of Russia rank is a stain and a disgrace for all who have been honored with that award.” Of the other eight politicians who were interviewed, all except Boris Nemtsov gave positive or mostly positive assessments of Ramzan Kadyrov.