In an interview with Kommersant-Vlast published on February 13, Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister, who is currently serving as acting prime minister, spoke on a variety subjects, including his political ambitions and his ban on Danish aid organizations in Chechnya in response to the controversy surrounding a Danish newspaper’s publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (see Chechnya Weekly, February 9).
The weekly magazine asked Kadyrov if his ban on Danish organizations was strictly in response to the cartoons or whether there were additional reasons. “Denmark has always supported the terrorists—for example, [Akhmed] Zakaev,” Kadyrov responded. “He is a murderer, [and] kidnapped people. And one of the people suspected in the attack on Akhmat Kadyrov, according to my information, brought money from Denmark. And generally these organizations never cooperated with the authorities. They gathered information. They were like intelligence agents. Their main goal was to gather information; there was little benefit to the republic from them.”
The cartoons were “the last straw,” Kadyrov said. “I’m a Muslim. After what they allowed in that country in relation to the Prophet, the very word ‘Denmark’ annoys me. Let them say that I am wrong legally, that I must go through the courts. But I will do everything to ensure that those organizations are not in Chechnya. I think the Danish authorities should apologize for what they allowed in those newspapers.” Asked whether he would change his position if the Danish government apologized, Kadyrov answered: “Possibly. That is already the second, third, tenth issue. But, as far as I know, the Danish authorities do not plan to apologize: [they are] independent newspapers, its not their business, and so on. But I think they should apologize. Because they insulted one-and-a-half billion people who practice Islam. For people for whom the name of the Prophet is dear, who live according to his precepts, who are ready to give their lives for him, apologies are not enough. They want punishment for those who insulted the name of the Prophet. I don’t rule out that representatives of Danish organizations could be lynched. Many Muslims want this, including in our republic. These representatives could be taken hostage in order to try and get an apology from Denmark. I have heard such conversations. So that it is possible my decision will be to the good of the Danes themselves. The Danes should say ‘thank you’ to me!”
Kadyrov defended other recent statements and initiatives, including his support for polygamy, his ban on slot machines and his war on bootleg liquor (see Chechnya Weekly, January 19). “I don’t think that any inhabitant of the republic does not support my decision to remove these slot machines from [Grozny],” he said. “Except, of course, for those who shamelessly made money off them. As for polygamy, I did not suggest changing the law [banning polygamy]. I voiced my opinion that it would be good if all of our women were attached. There are more of them than men. And we will not permit debauchery. We are Mulsims, and we must do everything according to our faith. And all of this corresponds to Russian laws. So we declared war on bootleg vodka. During 24 hours, we seized four million bottles of underground alcohol. Is that really against the law?”
Kadyrov repeated his recent claim that Chechnya’s interior ministry can maintain order in the republic without the help of federal troops, adding that the Chechen forces could do the same in other places. “We’ve already dealt with our Wahhabis here,” he said. “They scattered in various directions—to Dagestan, Ingushetia, Azerbaijan.” The officers of the Chechen Interior Ministry, he added, “are 90 percent patriots of our people, in fact patriots of Russia.” He also claimed that federal soldiers are no longer dying in Chechnya as the result of combat but only as the result of “accidents” of various kinds. (Agence France-Presse, it should be noted, reported that three Russian soldiers were killed in fighting with rebels over February 12-13. On February 9, AFP reported that seven Russian soldiers had been killed in clashes over the previous 24 hours.) Asked about who might have been behind last year’s rebel raid on Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kadyrov answered that Chechens had nothing to do with it. “If Chechens had been there, then it wouldn’t have ended so quickly,” he said. “It was their own people there. It was weak guys, which is why it ended quickly—they got the better of them in two hours.”
Kadyrov again insisted that he is not seeking to replace Sergei Abramov—who is recovering from an automobile accident—as Chechnya’s prime minister (see Chechnya Weekly, February 2). Kadyrov conceded, however, that Abramov could step down as prime minister if he is “tired” and that work might be found for him in Moscow. Kadyrov also again dismissed the possibility that he could become Chechnya’s president, saying there is no need even to think about replacing Alu Alkhanov. Yet he said he would accept the post if the “team” in command of the republic said to him: “You must become president.”
Interfax reported on February 13 that Sergei Abramov underwent a hip operation in Germany. Still, Prime Tass on February 14 quoted Abramov as saying in a phone interview from his clinic in Munich that he was being kept informed about Chechen governmental affairs and that he planned to return to Grozny to take up his duties as Chechen prime minister at the beginning of March.