Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 8

A number of Russian observers suggested that Kadyrov’s long-predicted accession to the Chechen presidency would eventually turn into a Pyrrhic victory for the Kremlin’s “Chechenization” policy. Novaya gazeta military correspondent Vyacheslav Izmailov, a retired army major who had arranged for the release of dozens of hostages in Chechnya, noted in the biweekly’s February 19 edition that Kadyrov’s government is dominated by former separatist officials and field commanders.

Izmailov wrote: “With the departure of Alkhanov, one can cry: ‘Farewell, Chechnya! Long Live Ichkeria!’ Now, former Ichkerians are sitting in all of the republic’s key posts. Judge for yourself: Adam Demilkhanov – the vice-premier in charge of the power bloc (formerly Salman Raduev’s driver); [former rebel field commander] Abdul-Kadyr Izrailov, a vice-premier of the government; Leche Khultygov – [former] head of the Department of Security of Ichkeria and currently a member of [Chechnya’s] parliament; Magomed Khambiev – former Defense Minister of Ichkeria, currently a deputy in the [Chechen] parliament; Musa Dadaev – head of the administration of one of Chechnya’s largest districts, Achkoi-Martan, formerly a field commander close to Djokhar Dudaev; Ibragim Dadaev (Musa’s brother, aka Toptygin) – commander of the Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov regiment of the Chechen MVD; and so on. All of these citizens were [rebel] fighters, who now, it turns out, have been divided into ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ ones. Yet behind many of them are dozens of murders, kidnappings, people who were sold and people who were crippled.”

Izmailov added: “During the period that I collaborated with Akhmat-Khadzhi [Kadyrov] on freeing the hostages, he said on more than one occasion, in open conversations: We are such idiots for having fought against Russia – with [Russia], it is possible to take whatever we want and at the same time live as we like. Kadyrov Senior was right, and his son turned out to be faithful to the wishes of his father: Ichkeria has returned. Formally, as part of Russia; in reality, with a leadership that is not dependent on anyone, for whom the word ‘law’ is no more than an unintelligible combination of letters, with daily arbitrary rule and a people deprived of civil rights.”

Meanwhile, Kadyrov is hinting that he will ratchet up his economic demands on the federal center. As the Moscow Times reported on February 21, 51 percent of Chechnya’s Grozneftegaz energy company, which currently extracts the republic’s oil and gas reserves, is owned by the Russian state oil company Rosneft and 49 percent by the Chechen government. Vremya novostei on February 20 quoted Kadyrov as complaining that although Chechnya has such a large stake in Grozneftegaz, his government still has no real say in running the company. In an interview with the newspaper Tvoi den published on February 18, Kadyrov complained that Chechnya does not control its own oil. Asked about recent reports of a conflict between his government and Rosneft, Kadyrov said: “For Chechnya, oil is the main means of revenues. But 51 percent of Chechnya’s oil belongs to Rosneft. They know that they have the controlling interest, the lion’s share, and do not ask us about anything. But if we controlled the share that we actually needed, it would help lift the republic’s economy. In Chechnya, the oil and gas sector must be raised up to what it formerly was. And I will be seeking this in all of the corridors and offices. We currently have 76 percent unemployment and we need jobs.”

The chairman of Rosneft’s board of directors is Igor Sechin, the powerful deputy head of the Russian presidential administration who is said to be the leader of the hard-line faction of Kremlin insiders known as the “siloviki.” The siloviki have reportedly opposed Kadyrov’s monopolization of power in Chechnya and are likely to react negatively to any attempts by the Chechen government to take control of Grozneftegaz.

Still, since his appointment as Chechnya’s acting president, Kadyrov has reiterated his fealty to the Russian president. In his interview published in Tvoi den on February 18, he said: “For me, [Putin’s] word is law.” During his February 20 press conference in Grozny, Kadyrov declared once again that Putin should remain in office after his second and final constitutionally mandated term ends in 2008, and not just for a single additional term. “He ended the war on Chechen land, and therefore the Chechen people will never forget him,” Kadyrov said. Echoing his comments to Tvoi den, Kadyrov added: “I am a person of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. For me, all that he says is law.” Last July, after Chechnya’s parliament voted to propose constitutional changes that would allow for Putin to run for a third term, Kadyrov said that if it were up to him, he would give Putin about ten more years in office (Chechnya Weekly, August 3, 2006).