News / Europe

    Russia's Opposition Ponders Problem of Chechnya's Kadyrov

    Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov talks to the press in the Chechen regional capital, Grozny, Oct. 5, 2014.
    Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov talks to the press in the Chechen regional capital, Grozny, Oct. 5, 2014.
    Danila Galperovich

    Ramzan Kadyrov, the 39-year-old strongman who has held the post of president of Russia's Chechen Republic for nine years, rang in the new year by lashing out at Chechen immigrants who took to the streets in Vienna, Austria, on Christmas Eve to protest against his rule.

    Declaring in a New Year's Eve address that "it is our custom that a brother answers for a brother," Kadyrov said he had given the order to find out whether the protesters "have brothers and fathers, which clan they belong to, where they were born, and who they are."

    The Chechen ruler added, every available resource would be used to ensure that the relatives of the protesters "sort them out."

    Kadyrov is known for publicly reprimanding fellow citizens who criticize the status quo in the republic. Last December, Chechen resident Aishat Inaeva complained in an Internet posting that officials were using violence to collect housing and utilities payments. Kadyrov forced her to appear on TV and recant.

    Human rights organizations say Kadyrov has established a regime of personal power in the republic. The work of human rights activists in Chechnya is extremely complicated. They are threatened with physical violence, threats which are sometimes acted on. In December 2014, the office of the Joint Mobile Group of Russian human rights defenders in the Chechen capital of Grozny was destroyed in an arson attack.

    Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, foreground center, inspects Chechen special forces in Grozny, Russia, Dec. 28, 2014.
    Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, foreground center, inspects Chechen special forces in Grozny, Russia, Dec. 28, 2014.

    The Russian opposition is currently preparing a report on Kadyrov. Ilya Yashin, deputy chairman of the opposition People's Freedom Party, or PARNAS, discussed it with VOA.

    Q: What were the main reasons behind the decision to prepare a report on the activities of Ramzan Kadyrov?

    A: The very existence of a regime like the one in Chechnya is a big reason for doing this and making the results public. Because this is a unique region; there is none other like it in Russia. It is a region where Russian laws are essentially not in force, where an autonomous political regime has been created. And it is a region that is not spoken about; the problems in this region are not discussed. Nevertheless, the problem grows bigger each year, like a cancerous tumor. And today, in my opinion, it threatens not only the stability and security of the North Caucasus, but the national security of the whole country. Thus, the working title of the report is: "A Threat to National Security."

    Q: What is the threat, as you define it in the report? What aspects of the phenomenon called "Kadyrov's Chechnya" can penetrate beyond the republic's borders?

    A:  The threat is that Kadyrov has become a fairly major political figure which nobody can manage or control. The absence of any control or countermeasures gives Kadyrov a feeling of absolute license and impunity. He has large financial resources; standing behind him are thousands of well-trained and well-armed fighters who are loyal to him personally, not to Russia's laws or constitution. Considering all these factors, the problem of Kadyrov personally and his political regime as a whole creates a threat not just in relations between Chechnya and the federal center: It poses a threat to the country's national security, by discrediting the entire legal framework. When the head of one of (Russia's) regions publicly orders his policemen to shoot at police or investigators from other regions, and does not experience any pushback, it is, of course, a challenge to the entire Russian state.

    [NOTE: Last April, after a Chechen man was killed in Grozny by police from the neighboring Stavropol region along with officers from the Russian Interior Ministry, Kadyrov told security forces under his control that they should shoot to kill any outside security officers "whether from Moscow or Stavropol," who appear on their territory without their knowledge.]

    Since the state does not counteract this, I believe that civil society and the political opposition should raise the issue. Because I think that this problem still can be solved. However, if the trend continues, at some point this problem will simply be impossible solve.

    Q: But Moscow does not just fail to criticize Ramzan Kadyrov and his associates; it actually shows them much consideration. Kadyrov and Mohammed Daudov, chairman of the Chechen parliament, have both been awarded the title "Hero of Russia." Another person close to Kadyrov, Adam Delimkhanov, sits in the State Duma (the lower house of Russia's parliament). Don't you think that the Kremlin, in general, likes the manner in which the Chechen leadership acts?

    A: I don't think that's the case. Indeed, Chechnya is covered in all manner of awards and medals. Even not-so-high-ranking law-enforcement and security officials have at least one state decoration. You don't have to go far to find examples: Zaur Dadaev has a state award, and this is the man who is now the prime suspect in the murder of (opposition leader) Boris Nemtsov: according to investigators, he pulled the trigger. Ruslan Geremeyev, with whom he (Dadaev) traveled to Moscow, and who is now hiding from investigators, also has a state decoration. I think the reason for this is not that the Kremlin considers Chechnya a kind of model: if all regions were like Chechnya, we just couldn't afford it, because money is piled into Chechnya every year. On the contrary, Kadyrov in large part copies the style of Putin with the addition of a certain religious and national features, which makes his regime even more odious than Putin's. I think the reason for the massive financial bailouts and endless awards to Kadyrov and his entourage, his officers, his fighters, is that this is now the Kremlin placates Kadyrov.

    Q: Why does the Kremlin placate him?

    A: The Kremlin is well aware that Kadyrov's regime is dangerous, and that Kadyrov himself is dangerous. Kadyrov, in fact, recognizes the power and authority of just one person in Russia — Putin — and will do so as long as it is to his advantage. Therefore, inside the Kremlin they are, of course, wary of Kadyrov. In the FSB (Federal Security Service) they are afraid of Kadyrov, in the Investigative Committee they are afraid of crossing Kadyrov. Behind Kadyrov is a huge army of many thousand fighters, armed to the teeth, who only yesterday fought against Russian soldiers, and know well the taste of blood. Today, they are legalized in the Russian power structures, but are subordinated and personally loyal to Kadyrov. Thus, fearing Kadyrov, they (the federal authorities) cajole and try not to provoke him, endlessly award him, and cede spheres of influence to him. But the problem is that Kadyrov's appetites grow with each year. If yesterday he was content with the role of leader of his region, today his interests have spread to neighboring areas. People with Chechen FSB identification cards organize illegal takeovers of businesses in other regions. Operating in Moscow are dozens of people formally associated with Chechnya who from time to time are detained in connection with various criminal activities. They specialize in hostile takeovers, kidnapping for ransom, fraud. So this is a problem that is growing.

    Q: You mentioned the murder of Boris Nemtsov. Do you think that Ramzan Kadyrov knew that this murder would be committed?

    A: The bloody footprints from the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky bridge (NOTE: the bridge near the Kremlin where Nemtsov was shot) lead directly to the highest-level Chechen offices. I do not believe for a second that people from Kadyrov's inner circle could organize such a high-profile, headline-making political murder without having received, in one form or another, Kadyrov's consent, nod, agreement. Were that not the case, then Kadyrov could see it (Nemtsov's murder) as an attempt to frame him, to discredit, to put him in conflict with the federal security forces. Therefore, the probability of this is extremely small: Organizing it without Kadyrov's knowledge would have been too great a risk. I don't believe it. So, from my point of view, Kadyrov should be one of the key suspects in this criminal case. And that's why lawyers for the family of Boris Nemtsov, and the PARNAS party, and I personally have been trying for the past several months to ensure that Kadyrov is, at the very least, questioned. The investigators should have many questions connected to the fact that people who are now behind bars, who are wanted (in connection with the case), are, in essence, subordinate to Kadyrov. These are people who serve in his security structures, people he knows personally, on whose chests he personally pinned medals, and who he publicly called patriots of Russia after the murder. So there really are a lot of questions for Kadyrov. And the fact that the investigators refuse to interrogate him, are even afraid to ask him questions, of course testifies to the fact that a political decision has been made not to touch Kadyrov under any scenario, not even to annoy him by formally calling him in for questioning. The investigation is not even willing to do that — it would be seen as a kind of attack on Kadyrov, which is obviously not permitted at the highest political level of our country.

    Q: In preparing this report, you probably examined how much Chechnya costs Russia. Did you calculate approximately how much money goes there?

    A: Yes, we undertook some expert estimates, for which we enlisted economists. I will provide the figure when we present the report, but I am not ready to do so before then. But I have to say that there are certain difficulties. It is possible to calculate direct transfers from the federal budget, money which is directly transferred annually. But there are also funds that are difficult to assess: for example, the construction of some public facilities on the territory of Chechnya. In addition, the Chechen regime and Kadyrov have a huge number of additional sources of income. There is, for example, the Akhmad Kadyrov Fund (NOTE: named for Kadyrov's father, who ruled Chechnya from 2000 to May 2004, when he was assassinated), has an extensive network of business not only in Chechnya but also in other Russian regions. There are revenues that are associated with the international status of Grozny Airport, which the federal security forces are unable to control. And according to our sources in law enforcement, this airport may be a major transshipment point for international contraband. When Sergei Stepashin, former chairman of the (federal) Audit Chamber, was asked to explain the difference between Kadyrov's declared and actual income, Stepashin quite frankly said that Kadyrov owned the whole of Chechnya, therefore there was no need to worry about him.

    Q: Where is the red line that Ramzan Kadyrov can cross in order to become objectionable to the Kremlin? Will your report answer that question?

    A: The problem is that Kadyrov seems to have already crossed every possible red line, and the process of replacing him or removing him from power should have been started long ago.  The fact that this has not happened suggests that the federal authorities, and Russian society as a whole, have in fact become hostages of the policy that Putin is conducting in the North Caucasus. Because Kadyrov and his political regime are the main result of Putin's policies in the North Caucasus, which have brought us to a dead end. And those in the Kremlin are obviously not proposing a way to solve this problem.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Andreas from: Schmitzen
    January 12, 2016 1:48 PM
    The Russian "opposition" that western media favors so much is made up of liberals. I find it incredible that liberals think they can handle an ex-terrorist who killed people since his teenage years.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 11, 2016 11:42 PM
    Just one more unsolvable problem for Putin. Has anyone noticed that the Ruble has fallen to 76 to the USD, just three off the 79 on December 18 when Russia hit the panic button? Meanwhile crude oil is approaching $31 a barrel. Funny how Russia supports Iran who will compete with them for the crumbs they can get for oil.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora