New Prime Minister Seen As No Match For Kadyrov

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 12

Last week’s designation of Sergei Abramov as the Kadyrov administration’s new prime minister seems to give both Kadyrov and the Kremlin part of what they want. On the one hand, the new premier is an ethnic Russian, rather than a Chechen as Kadyrov would prefer. On the other hand, Kadyrov will probably find it easy to dominate the young, inexperienced Abramov, all the more so because of the latter’s questionable record.

In public Kadyrov is now taking the line, as he put it last week, that “as long as I am president, the head of the government will be a Russian.” He said that if he had chosen acting premier Eli Isaev, a Chechen, “tomorrow the questions from Moscow would have begun.”

The 32-year-old Abramov was most recently head of the Russian accounting chamber’s section for Chechnya; before that he was the pro-Moscow administration’s finance minister. Mikhail Babich, who was prime minister during part of Abramov’s tenure as finance minister, had some surprisingly harsh things to say about his former subordinate. According to a March 16 article on the website, Babich said that he would give Abramov “a very low rating in his moral qualities. He worked for a year and a half as finance minister without even setting foot in Chechnya. My attempts over two months to get him to return to the republic were unsuccessful.” According to Babich’s version, Kadyrov fired Abramov from the finance ministry both because of his neglect of his duties and because Kadyrov needed to clear a path for a political ally to be appointed to that post.

Babich was quoted by Kommersant on March 17 as predicting that the new premier will now repeat his earlier pattern of absenteeism: “He will spend most of his time in Moscow and will not interfere in the life of the republic, remaining premier only formally. In practice it will be the president’s people who run the government.”

Meanwhile, it did not take long for forces in both Grozny and Moscow to begin maneuvering to place as much blame as possible on former prime minister Anatoly Popov, whose resignation had long been expected, for the republic’s massive corruption. According to a March 22 article by Andrei Riskin in Nezavisimaya gazeta, the federal government’s auditing chamber is charging that more than 5 billion of the 62 billion rubles (about US$2.2 billion) in federal subsidies provided last year for Chechnya’s restoration were misspent. (That figure actually looks like a gross understatement: Even the auditing chamber’s own report admits that not one major industrial plant has been rebuilt in Chechnya.)

The federal auditors’ report went out of its way to point the figure at Popov, noting that “the violations took place either during the period when he was premier, or earlier when he headed the directorate for the restoration of Chechnya.” The Chechen procuracy has now opened a criminal investigation.

A piquant detail: According to Riskin, the auditing chamber’s inspection was initiated by Kadryov himself. Not surprisingly, the auditors have simply ignored the fact that Kadyrov consistently said that Popov was doing a successful job as prime minister–and also the fact that Abramov, the new prime minister, served for two years as the pro-Moscow administration’s finance minister.