The recent upheavals in the Kremlin, including the resignation of Aleksandr Voloshin as President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff, could portend major changes in the Kremlin’s policies on Chechnya. Voloshin was known as a key architect of those policies and especially as a political ally of Akhmad Kadyrov, whose inauguration he attended in person last month. Conversely, the so-called “siloviki”–the hard-liners of the military and secret police establishment, widely seen as the winners in the latest Kremlin faction fight–have often been hostile to Kadyrov, whom they see as unreliable.
Nevertheless, a well-informed Moscow journalist, whom Chechnya Weekly consulted on November 4, predicted that immediate changes are not likely. He pointed out that Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of staff under Voloshin and his key specialist for Chechen affairs, is still in office–though just what influence Surkov will now have remains to be seen. The journalist said that he expects no major shifts in the Kremlin’s Chechnya strategy before Putin’s expected re-election in the spring.
A telltale sign, suggested the Moscow journalist, will be the Putin administration’s tilt in the election campaign now underway for Chechnya’s seat in the federal Duma, which is to be decided along with the rest of the Duma’s seats on December 7. So far the Kremlin has welcomed the candidacy of Akhmar Zavgaev (see Chechnya Weekly, October 23), whom the journalist sees as Kadyrov’s favorite. If Putin’s and Kadyrov’s political machines both keep backing the same candidate, it will be a signal that their alliance is continuing–for the time being.