Chechen State Council Chairman Taus Dzhabrailov filed suit against Novaya gazeta in Moscow’s Basmanny Court on November 21, demanding that it retract information contained in an article published in the bi-weekly’s November 17 issue. The article, written by Anna Politkovskaya, was headlined: “A zindan for secret voting: in Chechnya, which has practically returned to the Middle Ages, elections for republican deputies will take place in ten days.” A zindan is a pit used to keep prisoners or hostages; the elections referred to in the headline are the republic parliamentary elections, set for November 27.
Dzhabrailov charged that the article contained lies about Chechnya and his relations with the republic’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Ramzan Kadyrov. “I filed suit to protect my honor and dignity and demand a disclaimer of information contained in Anna Politkovskaya’s article,” Dzhabrailov told Interfax. “As Chechen State Council chairman, a candidate to the Chechen parliament and a citizen, I suffered moral and material damage, which I estimate conservatively at $1 million.” He added that he believed that the article was an attempt to drive a wedge between him and the current leadership and that its appearance just days before Chechnya’s parliamentary elections was part of an attempt to tarnish his reputation. Commenting on Dzhabrailov’s statement, Novaya gazeta deputy editor Sergei Sokolov, said: “Our newspaper has been asked to pay out a million dollars more than once, and, as is known, it ended in nothing.”
The overall charge Politkovskaya made in her article is that officials in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration engage in massive looting of state funds and then have to pay “tribute” to the Kadyrov clan or face kidnapping “with a fatal outcome.”
“Even a year ago, during the first months after the accession of Kadyrov-the-son, [ original term] ‘our own’ [svoi] in Chechnya meant loyal people,” Politkovskaya wrote. “It is another matter that ‘loyal’ above all meant tied by blood [kinship], but, all the same, [it meant] loyal. Today ‘our own’ is he who steals and is able to pay tribute. All officials in Chechnya and all siloviki pay it [tribute] to the top, to the Kadyrov clan, and the higher the official, the bigger the sum… And they pay it on a continuing basis. Just one district police department, for example, is expected to pay monthly the number of [its] real working employees times a thousand. 150 employees—$150,000 per month in Tsentoroi [the Kadyrovs’ native village].”
Politkovskaya cited several specific examples, including that of “Taus,” who was “most loyal of the loyal,” having first served Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadyrov and then “by right of succession switching to Ramzan, whom he had known since [Ramzan’s] childhood. Taus dreamed of being a big politician: it is he who developed the treaty on delimiting powers [between Moscow and Chechnya], traveled for an appointment with [deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vladislav] Surkov.” Politkovskaya claimed that “Taus” and Ramzan Kadyrov had a falling out. “Even the most loyal of the loyal could not endure the super-insolence of the Kadyrov gang and the super-exactions that they imposed on the republic,” she wrote. “And exercising his rights as an old comrade, [“Taus”] dared to say something to the utterly unrestrained Ramzan. And Ramzan beat him like a dog. Publicly. As he is in the habit of beating those he doesn’t like. A crack in the face—and get lost.” According to Politkovskaya, “Taus,” who had hoped to become head of the new parliament following the November 27 vote, has been passed over, with Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, Chechnya’s Agricultural Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister, tapped to head the next parliament. “By the way, this Agricultural Ministry pays to Tsentoroi almost more than all the remaining ministries combined; this is how Dukvakha has delivered in order to lubricate his career,” Politkovskaya wrote.
In September, at the start of the Chechen parliamentary campaign, State Council Chairman Taus Dzhabrailov was thrown off the party list of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and thereby forced to run for a single-mandate district. Kommersant on November 21 quoted Dzhabrailov as saying that he had “firmly decided” to distance himself “not only from the parliamentary campaign at hand but from Chechen politics in general.” Dzhabrailov said it was not a “momentary” decision, but the result of “reflection” following the assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov in May 2004. Dhzabrailov said that while the elder Kadyrov trusted him and “this inspired me to political activity,” he did not feel such trust from his current colleagues, including Ramzan Kadyrov. “In an atmosphere of such mistrust and misunderstanding I don’t consider it possible to engage further in politics,” Dzhabrailov told Kommersant. Asked how specifically this lack of trust was manifested, he answered: “Someone is slandering me to the effect that I wash dirty linen in public, [that I] allegedly dump kompromat in the media on my comrades-in-arms. And that gibberish, unfortunately, is believed.”
Kommersant further reported that sources in “the Chechen leadership” believe that “in refusing to support Mr. Dzhabrailov, Ramzan Kadyrov has decided to once and for all distance himself from his father’s comrade-in-arms. Indirect confirmation of this version is the fact that the head of Chechen government’s commission for internally displaced people, Mompash Machuev, who took the No. 2 spot on the United Russia party list instead of State Council head Dhzabrailov, does not have particular political weight in the republic. To all appearances, he ended up on the list simply because those who compiled it needed to get rid of a serious rival for power in the future parliament.”