Chechnya: The Strongman Formally Takes Charge

3 MINS READMar 1, 2006 | 03:27 GMT
Sergei Abramov, Chechnya's pro-Russian prime minister, resigned Feb. 28, paving the way for acting Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov to take his place. Chechnya's new prime minister is the son of the late Chechen President Akhmed Kadyrov — and heir to his criminal empire. Whereas before he only had a private army of irregulars, Kadyrov will now control Chechnya's budget and armed forces. Under Kadyrov's rule, Chechnya will become an increasingly valuable haven for militants even while it remains within Russia's fold.
Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov resigned Feb. 28. Replacing him will be Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, who has served as acting prime minister since Abramov's November 2005 injury in a car accident. Pro-Russian like Abramov, Kadyrov is the son of former Chechen President Akhmed Kadyrov, who was assassinated by militants in May 2004. And though not old enough to run for president in 2004, Kadyrov has wielded significant influence in Chechnya because of his command of a large army of irregulars. Under Kadyrov's rule, Chechnya will continue to be a haven for militants while remaining within Russia's fold. Kadyrov previously said that he had no desire to displace Abramov from his post, and Abramov initially confirmed he had every intention of returning to work. Later, Abramov said he resigned so that Kadyrov could take his place officially — contradicting statements made by Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, who said Abramov resigned because of health concerns following his automobile accident. Whatever Abramov's motivation, the Russians have always intended to elevate Kadyrov to the presidency using the car accident as an excuse. Kadyrov rules an army of approximately 3,000 thugs accused of most of the region's incidents of murder, rape, kidnapping and torture. He has attempted to implement Shariah law and reinstate polygamy, and has also expelled the Danish Refugee Council following the controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. He also enjoys the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who deems the situation in Chechnya under control, and seems at least for the time being to be happy with its leadership. In fact, Russia does not mind if Chechnya remains a nest of criminality, as long as it does not restart its separatist campaign. As prime minister, Kadyrov will control Chechnya's budget and internal affairs. In this capacity, he can influence the legislative process, as well as continue to use his private army of militants to protect his interests. With Kremlin support, Kadyrov can rule Chechnya any way he pleases, especially since Alkhanov, who is responsible mainly for legislative initiatives and external relations, does not have the political will to oppose Kadyrov. Under these circumstances, Chechnya will become more attractive as a haven for militants from other North Caucasus republics. Although attacks in Chechnya have subsided to the point that Russia believes its security forces have control of the region, Chechen militants have in fact moved their activities to other Russian republics in the region, where they have also trained local fighters. With Kadyrov and his posse acquiring additional legitimacy and the machinery of state, Chechnya can be expected to descend further into gangster politics, oppressive laws and militant activities. Previously, this state of affairs existed in the midst of a secessionist insurgency. Kadyrov, in contrast, has no desire to separate his fiefdom from Russia, just to gain everything he can from being in charge.

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