Staunton, October 19 – Even more than the August raid on Ramzan Kadyrov’s home village of Tsentoroy, the attack Chechen militants carried out against the republic parliament this morning shows that Chechnya has not become the island of stability in the North Caucasus Kadyrov and his Moscow patron Vladimir Putin routinely claim.
That in turn increases the likelihood that some in Moscow will begin asking pointed questions about Kadyrov’s approach as the best model for other republic leaders in the North Caucasus, a model that he and Putin have been pushing -- and even about Kadyrov’s fitness to continue in office in Grozny.
And while the difficulties Moscow would face in displacing Kadyrov are enormous – he controls a large armed force and has few obvious successors who would not pursue an even more anti-Russian approach – the likelihood that such possibilities are going to be discussed will inevitably erode Kadyrov’s power and authority.
Chechen, Russian and Western news outlets have offered somewhat contradictory accounts of what has taken place, but an examination of a variety of them suggests that at least three people were killed and more than a dozen hospitalized as a result of the attack and that after a hour-long firefight, four of “the bandits” were, in Kadyrov’s words, “liquidated.”
Initial reports that militants had taken hostages within the parliament building itself or that they had attacked other Chechen government buildings have not been confirmed. But as “Svobodnaya pressa” put it, “the seriousness of the situation” is reflected in the fact that Putin spoke with Kadyrov even as it was going on (svpressa.ru/accidents/article/32346/).
More details may become available over the coming days because investigators from the North Caucasus and Southern Federal Districts jointly have formed a special group to find out what took place, although it is entirely possible that they will throw a veil of secrecy over today’s events.
Chechen officials have already tried to play down the event, although the comments of some may have just the opposite effect. Anzor Davletuniyev, a journalist at Grozny’s “Vesti respubliki,” told “Svobodnaya pressa” that “our people have been accustomed to such things for a long time.”
And Moscow media outlets, both electronic and print, have devoted most of their comments to what they describe as “the end of a counter-terrorist operation” against the militants rather than on why the militants have taken this action now, although some have linked it to recent conflicts within the Caucasus Emirate.
But in an interview “Svobodnaya pressa” had, Geydar Dzhemal, the president of the Islamic Committee of Russia, suggested that any discussions about what had occurred should not involve a focus on this or that individual but on what he called “a much larger problem … [the use of] this operation to discredit Ramzan Kadyrov” and more generally the policies he espouses.
By this action, even more than the Tsentoroy attack, the militants of those behind them, Dzhemal argued, are seeking to prove that Kadyrov and the policy of “Chechenization” can be “a panacea for the armed resistance in the Caucasus,” a policy Putin and his allies among the siloviki have pushed for the last several years.
According to Dzhemal, someone needs the situation to develop in such a way that “Kadyrov will be discredited in order to prepare the conditions for his departure. Therefore, the action was conducted when Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev was in Grozny” and when there were parliamentarians from Sverdlovsk oblast there who could serve as witnesses.
The Muslim commentator said that he “considers that this was not an ordinary action and even not one of the caliber of the attack on Tsentoroy.” Rather, he suggested, that “in this case, we are dealing with a far reaching political operation which is related to processes which are taking place in Russia at the federal level.”
Kadyrov, Dzhemal continued, is “a powerful trump card” in the hands of the Russian siloviki, and consequently and entirely naturally “someone is interested that this resource of the party of the siloviki be taken away from them and that [as a result] problems for the entire system of power sharply increase.”
In the coming days and weeks, the Moscow analyst continued, Kadyrov is going to find himself under “growing political pressure” because “the attack on the parliament demonstrated that he is not in control of the situation in his own home” and that “the system of security which he has organized” isn’t working.
Dzhemal’s comments likely overstate the threat to Kadyrov – again, Moscow has few good options – but they are suggestive of a shift in attitudes toward him in the Russian capital, a shift that the militants are likely to exploit and that the Chechen leader will now have to try to do something to reverse.