Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 10

Chechnya’s parliament unanimously confirmed Ramzan Kadyrov as the republic’s prime minister on March 4, two days after Chechen President Alu Alkhanov nominated him to replace Sergei Abramov, who resigned in late February. Kadyrov had been serving as acting prime minister since Abramov was in a car accident last November (see Chechnya Weekly, March 6).

The speaker of Chechnya’s Parliament, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, praised Kadyrov on March 4 as “an experienced silovik, politician and manager,” Kommersant reported on March 6. “First of all, thanks to the activities of the security service he [Kadyrov] heads, the zachistki in Chechnya that horrified the population have ceased. Second, Ramzan heads the regions branch of United Russia, which won the [parliamentary] elections. And third, under Ramzan’s direct leadership, in a short period Grozny has begun to transform and leading enterprises are being restored.” President Alkhanov should be thanked for nominating Kadyrov, Abdurakhmanov said.

After signing a presidential decree making Kadyrov’s accession as prime minister official, Alkhanov called Kadyrov a “genuine politician” and “the leader of our team,” newsru.com reported on March 4. “I know that he will be working for the good of the republic not sparing himself, because he is the son of the first president of Chechnya Akhmad Kadyrov, who wanted the republic to live in peace and prosperity.”

Interestingly, Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on March 6 that the confirmation of Kadyrov as prime minister was supposed to have taken place on March 2 and that this date had been officially announced. Asked why it did not happen that day, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov told the newspaper he could not understand why it had not gone ahead as scheduled. Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center told Nezavisimaya gazeta that Moscow had decided “to play on Kadyrov’s nerves so that he doesn’t think he can be as independent as Dudaev.” According to the newspaper, another theory for the delay in Kadyrov’s confirmation was that there were no clear agreements on Chechnya’s oil-and-gas complex. Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that Kadyrov not long ago made “a series of tough statements in which he demanded that the oil-and-gas complex be handed over the to the control of the republican authorities.”

Still, Kadyrov and President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dmitry Kozak, met in Rostov-on-Don on the eve of Kadyrov’s confirmation as prime minister. The meeting was apparently an attempt by the federal authorities to, as Nezavisimaya gazeta put it, “smooth over the conflict situation” that arose after Kozak’s office asked federal prosecutors to ascertain the legality of Kadyrov’s ban on the Danish Refugee Council in response to a Danish newspaper’s cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad and the accuracy of press reports that the study of the Koran and Sharia law had been made mandatory in Chechen schools (see Chechnya Weekly, February 23). Kozak’s press secretary, Fyodor Shcherbakov, told Nezavisimaya gazeta that the Prosecutor General’s Office had concluded that “no acts or instructions” had been promulgated obligating “the Chechen organs of state power” to prohibit the Danish Refugee Council’s work and that press reports about mandatory study of the Koran and Sharia in Chechnya’s schools were “contrary to the facts.”

Kadyrov told Kommersant after his confirmation as prime minister that his cabinet would have to resign en masse if “after three months positive changes don’t begin,” and that he himself would also step down. Kommersant on March 6 also carried an interview with Alu Alkhanov. The newspaper noted that the Chechen president, who held the rank of major-general in the Interior Ministry, was promoted by President Putin on February 28 to the rank of lieutenant general, and asked him whether there was any basis for rumors that he would soon be given a high federal post. “Anything is possible,” Alkhanov answered. “It is a normal practice, when the heads of a region are offered high posts in federal structures. If such an offer is forthcoming, I will consider it, assess my options and make a decision. But thus far there are no grounds for discussing this topic. These rumors are groundless.” Many observers believe that Kadyrov is poised to take over as Chechen president after October 5 of this year, when he will turn 30, the earliest age at which the Chechen constitution would allow him to assume the post. Indeed, Nezavisimya gazeta wrote on March 6 that in promoting Alkhanov to the rank of lieutenant general, the Kremlin was “sweetening the pill” for Alkhanov, who is “increasingly losing real power in the republic.”

Ramzan Kadyrov’s elevation to the post of Chechen prime minister marks a transition from the policy of “Chechenization” to a policy of “Kadyrization,” Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote. “Gradually, Chechen police and military formations have begun to play a larger and larger role in the force aspect [of the conflict],” the newspaper wrote. “A graphic example: practically all the large operations to liquidate militants are being carried out by the ‘Zapad’ and ‘Vostok’ battalions of the Russian Federation Defense Ministry, which are made up of Chechens. The process of ‘Chechenization’ was completed with the election of a new parliament. The fact that two deputies had in the past fought on the side of the separatists is given as evidence of a certain tolerance that has emerged in Chechen society. Meanwhile, it is no secret that the selection of candidates for the parliament took place under Kadyrov’s personal control. Ramzan controls in the republic not only the power structures, but also the parliament, the most powerful party, and now also the government (and thus all the financial flows). Therefore it seems as if the process of ‘Chechenization’ has changed vector and one might as well talk about the ‘Kadyrization’ of the republic.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta also wrote that while Kadyrov is currently doing everything possible to demonstrate his loyalty to the federal authorities, it is impossible to predict what will happen in the future. “Yes, Ramzan as a politician is still learning (and in many respects has succeeded), but he is still a long way from the truly Eastern wisdom his father possessed. His unexpected statements (from introducing polygamy to the striving to extend Chechnya’s borders) and his inability to admit his own mistakes testify to this.”

Commenting on Kadyrov’s statement that he would resign as prime minister in three months if there were no signs of “positive changes,” the separatist Chechenpress news agency wrote on March 6: “Apparently, the ‘academic’”—a reference to the fact that Kadyrov was made an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (see Chechnya Weekly, January 19)—“and the people have greatly different ideas about ‘changes for the better.’ Changes for the better, in the people’s view, [would be] putting kidnappers, murderers and racketeers behind bars. However, the rulers of Russia, who blew up apartment buildings with citizens sleeping inside for the sake of coming to power, have their own logic and line of behavior, and the continuity of tradition was demonstrated with the nomination of the criminal Kadyrov.” The Chechenpress commentary added: “You don’t have to be an academician to see that fighting in Chechnya will only get worse within the next three months of the spring. If anyone were to pay any attention to Kadyrov’s remarks, he would be forced to give up his ‘premiership’ by 4 June.”

Meanwhile, NTV reported on March 7 that Kadyrov had issued an order banning women from appearing in official institutions without wearing headscarves. He told the television station that the wearing of headscarves by women was among Chechnya’s “good” and “beautiful” traditions and customs. Kadyrov also congratulated Chechen women ahead of the March 8 International Women’s Day holiday, and NTV showed him meeting a group of women.

Chechnya’s Parliament on March 6 confirmed President Alu Alkhanov’s nomination of Odes Baisultanov to replace Ramzan Kadyrov as the republican government’s deputy prime minister, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on March 7.