Anna Politkovskaya is among those observers who believe that Kadyrov has not yet wrapped up his election victory and that the Kremlin is still keeping other options available. In a September 8 article for Novaya gazeta she wrote that Moscow deliberately chose to tolerate the recent arrival in Chechnya of a key separatist leader, Vagan Tutakov, who has been functioning as a mediator between Aslan Maskhadov “and one of the candidates for the presidency of Chechnya, on whom the Putin administration is still placing a stake just as on Kadyrov, despite prevailing opinion to the contrary.” (Politkovskaya implied, but did not explicitly state, that this opposition candidate is Malik Saidullaev.) Nevertheless, she wrote, the Kremlin includes a powerful faction opposed to that tactic–and it seems to be this faction that recently arranged the murder of one of Tutakov’s relatives.
Tutakov has lived outside Chechnya since the beginning of the second Chechen war, and according to Politkovskaya he could not have returned “without the most serious guarantees of security.” His “extremely important” mission, she wrote, received such guarantees from the Kremlin thanks to pressure from the Council of Europe and from candidate Saidullaev.
During what Politkovskaya called Tutakov’s “unprecedented peacemaking mission,” he spent a night as the guest of a close relative in western Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district. That relative, one Umar Mukhtarov, was later seized by a group of unidentified gunmen in a post-midnight raid on his home. In a scenario all too familiar in today’s Chechnya, he was then taken outdoors and shot.
Politkovskaya called this murder “a typical liquidation for show,” intended by the special services to serve as a warning against others who might attempt such peace missions–while technically not violating the security guarantee that had been provided to Tutakov himself. The latter, she wrote, will depart for the west and will now stay out of Chechnya so as to avoid endangering his other relatives. She expressed uncertainty as to which of the special services was responsible–“perhaps the GRU, or perhaps the TsSN–the assassins of the FSB’s special-operations center.”
The episode confirms, wrote Politkovskaya, the Kremlin’s lack of unity, its true nature as a place dominated not by the single, overriding will of Vladimir Putin but by ongoing struggles between various hidden factions. “Some of the Kremlin’s people are oriented toward the FSB, others toward the GRU, and still others think that they can deal with things themselves.”