by Paul Goble
(The following article appeared on the website Window on Eurasia)
The Moscow media on Christmas eve are playing up an interview Ramzan Kadyrov gave to Reuters three days ago in which the Chechen president called for Moscow “to liquidate” the threats to Russia that he says Georgia and Ukraine continue to pose by “attacking” those countries on all fronts.
On Monday, Reuters carried a report on the one-hour-long interview its journalist Michael Stott conducted with Kadyrov. That interview attracted considerable attention in the British media Tuesday and Wednesday, and today it is the focus of articles in Moscow outlets.
Kadyrov told Stott that “last year’s attack by US ally Georgia on the pro-Russian rebel region of South Ossetia was part of a Western plot to seize the whole Caucasus region. ‘If they get control of the Caucasus, you could say they’ll get control of virtually all of Russia, because the Caucasus is our backbone.’”
But despite Moscow’s victory a year ago, Kadyrov continued, “Georgia, South Ossetia, Ukraine, all this will go on and on. It’s Russia’s private affliction. Why should we always suffer if we can eradicate this for good? We are a great power; we have everything – an army, technology. We need to attack.”
At the same time, the Chechen leader continued, “I don’t want to kill. Who did I fight? I fought terrorists. Who [sic] did I protect? I protected the whole of Russia so that people in Moscow or St. Petersburg … could live in peace. … They accuse me of killing women and children. It’s not true.”
According to Kadyrov, “today there are few (rebels) left,” although he acknowledged that he did not know exactly how many or where they are. If he did, the Chechen president said, “I would have destroyed them a long time ago.” But he expressed certainty on one point: “The West is financing them.”
“I officially declare this,” Kadyrov said, “those who destroyed the Soviet Union, those who want to destroy the Russian Federation, they stand behind them.” And unless they change course, he added, they will have to deal with this fact: “We have a very strong politician of global stature, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. There is no one like him on the world stage.”
Reuters’ Stott noted that “Kadyrov made several references to Putin during the one-hour interview conducted last week but did not mention Russian President Dmitry Medvedev” even once, a pattern consistent with the Chechen president’s past statements and one that many in Moscow and elsewhere will see as significant.
Russian news outlets yesterday and today repeated much of the Reuters interview, but both the repetition and the way in which some of them chose to highlight what Kadyrov said are worrisome. Today’s “Gazeta,” for example, headlined its article on the interview, “We must attack.”
And that paper’s Lev Makedonov pointed out that in his Reuters interview, Kadyrov was expanding on several of the points he had made on December 11th, the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the first post-Soviet Chechen war, comments that attracted relatively less attention in Moscow than Kadyrov’s more recent ones.
At that time, Kadyrov said that “it is not a secret for anyone that the Soviet Union was dismembered despite the will of [its] people,” adding that “In the West, they decided that they must not stop at this. They must ignite the fires of local wars, which will engulf whole new regions and lead at a minimum to the weakening of Russia and possibility to its disintegration.”
Those are themes that Putin and his supporters in Moscow have played up before. Kadyrov’s comments now and especially the way in which they are being played represent a ratcheting up of the pressure in a way that could point to a new Russian attack or alternatively, because of their source, allow Moscow to disown them if it faces sufficient opposition.