Vienna, November 17 –Chechnya under its nominally pro-Kremlin leader Ramzan Kadyrov has achieved de facto independence -- even though he does not make such a claim and neither Moscow nor any other government yet recognizes that status de jure, according to a leading Russian analyst.
That is the product, Anatoliy Tsyganok argues in an article posted on Friday, of Moscow’s failed “experiment” to try to convert former separatist fighters into defenders of Russian law and order, a policy Moscow has not backed away from in the run up to the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections.
Tsyganok, who writes frequently on security issues, is not the first to advance this argument: Akhmed Zakayev, the Ichkerian diplomat now living in London, said the same thing earlier this year, pointing out that Kadyrov, whatever he may say, is acting in ways that point to an independent Chechnya, albeit a very different one than many want.
But unlike Zakayev who would very much like to see an independent Chechnya, albeit not one under Kadyrov, Tsyganok is against that idea and carefully traces the ways in which Moscow has failed to recognize what is going on there or has been unwilling or unable to do anything effective to counter it (http://www.apn.ru/opinions/print.htm).
The occasion for Tsyganok’s analysis is the second in a pair of murderous attacks in Moscow against pro-Russian militia officers from Chechnya, one in November 2006 against Movladi Baysarov and a second quite recently against Alikhan Mutsayev, the personal body guard of former Chechen President Alu Alkhanov.
When Baysarov, who had worked closely with the Russian FSB but fell out of favor in both Grozny and Moscow for his alleged involvement with a series of kidnappings, was killed, the Russian media were filled with details about his activities and speculation about who was behind his murder.
Although Kadyrov, who Tsyganok says viewed Baysarov as an enemy, said nothing at that time, Alkhanov quickly released a statement regretting Baysarov’s “tragic death,” rejecting the charges that had been levelled against him, and praising his contributions to Chechnya and the Russian Federation.
But Tsyganok continues, what a difference a year makes! When Mutsayev, who had been consistently on Moscow’s side in Chechnya, was gunned down in Moscow, the Russian media provided few details. Kadyrov again said nothing, but Alkhanov released no statement even though Mutsayev had been his personal bodyguard.
According to the Moscow analyst, either Alkhanov is now “afraid [to say anything] or his hands are tied” – an extremely remarkable situation in this case because “even in his native village people say that Mutsayev and his brothers did not have any enemies because they were all pro-federal.”
Tsyganok suggests that this points to three conclusions: First, he says, it clearly indicates that Kadyrov and security forces loyal to him rather than Moscow were behind both murders. Second, the military affairs analyst continues, it shows that Kadyrov and company can act with impunity even in Moscow against their opponents.
And third – and this is perhaps the most important– these attacks in the Russian capital send a clear signal to the Chechen diaspora in Russia clearly that Moscow cannot protect any Chechen however loyal he may be to the Russian authorities if Kadyrov wants him removed from the scene.
Alkhanov’s change of behavior suggests that he has gotten this message, but Tsyganok then asks when others will finally recognize that Kadyrov now has a militia structure subordinate only to him that is ready and willing to use violence to settle scores against those who oppose him “even in Moscow itself?”
Tsyganok traces the emergence of this situation to the formation of the two “battalions” in Chechnya, the “East” which consists largely of former separatists who supposedly passed over to the side of federal forces and the ”West,” which is “the single armed formation in which there are practically no former separatists.”
Indeed, according to Tsyganok, former supporters of Dzhokar Dudayev and Arslan Maskhadov find it easy to “’simply pass over to the other side’,” as Chechens say, but they find their path into the pro-Federal West battalion “closed” because of the careful checking by that unit’s commanders.
Kadyrov’s power is based on the East battalion and allied groups, with some 7500 to 10,500 armed men. For him and then, the West battalion is a unit that “sticks in their craw” because it “defends” pro-Russian Federation people in Chechnya, and consequently, he is interested in weakening it by attacking it.
A year ago, as the coverage of the November 2006 murder shows, the balance of forces was on the side of Moscow and the West battalion, Tsyganok says. But now, the balance has shifted away from Moscow and toward Kadyrov and his allies in the East battalion.
There are several reasons for that, Tsyganok continues. First of all, Kadyrov has spent the intervening period strengthening his position in Grozny. Then, his ability to attack his enemies with impunity has won him support grudging in the case of those who may fear him and enthusiastic from those who want to see Chechnya independent.
And finally, the Russian government in this election season, does not want to acknowledge these dangers or do anything about them lest it call into question its claims that the situation in the North Caucasus is “stabilizing” and thus making Russian “nervous” or even “sow panic” among them.
In this way, “history is repeating itself,” Tsyganok notes. After the first Chechen war and the Khasavyurt accords, pro-Russian Federation interior ministry officers left Chechnya and anti-Moscow militants took their places. Now, the same thing is happening again.
And both then and now, this means that the confrontation between Chechnya and Russia “has been transformed into an intra-Chechen conflict,” one that ultimately led Moscow to launch the second Chechen war eight years ago but that now is being won by “systemic” separatists like Kadyrov.
“As a systemic separatist” – this often-used term refers to those in Russia now who seek de facto independence but claim to be loyal to Moscow – “Kadyrov has forced Russia to make remarkable concessions.” Indeed, Tsyganok argues, the current Chechen leader has already “achieved a great deal more than General Dudayev.”
Not only has he become the master of his own homeland but he has also assumed the right to speak in the name of Chechens throughout the Russian Federation and gained an uncontested ability to act against his enemies even in the capital of the country which they serve -- but which quite clearly, at least in Tsyganok’s mind, he does not.
And thus, Tsyganok concludes, “although de jure Chechnya has not achieved independence from Russia, de facto it has received it,” not by the actions of someone who said that is what he wants but rather by those of someone who claims he does not aided and abetted by officials in Moscow who do not understand what they are doing.