Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 19

The head of Chechnya’s “pro-Moscow” (a phrase that perhaps should now be used only within quotation marks) administration has taken another large step toward consolidating his personal control over the republic’s “silovye struktury,” or security agencies. The newly appointed commander of the Chechen OMON (the elite police force) is Ruslan Kolkhanov, chief of Akhmad Kadyrov’s personal bodyguard. Kadyrov will thus be able to make the special police part of his own political and economic fiefdom.

As Anna Politkovskaya reminded readers of the May 26 issue of Novaya gazeta, the republic’s OMON has a history of conflict with the bodyguard headed by Kolkhanov. When the OMON’s previous commander, Musa Gazimagomadov, was run over by a truck in March, “the soldiers of his unit understood this as a fulfillment of precisely what the Kadyrov machine had repeatedly threatened to do to Musa.”

According to Politkovskaya’s sources, the appointment of Gazimagomadov’s successor was not decided by the federal Ministry of the Interior in Moscow, to which the Chechen OMON is ostensibly subordinate, but by the Kadyrov administration. “Kadyrov succeeded in personally convincing the president [Putin] that no better candidate existed than Ruslan Kolkhanov…a man with only a rural secondary-school education and with experience in endless battles and kidnappings–and the president agreed.”

Politkovskaya summed up the immediate results as follows: “First, Kadyrov has received possibly 300 more superbly armed fighters (not all of them will be able to swear loyalty to him). Second, he has received control over a unit which earlier was part of the opposition–and he is highly skilled at putting pressure on people.”