Putin pins hopes for Chechnya on strongman Kadyrov
By Erik Albrecht
dpa German Press Agency
Published: Saturday March 31, 2007
By Erik Albrecht,
Moscow - Ramzan Kadyrov knew it was just a matter of time
before he became president of his homeland Chechnya.
But the 30-year-old strongman, a devout Muslim and former
separatist rebel, is dogged by controversy. Apart from rebuilding the
war-ravaged Russian republic, he is alleged to be responsible for
torture, abductions and murders.
Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin is placing Chechnya's fate fully in
the hands of this man, whose inauguration is scheduled for Thursday.
Russia's president has no other candidate for the post.
After Putin promoted Kadyrov from Chechen prime minister to
interim president in mid-February, the energetic man lost no time
filling all of the key posts in the North Caucasus republic with his
close allies. His cousin Odes Baisultanov became prime minister.
Kadyrov also replaced the heads of Grozny, the Chechen capital, and
of the constitutional court.
His power has long been virtually unchallenged. Ever since
Kadyrov's father, Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov, was assassinated
in May 2004, the son has been considered the heir apparent to lead
Chechnya. Then 27 years old, Kadyrov, clad in a track suit, was
swiftly received in the Kremlin by Putin.
Only Kadyrov's youth prevented him from claiming his republic's
top job immediately. According to Chechnya's constitution, the
president must be at least 30 years old.
So Alu Alkhanov became president, and Kadyrov was appointed prime
minister. Even so, Alkhanov usually wound up on the short end of
infighting with Kadyrov. On February 15, Putin formally recognised
the actual balance of power in Chechnya by dismissing Alkhanov and
appointing Kadyrov president.
The Kremlin has thus pinned its hopes for Chechnya on one man.
"Kadyrov is in a position to resist the federal government," wrote
the political magazine Kommersant Vlast. "On the other hand, there is
an entire army of amnestied rebels who subordinate themselves to him
The magazine was referring to the so-called Kadyrovtsy ("Kadyrov's
guys"), the president's private militia of several thousand men. The
force was originally a bodyguard for Kadyrov's father, and commanded
by the son, who recruited mainly former rebels - often by threatening
their families with violence.
Although security in Chechnya has improved in recent years, police
and rebels still die in clashes. More than 500 rebels accepted an
amnesty and surrendered in the last half of 2006. But the Russian
military estimates that 450 rebels are still hiding in Chechnya's
After years of conflict, Kadyrov takes credit for Chechnya's
reconstruction. Last October, on his 30th birthday, a passenger
aircraft landed at Grozny's reopened airport for the first time since
1999, the start of the second post-Soviet Chechen war. According to
media reports, regular flights did not resume until several months
Despite ubiquitous corruption, Kadyrov has in fact managed to
repair war damage with some of the billions of roubles allocated by
At the same time, human rights activists accuse the Kadyrovtsy of
serious crimes, including abductions and murders. Russian journalist
and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered last October,
alleged that Kadyrov himself tortured people. Kadyrov is suspected in
some quarters of having ordered Politkovskaya's killing.
Journalists and human rights organisations continue to face major
restrictions in Chechnya. Kadyrov, meanwhile, is bursting with
"Russia ought to be grateful to us that no more coffins are coming
from Chechnya," he declared in mid-March while in Moscow.
© 2006 - dpa German Press Agency