Vienna, April 7 – While Ramzan Kadyrov’s flamboyant remarks in an interview published today about Boris Berezovsky’s guilt for the demise of the Soviet Union and his own advocacy of polygamy are already grabbing headlines, the Chechen president’s tactical approach to the question of independence for his republic is certain to be far more disturbing to Moscow.
Not only did Kadyrov insist that he was neither for or against federal forces but rather always sought to reflect the position of his people, but he added that he was a supporter of Chechen independence leader Dzhokhar Dudayev and now opposes the independence of his republic because it is too small to stand on its own and will ultimately run out of oil.
Moreover, his enthusiastic voice of support for Vladimir Putin – “if it weren’t for Putin, then Chechnya wouldn’t exist – appear to have more to do with Kadyrov’s own position then – “without Putin, Kadyrov would not have obtained anything” – than with loyalty to Moscow or the Russian Federation (www.rg.ru/2009/04/07/kadirov.html).
Indeed, while most coverage has focused on Kadyrov’s more immediately outré remarks – not least of all his efforts to disown any involvement in the recent murders of his opponents – at least one Moscow commentator Stanislav Belkovsky said his words represented another step to the “separation” of his republic from Russia (www.nr2.ru/moskow/227796.html).
And thus Kadyrov appears to be confirming the predictions of Chechen émigré leader Akhmed Zakayev and of some Western analysts that despite his protestations of loyalty the incumbent leader in Grozny is close to achieving what his predecessors sought but failed to achieve, independence for his north Caucasus republic.
Kadyrov began his “Rossiiskaya gazeta” interview with the observation that he ‘was never for the federals or against the federals; [he] was always with the people.” And he accepted as true the interviewer’s formula that “when the people was against the federals, then you were against, and when the people were for them, then you were.”
“Just so,” Kadyrov said. “I am not a traitor.” And he went on to reject as the idea of a schizophrenic that Chechnya should be divided with the valley area being “returned” to Russia and “the Chechens sent into the mountains.” Such a view is completely at odds with the interests and desires of the Chechen people.
Looking back to the 1990s, Kadyrov said that if Dzhokhar Dudayev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin had been able to agree, then “there would not have been a war,” but Dudayev was not able to agree to the suggestion of Kadyrov’s father and predecessor that he denounce Khattab as “a foreign mercenary.”
Nonetheless, the current Chechen president said, “the people strongly supported Dudayev. … They loved him. Otherwise the people would not have followed him.” Indeed, Kadyrov said, he considers to this day that Dudayev as “a national hero” who deserves the respect of his people.
By the early years of this decade, Kadyrov continued, “the single chance our people had was to reach an agreement with Putin. And thereby get out of the situation” into which Chechnya had fallen as a result of the launch of the second post-Soviet Chechen war. “And I am using this chance.”
To those who suggest Chechnya could go its own way if Moscow allowed it to own the oil on its territory, Kadyrov said that eventually the oil will run out and then “what will I do?” And he then added the following explanation for why he is not now pursuing independence for Chechnya.
“I will explain why I do not need sovereignty. We have a small territory, a small place to sow and harvest, and [the Chechen] birthrate is high. Oil will run out, and then what will I do as a separate state? Where will I go?” – words that either conflate himself and his republic or suggest that he is simply suggesting that he is looking for the best deal on offer for both.
Such comments will do little to endear him to many in the Russian capital, but even more infuriating to many will be his suggestion that he, Kadyrov, is entirely right to pardon those who fought against Russian forces because Moscow is not prosecuting a sufficient number of those the Russian force structures who committed crimes in Chechnya.
In commenting on this interview and other recent actions by Kadyrov, Belkovsky, the Moscow commentator said that after the murder in Dubai of Sulim Yamadayev, “it is possible to say that all the opponents of Ramzan Kadyrov have been destroyed” and that in Chechnya, “no laws except Kadyrov’s operate.”
As a result, the commentator says, “we can speak about the de facto formation of an independent region. And if Moscow goes along with what Kadyrov wants – a declaration of the end of the counter-terrorist operation there – something the center has not yet done – that will mean “the complete legalization of the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov.”