Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 5

In what may be a first step toward limiting the power of Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, Vladimir Savchenko, head of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate in the Southern Federal District, announced on January 27 that a new special unit for protecting Chechnya’s president is being created. According to Gazeta.ru on January 27 and Nezavisimaya gazeta on January 31, Savchenko said the unit would be made up of experienced members of OMON special police units, SOBR special rapid-reaction units and criminal investigation units from all of the Southern Federal District’s regions. Candidates for the unit are currently being vetted and those chosen – according to Savchenko, the unit is more than 50 percent formed – will sign three-year contracts. The new unit will exist alongside the presidential security service set up to protect Akhmad Kadyrov, the late Chechen president and Ramzan Kadyrov’s father, which by all accounts remains loyal to Ramzan. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the new unit will be fully set up in two months. Radio Liberty’s Russian service reported on January 28 that Chechen President Alu Alkhanov is personally choosing members of the new unit from “former soldiers of special units and former mujahideen.” It also reported that Ramzan Kadyrov had offered 60 men to Alkhanov for the latter’s personal security detail but that the president had refused.

The announcement of the creation of a new presidential security service in Chechnya follows the incident last month in which Ramzan Kadyrov sent a group of armed men into neighboring Dagestan to “rescue” his sister, Zulai, whom police had detained along with her bodyguards, at least one of whom reportedly did not have the proper documents for travel into Dagestan. According to Gazeta.ru, following the incident – in which, officials in Dagestan charge, several Dagestani policemen were beaten up – Dagestani State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov contacted Dmitry Kozak, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Southern Federal District, Federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev and Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev, and “essentially demanded that Ramzan be pacified.”

“Whereas the authorities used to forgive the Kadyrov family a great deal, following the latest incident, Moscow’s attitude has changed,” Gazeta.ru reported. The prosecutor’s offices in Khasavyurt and Novolaksky district in Dagestan have filed criminal charges concerning physical attacks on local police by members of the Chechen Interior Minister and special services. Ramzan has been summoned to appear “voluntarily” to give a statement.

Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on January 31 that an “Akhmad Kadyrov Regiment” of police spetsnaz was set up shortly after Alu Alkhanov became Chechnya’s president last year. The regiment was supposed to be staffed by the best members of the Kadyrovite presidential security service, which observers believed would be disbanded. That, however, did not take place; nor was Ramzan Kadyrov “civilized” by being named a security adviser to Dmitry Kozak. “The fact that the foundation of the new special unit consists not of local inhabitants, but of contractors from other regions speaks to the fact that in the future, the Chechen leadership plans to force the kadryovtsy into a secondary role,” Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote. “This is also suggested by the fact that one of the functions of the new unit will be ‘counter-intelligence’ – that is, exposing ‘undesirable persons pursuing unlawful aims’ in the entourage of President Alkhanov.”