Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Is Zakayev Supporting Chechnya’s Kadyrov like a Rope Supports a Hanging Man?

Paul Goble

Baku, May 22 – For more than a year, Akhmed Zakayev, the senior surviving member of the Dudayev and Maskhadov Chechen governments who now lives in London, has been saying that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has completed the “decolonization” of that republic, remarks that some analysts say points to a rapprochement of various Chechen groups.
But now in comments broadcast on Ekho Moskvy this week, Zakayev has added a new dimension to such comments, one that suggests more than ever that he views Kadyrov as a transitional leader who is facilitating the return and even victory of those like Zakayev who remain committed to independence for that republic (
To the extent that is the case, the positive comments Zakayev has made about Kadyrov and especially the coverage they are now getting in the central Russian media may be the very last thing the incumbent president needs or wants – the basis for a move by Moscow to replace him with someone less independent-minded, however loyal he proclaims himself to be.
At the very least, they are likely to force a departure from the tactics Kadyrov and other leaders in the North Caucasus have used so successfully up to now, invoking the dangers from those fighting in the mountains as part of an argument that Moscow has no choice but to continue to support those who are in office and, nominally at least, on the Russian side.
If that is the case or even if Kadyrov himself decides that it might be, it could presage some radical changes in policy in that still restive republic, changes that might lead to a new round of anti-Russian violence in a place where Moscow now has few independent resources to suppress any new outburst.
But regardless of which of these outcomes proves to be the case, Zakayev’s comments and the fact that a major Moscow radio station carried them suggests that the coming summer months, typically the time of the fiercest fighting in Chechnya, may be hotter than they have been any time in the past few years.
In his remarks by telephone to Ekho Moskvy, Zakayev said that “thanks to Kadyrov and the Chechen militia, now there are no harsh cleansing operations by Russian forces” of the kind that had led to the disappearance of dozens of people, a “cardinal” change “in comparison with 2001-2003.
And that change, he continued, had allowed the Chechen resistance to act more “freely” because it no longer has to worry about a response from Russian troops. Instead, its members “can strike where they want and be certain that after this, nothing will happen … because the so-called ‘Kadyrov militia’ won’t allow any arbitrary response.”
“We are preparing several serious documents directed at preventing clashes between Chechen partisans and the Chechen militia,” Zakayev continued, so as to “minimize efforts” designed to lead to the complete “Chechenization of this conflict” and to maximize the difficulties of the remaining Russian “occupation forces.”

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