In a reversal of his previous policies, Akhmad Kadyrov has announced his willingness to negotiate with the president of Chechnya’s underground separatist government. As reported by Andrei Riskin in a November 17 article for Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kadyrov told a Moscow press conference that he would not exclude negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov provided that the latter “recognize that he was not legitimate during the period when he occupied [emphasis added] the post of head of the republic.” Kadyrov’s use of the past tense is significant: Maskhadov and his followers do not concede that he no longer occupies that post, nor of course do they think that he was not legitimately elected. Thus Kadyrov’s new position does not represent a major concession, but it is at least a symbolic softening of his previous hard line.
In another tantalizing departure from that hard line, Kadyrov met on November 14 with Salambek Maigov, Maskhadov’s former representative in Moscow, who is now running for Chechnya’s seat in Russia’s federal Duma. According to Riskin’s account, Kadyrov “even announced that he ‘supports this man and his policies.’ Both sides stated after their meeting that they had simply ‘discussed the situation in the republic,’ though most likely their subject was negotiations with Maskhadov. Although Maigov has been dismissed by Maskhadov from his post as emissary, he undoubtedly still maintains contacts with his former boss.”
Kadyrov may be signaling the Kremlin that he is keeping open the option of seeking peace on his own terms with the separatist guerrillas, with whom he was once allied. If he intends that as a bargaining tactic in his negotiations for special economic privileges and other concessions from Moscow, the move is a risky one–likely to make his enemies in Russia’s security agencies even more hostile than they are already.