There was no sign anything sensational was in the offing during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit to the forum of peoples of southern Russia held in Kislovodsk on January 23. In essence, it was yet another gathering of leaders of the southern part of the Russian Federation that candidate Putin would use to give instructions regarding the March 4 presidential elections.
However, the forum will be remembered for two sharp statements by Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov stunned all the attending journalists by stating that he intends to leave politics. Explaining his abrupt announcement, Chechnya’s leader literally responded: “I have always wanted to exit politics carefully… I have reached the age when I would have liked to leave. I have a big family and would like to pay more attention to them” (www.regions.ru/news/2390849/).
While observers struggled to come up with an explanation for this unexpected statement, an urgent clarification arrived from Grozny retracting the comments Kadyrov made in Kislovodsk about leaving politics. Kadyrov corrected himself, saying that his comments were about “leaving politics carefully,” adding: “It does not mean I want to leave today.” He said he would “exit politics” to dedicate himself to his large family after the republic achieved its goals (https://evrazia.org/news/20346). What exactly happened on the sidelines of the forum that led to Kadyrov’s comments about leaving politics against the backdrop of the upcoming Russian presidential elections in Russia remains a mystery.
Kadyrov made another interesting statement regarding one of the most popular and celebrated politicians in contemporary Russia, Aleksei Navalny. This new political figure is highly controversial and multidimensional. While his opponents from the ruling party consider him a Western puppet, Navalny’s Live Journal blog is one of the most popular in Russia. It is hard to evaluate his political views, as they are often contradictory. For example, having made his name with his reports on corruption at the highest reaches of the government, he is also close to Russia’s nationalists. At the same time, Navalny puts himself forward as a true democrat who envisions Russia as a country based on democratic values. Because of these controversies, many leading politicians of Russia cannot make up their mind about where exactly Navalny stands. Some view him as a fascist given his active support for Russian nationalists whose slogans include “Russia for the Russians” and “Stop Feeding the Caucasus.” Moreover, during a speech by Navalny at a Russian nationalist rally, some of the younger participants displayed the Nazi salute (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezn0A—yk0).
On January 23, immediately after the forum of people of southern Russia, Kadyrov, responding to a journalist’s question called Navalny a “real chatterbox who does not know what he is talking about” and “a smart, well-prepared functionary of someone’s services” who is “ against the people” (www.gazeta.ru/news/lenta/2012/01/23/n_2177469.shtml). Kadyrov added: “Navalny is a real chatterer and acts against the people of Russia, against the state… At the same time in his revelations he does not name actual people, because he is afraid. Navalny is a coward” (https://navalny.livejournal.com/675032.html).
It was obvious that the journalists provoked Kadyrov to criticize Navalny. And they got what they were looking for two weeks later, when Navalny blogged a response in which he detailed alleged embezzlement schemes that allowed Chechen officials to steal federal government money through purchases of luxury cars, allegedly for Chechnya’s Interior Ministry. Fifteen Mercedes Benz E350 4matics and a Porsche Cayenne Turbo Tiptronic S were among the cars he says were bought for the ministry.
Navalny accused Chechnya’s Interior Ministry of a specific case of money laundering involving over $4 million. Since many information agencies covered Navalny’s response to Kadyrov, the Chechen side will feel compelled to provide a detailed response in the near future, one that will have to satisfy the Russian government, but also and above all those who view Chechnya as an excessive burden on the Russian treasury.
The government in Grozny totally rejects the idea that Chechnya is a burden on the Russian taxpayer, claiming that the subsidies the republic receives do not constitute a rampant injection of federal funds. Indeed, former Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin says there are Russian regions that did not go through a war but still receive more money from Moscow than Chechnya (https://www.stav.kp.ru/daily/25821.5/2799350/). Still, Navalny makes the case that Russia should not invest in a region that does not promise returns for the country in the future. Russian nationalists, including Aleksei Navalny, use their attacks on subsidies for Chechnya and other republics of the North Caucasus as camouflage for their anti-Caucasian slogans. They do not realize that by spurning the North Caucasus, they are pushing other non-Russian groups within the Russian Federation also to consider their future. That is why the North Caucasus will not be the only region, which will want to leave the country that regards it solely as an enemy.
In sum, Aleksei Navalny is a time bomb. But against the backdrop of the armed resistance taking place in the North Caucasus, Navalny is becoming a catalyst for the alienation of the North Caucasus from the majority of Russia’s population, who regard Caucasians as hostile people.