Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 122

On June 20, just eight days after President Vladimir Putin named Akhmed Kadyrov, Chechnya’s mufti, head of the republic’s provisional administration, General Viktor Kazantsev, Putin’s representative in the newly formed North Caucasus federal district, finally presented Kadyrov to his subordinates. Various top officials participated in the ceremony, including First Deputy Interior Minister General Ivan Golubev; General Ivan Babichev, Chechnya’s military commandant; and the heads of Chechnya’s regional administrations. The delay in Kadyrov’s swearing-in was the result of open opposition to his appointment by a significant part of the previous provisional administration, who sent Putin a letter saying they could not work with Kadyrov. Immediately following Kadyrov’s official accession to his new post, forty-three of 129 employees of the provisional administration handed in their resignations.

Despite this, Kadyrov offered his subordinates an olive branch, saying he was ready to work with anyone, regardless of nationality or religion, and that he had not taken offense at the criticism directed at him. The day after Kadyrov’s inauguration, the new administration head tried to settle the republic’s conflict. He again announced his intention to meet with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Kadyrov first suggested meeting with Maskhadov, which goes directly against the Kremlin’s position, immediately after Putin named him provisional administration head. This time, however, Kadyrov softened his position, saying he would meet with Maskhadov if the Chechen president would announce “plans to put down arms, end the war and do everything possible to establish peace in the Chechen republic.” Kadyrov also said that he had asked Putin to given him two weeks to solve the problems of ending resistance and legalizing those rebel fighters who had not committed serious crimes and were ready to stop fighting. This statement was significant given that, according the human rights group Memorial, former Chechen fighters who were amnestied by the federal authorities are being jailed (Russian agencies, June 20-21; Itogi, June 13; see also the Monitor, June 19).

The rebels, meanwhile, have apparently paid little attention to Kadyrov’s calls for peace. The Kremlin feared the rebels would try to disrupt Kadyrov’s inauguration, so the event took place under heavy security, with armor and snipers deployed all around Gudermes, the site of the ceremony. The night before, rebel fighters had tried to attack the city from all directions, using machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. A unit of transport police who were guarding a railroad bridge in the eastern part of the city were forced to call in artillery strikes on their own positions. Internal troops and police forces located in the city were reinforced with army units. By morning, the rebel attackers withdrew. The number of killed and wounded on both sides is still unknown (Radio Liberty, June 20).