Despite continuing rumbles of discontent from the “siloviki” of the Moscow center’s security agencies, new signs are appearing that Alu Alkhanov will be able to increase the pro-Moscow administration’s control of federal subsidies after his near-certain victory in the upcoming August 29 special election. According to a report by Konstantin Sandalov in the August 6 issue of Novye izvestia, “starting on January 1 of 2005 the administration of Chechnya will decide for itself where to direct the flows of money—except for matters of federal importance.” Though that exception would still seem to leave much room for maneuver, Sandalov believes that “the question of transferring the functions of the federal donor to the government of the Chechen Republic has already been decided.”
About Alkhanov’s goal there seems little doubt: At an August 8 session of the Federation Council (the upper house of the federal parliament), he called for the creation of a free economic zone in Chechnya. Commentator Vitaly Portnikov observed on the Politcom.ru website on August 10 that the pro-Moscow administration’s president-to-be is seeking “legalized license to do whatever he wants” with the republic’s resources.
Meanwhile, in what may be only a pre-election move calculated to boost Alkhanov’s popularity, President Vladimir Putin announced on August 22 his support of a proposal to use all income from Chechen oil sales for the support of rebuilding the republic’s economy. Putin’s embrace of the idea remained vague; it came during his working vacation at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he met with several officials of the pro-Moscow administration including Alkhanov himself.
As reported by Itar-Tass, Putin called the proposal “possible” and said “Send the proposal to the chairman of the [Russian] government, I’ll discuss it with him…If necessary the government will do this by its own decision, but if changes are needed at a legislative level I am prepared to send the necessary request to the deputies of the State Duma.”