Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 29

In an interview conducted by the award-winning war correspondent Anna Politkovskaya, which appeared in the October 3 issue of the twice-weekly Novaya Gazeta, Yan Sergunin, a convert to Islam who serves as head of the apparatus of Kadyrov’s Chechen administration, insisted that “Kadyrov needs full power.” “Today,” he complained, “everything is dispersed. There are a great many bosses in charge of Chechnya: Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko; chairman of the state commission on Chechnya Vladimir Elagin (also minister for Chechnya), the presidential administration, the Security Council, and so on. But if you ask who concretely answers for the fact that a detachment [under the command of rebel leader Ruslan Gelaev] entered Ingushetia and that there were battles, you will not find him. My proposal is simple: One federal official must be responsible for the social, military and economic situation in Chechnya–for everything.” When Politkovskaya proceeded to ask, “Probably you have a candidate in mind?” Sergunin responded: “Yes, Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration who oversees regional policy. He is influential. The situation in reality depends upon his reports to the president. I don’t recall there being a recent instance when Viktor Borisovich Khristenko met with the president…. In addition, he [Surkov] is half-Chechen. Why then not have Surkov as the sole official responsible for bringing the counterterrorist operation to a close…. I call on all political forces in Chechnya to consolidate, today, around Kadyrov.”

During the course of his interview with Politkovskaya, Sergunin readily admitted that relations between Kadyrov and the Russian power ministries based in Chechnya were far from optimal. When Stanislav Il’yasov, the [ethnic Russian] prime minister of Chechnya, travels about the republic, Sergunin noted, he is protected by soldiers of the elite federal special forces unit SOBR of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Kadyrov, by contrast, is protected by sixty police from the MVD of Chechnya. “Can we conclude from this,” Politkovskaya asked, “that Kadyrov simply does not entrust his life to the officers of the federal services?” “No, he trusts them,” Sergunin replied, “But taking the situation into account, such people next to him would be cannon fodder. Like any mortal man, Kadyrov wants to survive.” Sergunin then went on to complain about FSB units based in Chechnya: “I remember a case in the spring of 2002 when Kadyrov’s guard took into custody one of the Wahhabis emirs. They handed him over to the FSB at Khankala [military base]. Personally to General Babkin, the head of the FSB for Chechnya…. However, his subordinates let the emir go, despite the fact that he was a particularly dangerous criminal on the federal wanted list. They said that one letter in the emir’s last name had been spelled incorrectly…. What is the result? The law does not work in Chechnya.”