Moscow May Be Planning to Sideline Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 90

(Source: Ramzan Kadyrov’s Telegram,

Executive Summary:

  • Ramzan Kadyrov’s regime in Chechnya is showing signs of weakness, and Moscow may want to exploit Kadyrov’s difficulties to install a more pliable figure as the region’s new leader.
  • The large-scale invasion of Ukraine limits the Kremlin’s ability to manipulate regional elites in Chechnya due to their contributions to Russian manpower on the frontlines.
  • A transition of power in Chechnya would carry with it a significant potential for instability as the sudden changes in leadership, underlying tensions, and power struggles could destabilize the region’s power dynamics.

After years of stability, Ramzan Kadyrov’s regime in Chechnya is now in flux. On May 15, Magomed Daudov, speaker of the Chechen parliament and one of Kadyrov’s closest associates, made a surprise announcement that he was resigning. Daudov, who had been the head of the Chechen parliament since 2015, was replaced by his deputy, Shaid Zhamaldaev. Just one day before, on May 14, the Chechen parliament’s speaker had proudly announced the dispatch of another group of Chechens to fight for Russia in Ukraine. On May 23, Daudov further shook the status quo by resigning as the president of the soccer club Akhmat Grozny, a role he had held since 2011. He was replaced by Ramzan Kadyrov’s son, Akhmat Kadyrov. The surprises continued on May 24, when Daudov was appointed as the prime minister of Chechnya, with his predecessor Muslim Khuchiev being sent to Moscow as an aide to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin (RBK, May 25;, accessed June 12). The recent developments in Chechnya illustrate the evolving power dynamics in Russia. These changes suggest that the Kremlin might be becoming increasingly worried about maintaining control, particularly in regions with a history of seeking greater autonomy, such as Chechnya.

Reports about Ramzan Kadyrov’s deteriorating health have appeared regularly since 2019. Most recently, a report from Novaya Gazeta claimed that the 47-year-old Chechen ruler was terminally ill with pancreatic necrosis and speculated that the Kremlin might be looking for his replacement. According to the report, the Kremlin may be touting Apti Alaudinov as the next governor of Chechnya. Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Alaudinov as the deputy head of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces in April. Previously, he was the commander of the volunteer formation Akhmat for two years and has a background in Chechen law enforcement, known as kadyrovtsy or kadyrovites. The appointment was an astounding career boost for Alaudinov who had never served in the regular armed forces before (Novaya Gazeta-Evropa, April 22).

Kadyrov’s sons Akhmat and Adam and his henchmen Magomed Daudov and Adam Delimkhanov are also often named among the potential successors to the Chechen leadership. Numerous members of the Kadyrov family have not only flooded government positions in Chechnya but have also become known for their feuds (Novaya Gazeta-Evropa, April 24). According to sources in the Russian security services, however, the Russian government is not inclined to allow Kadyrov to perpetuate his rule by appointing either one of his sons or a close associate as the next governor of Chechnya. Instead, Moscow allegedly contemplates a significant overhaul of the system of governance in the region, which aims at rendering it more like other regions within the Russian Federation. As such, the Kremlin may be betting on Alaudinov and at least one other unnamed candidate as the next governor of Chechnya (Novaya Gazeta-Evropa, May 6).

The purported drastic changes in Chechnya are typical for imperial powers that gradually decrease the level of political autonomy for newly conquered territories. After Russia defeated the pro-independence forces in Chechnya during the Second Chechen War, the Kadyrov clan was allowed an unprecedented level of political autonomy to use brutal force to suppress the remaining elements of the pro-independence movement. Now that Ramzan Kadyrov has completed the pacification of the region for Moscow and, in the process, accrued significant political and military power, some Russian strategists want to finalize the absorption of Chechnya back into Russia (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 23). After Ramzan Kadyrov’s demise, Moscow likely plans to curb the Chechen leadership’s liberties. Russian officials believe that most Chechens have become so disillusioned with Kadyrov’s rule that they will be happy to accept any Moscow appointee and that there will be no major revolt (Novaya Gazeta-Evropa, May 10).

In peacetime, the Russian government’s tactics for Chechnya’s final subjugation may have already played out. As the “long war” against Ukraine rages, Moscow’s ability to manipulate regional elites has diminished. The Russian army relies disproportionately on the ethnically non-Russian regions for military recruitment. Without full-scale mobilization, the Russian military focuses on recruiting volunteers who come primarily from poor regions in the periphery, where men are more desperate to find well-paying jobs (see EDM, June 12, October 31, November 8, 2023, April 9, 16, 30; BBC, May 17). Chechnya, in particular, is known as one of the hubs where Russian soldiers can receive quick military training at Russian Special Forces University and then are sent to fight in Ukraine (TASS, February 19).

On May 22, Ramzan Kadyrov met with Putin in Moscow. Kadyrov elucidated Chechnya’s economic development and contributions to the Russian war effort. According to the Chechen warlord, 43,500 recruits, including 18,000 volunteers, went through the training center in Chechnya before being dispatched to the frontlines. Moreover, he boasted of “several tens of thousands” fighters from the reserve ready to be deployed in Ukraine (TASS;, May 22).

It remains unclear whether Kadyrov’s ability to garner support for the Chechen participation in Russia’s war against Ukraine will be matched by a potential successor. Such a development may be especially doubtful as Moscow appears to be bent on decreasing the level of political autonomy of the next generation of Chechnya’s leadership. The Kremlin’s bet that the majority of Chechens are fed up with the monopoly on power enjoyed by the Kadyrov family in the region is not unreasonable. Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine how different actors will react to any abrupt changes in the region’s governance. Ramzan Kadyrov and his people are undoubtedly aware of Moscow’s reported plans and will work hard to thwart them. The leaked information about Kadyrov’s health is likely only part of the ongoing political process. Alternative ways of dealing with Chechnya may already exist on paper in the Kremlin. The mounting costs of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its standoff with the West further limit Moscow’s options in addressing regional challenges.