In a major scoop, the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya gazeta finds that Kadyrov has now won the final round of his long campaign to see to it that every major political appointee in Chechnya will be someone personally dependent on himself. Two of the newspaper’s correspondents, Sergei Migalin and Andrei Riskin, wrote in a January 12 article that the republic’s prime minister, Anatoly Popov, will definitely not be returning to Chechnya–even though he has now been released from the Moscow hospital that had been treating him. Popov was the only remaining representative of the federal center holding a high ranking position within the Kadyrov administration.
Though Popov had previously said that he would go back to work on December 22 (see Chechnya Weekly, January 7), some three weeks later he had yet to appear in Grozny. As of January 5 he is formally “on vacation.”
According to Migalin and Riskin, “the prime minister himself does not know how long this vacation will last; he told Nezavisimaya gazeta that he ‘has not had a rest for the last three years and doesn’t know yet when he will get back to work.’ It is now obvious that the prime minister is never going to return to his ‘battle station.’ At present he is in the United Arab Emirates. Asked by Nezavisimaya gazeta ‘Do you intend to return to Chechnya after your vacation, or…,’ he answered curtly: ‘Or.’ It is true, however, that after a short pause he added a condition: ‘We shall see.'”
Kadyrov seems to have sent mixed signals last month about his intentions. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta’s sources, he not only visited Popov in Moscow but even stayed overnight in his hospital ward. Neither of the two even mentioned the possibility of Popov’s resignation, the latter told the newspaper. But just a few days later, Kadyrov was quietly lobbying the Kremlin for just that.
Migalin and Riskin wrote that their sources continue to assert, as they did last month, that the Kremlin declined to oust Popov before Russia’s March 14 presidential election. But the correspondents predicted that Popov’s current “vacation” will end up lasting for another two months, thus keeping him away from Chechnya until that date. Afterward, as they put it, “there will not remain even one person in Kadyrov’s circle representing the interests of the federal center within the republic.”