Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 31

In an August 18 article for the newspaper Russky kurier, Zoya Svetova suggested that it may be no accident that Ruslan Khasbulatov’s decision to drop out of the race coincided with that of Aslan Aslakhanov–and his high poll rating–to enter it. Aslakhanov will have the advantage of support among the Chechen diaspora in Moscow, a group totaling about 300,000 people, many of whom remain in close contact with relatives in their homeland. Svetova also suggested that “it cannot be excluded that Aslakhanov has won the support of the Kremlin.”

Khasbulatov told correspondent Musa Muradov of Kommersant in an interview that the newspaper published on August 16 that he had “analyzed the situation very thoroughly, and came to the conclusion that it is not worthwhile for me to take part in this campaign. The conditions for holding a normal election are not there. Three armed groups–the Russian military, the rebel guerrillas and Kadyrov’s people–are controlling the territory of the republic, and at any moment they might interfere in the [electoral] process.” Of course that observation was just as true two weeks earlier, so it remains for observers to guess what changes behind the scenes might have triggered Khasbulatov’s change of mind.

At the time of his Kommersant interview, Khasbulatov was still not ready to say to which of the other candidates he might throw his support. He told Muradov that “among the aspirants there is one candidate with whom I sympathize, and I will give him the appropriate support”–but he declined to identify this person except to state the obvious, that “it is definitely not Kadyrov.”

Just a few days later, however, Khasbulatov was ready to be more forthright. He told Chechnya Weekly in an August 18 telephone interview that he was thinking about endorsing Khusein Dzhabrailov, but had not yet firmly decided. In any case, he said, Kadyrov’s popularity is now so low that even vote-stealing by the Kremlin might not be enough to keep him in office. Dzhabrailov has an excellent chance of winning, Khasbulatov suggested.