Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 20

In an interview with Sobesednik magazine, Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov was asked whether he has “presidential ambitions.” Kadyrov responded: “And why not? Until recently, [I didn’t have] any, but now I’m thinking about it. If the people say, ‘We want to see you as president,’ then I will be president; [if they say they want me to be] an ordinary policeman, then I will be an ordinary policeman.” The interviewer, Akhmirova Rimma, then said: “They will not dare demote you to an ordinary policeman.” Kadyrov responded: “The people here are very independent. I have a videotape [on which] one woman tells me: ‘A half-year ago, I hated you, but now I think a little bit better of you.’ If you don’t listen to anybody, you can get star fever. I like it when the people speak the truth.” A short time later in the interview, Rimma told Kadyrov: “I have already seen your portraits around the whole republic. On the streets, in offices, even on automobile windshields.” Kadyrov responded: “I don’t control this. If they are hanging portraits, it means that the people respect you. If they didn’t love [me], they would throw [me] out; it’s impossible to force them.”

Kadyrov’s comments about his presidential ambitions are interesting in light of the recent reports about growing tensions between him and Chechen President Alu Alkhanov (Chechnya Weekly, May 4 and 11; April 27).

Interfax reported on May 12 that Kadyrov demanded during a meeting attended by the commanders of the federal Defense Ministry’s 42nd Division and the 46th Brigade of the federal Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops that military units in Chechnya on a permanent basis make punctual payments of income tax and land lease tax in their respective districts. The Chechen government’s press service told Interfax that Kadyrov also asked the commanders of the military units to tackle questions connected with the release of administrative buildings in which some security agencies have been accommodated up to now. Kadyrov stressed that there is an acute shortage of buildings and facilities in Chechnya and, in view of this, the military cannot be allowed to hang on endlessly to premises that used to perform a social role.

Meanwhile, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights reported on May 15 that it had submitted a report on secret prisons in Chechnya, entitled “Unofficial Places of Detention in the Chechen Republic,” to Council of Europe Legal Affairs Committee Rapporteur Dick Marty. The report describes the security forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov, the kadyrovtsy, as “the group now most feared by Chechnya’s civilian population, more than federal servicemen.” It also states that the kadyrovtsy maintain “at least two illegal prisons” in Tsentoroi, and others in Gudermes, Geldagan, Urus Martan, Avtury, the village of Dzhalka in the Gudermes district, Achkoi-Martan and Grozny (at least three in the capital). The report details numerous cases of illegal detention and torture in Chechnya’s secret prisons.