Chechnya: Rigged Elections
- RIGGED CHECHEN POLL 'WILL LEAD TO NEW WAR'
Russian officers fear a return to bloodshed following yesterday's
rigged presidential elections in Chechnya, reports Julius Strauss in
The Kremlin's support for the certain victor in Chechnya's
presidential elections held yesterday has brought the blood-stained
republic to the brink of a new civil war, according to Russian
The poll, which has been widely described as a sham, was showcased by
President Vladimir Putin as evidence to the outside world that life
in the war-torn republic is returning to normal under Moscow's
However, intelligence officers have privately told The Telegraph
that, far from helping to pacify the republic, the Kremlin's policies
have set the stage for a vicious new conflict.
Akhmad Kadyrov leaves a polling station with his two grandsons after
casting his vote
Akhmad Kadyrov, Moscow's chosen proxy who has run the province for
three years, looked set to win easily last night, although the
official result will not be announced until today. "There will be no
second round," he predicted yesterday after casting his vote in his
home village, Tsentoroi.
His confidence as Moscow's proxy is overshadowed by the warnings of
agents of the FSB, formerly the KGB. They say they are now preparing
for an imminent civil war pitting Mr Kadyrov, who has a private army
of 4,000 henchmen and controls many of the republic's police units,
against leaders of rival clans who have been sidelined by Moscow.
"The election will result in a new war," said an FSB officer who
deals with intelligence on Chechnya. "This time it won't be between
us and the Chechens but among themselves. This is the result of
Moscow's supporting Kadyrov." It is rare for FSB officers to
criticise the Kremlin's policies, especially to a western journalist.
But feelings in the Russian intelligence community are running high
after orders were passed down from Moscow to support Mr Kadyrov, come
Mr Putin has escaped vocal censure from America and its allies in the
war on terror for his repression of the republic, as insurgents
include Islamists with links to al-Qa'eda. But the election campaign
bore the hallmarks of the corruption and gerrymandering that has come
to characterise Mr Kadyrov's tenure.
His press adviser was sacked after he said that, if the vote was
fair, Mr Kadyrov could expect between three and five per cent. His
two leading rivals were forced out of the race. Aslanbek Aslakhanov,
a deputy in the Russian parliament, said he pulled out to take a job
in the Kremlin.
Malik Saidullayev, a millionaire businessman, was disqualified by the
electoral commission. He said the Kremlin had resorted to cancelling
his candidature after efforts to cajole him into stepping aside
voluntarily failed. It is these men who are expected to form the
vanguard of the armed opposition to Mr Kadyrov in a post-election
battle for control of Chechnya.
Another FSB officer said: "Our information is that once the elections
are over, there will be a fierce war between Saidullayev's men and
Seen from the outside, Chechnya is often perceived as the struggle of
a small, valiant nation against a brutal Russian occupation. But,
after a decade of war, the shifting allegiances of Chechen commanders
and the bad blood between various clans make for a more complex
Mr Kadyrov is a former rebel commander and Muslim mufti who fought
against the Russians during the 1994-1996 war, only to change sides.
Unease among Russian intelligence officials over Mr Kadyrov is
mirrored among army officers stationed in the breakaway republic.
One Russian commander said: "He's using us as his pocket army to
settle scores with rivals. I don't want to be a mercenary for that
If the Russians are unhappy with the man expected to be the new
president, most Chechen civilians are doubly so. Human rights groups
have documented cases of his men carrying out murder, torture and
The capital, Grozny, is still mostly in ruins, despite huge grants
from Moscow to repair buildings. Russian soldiers have to patrol on
armoured personnel carriers, or wearing heavy-duty flak jackets.
"It may look like all the rebels have gone," said one Russian army
officer. "In reality they have simply hidden their guns and taken up
jobs in the administration. When an order comes they dig out their
Kalashnikovs and change into combat fatigues - job done, back to bed,
and nobody any the wiser."
Of the thousands of posters plastered on to bridges, lampposts and
buildings, almost all are of Mr Kadyrov. His slogan is: "Clean
intentions, strong power."
At the railway market, business was brisk last week and Chechens
chatted easily with Russian soldiers. Merchants were selling Chinese
plimsolls, cheap batteries, Russian army uniforms, toys, soft drinks,
beer and a host of other low-end commodities.
But the mention of Mr Kadyrov's name was enough to halt
conversation. "We don't have time for politics here," one lady said
Yunus, a Chechen policeman, was on duty yesterday in Khambi-Irzi, a
village south-west of the capital. said: "Let's see what happens once
the election is over. But there will definitely be a third stage.
Yes, a war."
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