Staunton, November 1 – On the day Ramzan Kadyrov ceased to be president of Chechnya – as a result of his own initiative, he is now “head” of that republic – a Moscow commentator has asked what it means for President Dmitry Medvedev and for the Russian political system as a whole that the Kremlin has failed to respond to Kadyrov’s latest statements.
In “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Matvey Ganapolsky points to two comments from Grozny that one might have expected the Kremlin would have to respond to in some way. In the first, Kadyrov himself said he would like to see Vladimir Putin return to the Russian presidency for life and that with Putin’s support, he “can do everything” (www.ej.ru/?a=note&id=10507).
And in the second more recent statement from the Chechen capital, Dukhuvakh Abdurakhmanov, speaker of that republic’s parliament, which is dominated by Kadyrov supporters, declared that “if United Russia needs to receive 115 to 120 percent of the vote, we can achieve that result.”
On the one hand, Ganapolsky notes, both Kadyrov and Abdurakhmanov would undoubtedly explain their extravagant remarks as being nothing more than an expression of their enthusiasm for Putin. And on the other, the Moscow elite generally views Kadyrov’s remarks as being like those of Vladimir Zhirinovsky – “very loud but not dangerous.”
But given Constitutional requirements and Medvedev’s recent and “instantaneous” response to now former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s words and to the offensive comments of the Russian defense minister, the Kremlin’s silence after the remarks of the two Chechen leaders is deafening.”
One might have expected Medvedev to respond to Kadyrov’s suggestion quickly and sharply in order to meet the demands of his office and to demonstrate his own independence, even though everyone knows that Kadyrov is a special case because of his role in the North Caucasus and because he is “the most loyal Putin supporter” around.
But this, Ganapolsky continues, is “only part of the problem.” Clearly someone needs to rein in any regional leader who talks about aggressively taking out his “personal enemies,” words that might have been ignored were it not for the murders of journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova, to which some have linked Kadyrov.
And it would seem to be even more important for the Russian president, as “guarantor” of the Russian Constitution to speak out given that there are currently court cases “where Mr. Kadyrov is defending his honorable name” against those who have suggested that he has done more than speak out against his enemies.
Accordingly, Ganapolsky says, “the declarations of Ramzan Kadyrov and the absence of a reaction to them on the part of President Medvedev are thus " no small matter. Above all,” to be sure, “for Medvedev himself” because of his special role in ensuring that the constitution and the laws are obeyed by all.
The president, the “Yezhednevny zhurnal” commentator says, “is an individual who swore on the text [of the Constitution]that … he in the first instance has one goal – with all his force and might to defend this [document]’ against those who would challenge its provisions or undermine its meaning.
Medvedev must “defend each of its letters,” a truth that Ganapolsky say is “so evident” that what the current president has done in the case of Kadyrov shows that he is not being true to his oath of office or to the people of Russia whose rights the Constitution includes guarantees against abuse.
At the same time, “one must remember” what political life in Russia is really like. “If Kadyrov permits himself such anti-constitutional declarations and is not restrained because of his friendship with Putin … then it turns out that to be a successful leader of a subject of the Federation means not to follow the Constitution but to be close to the [real] ruler.”
Ganapolsky’s argument is damning not only to Medvedev and to Putin and Kadyrov; it is damning of the entire Russian political system as it has emerged over the last two decades. And because it is so sweeping in its implications, it almost certainly will be dismissed as a voice crying in the wilderness.
But by writing it, Ganapolsky has posed a challenge to Medvedev which, if he fails to take it up and move against Kadyrov, will likely presage his political decline, and at the same time, by suggesting that what Kadyrov and Abdurakhmanov have done should be cause for dismissal, the Moscow commentator is inviting the powers that be to consider their removal.
That alone makes this article immediately important because while there have been rumors of unhappiness in Moscow about Kadyrov before and while there has been some speculation that the Chechen leader should be removed, Ganapolsky has more sharply and clearly stated the consequences for all involved of not doing so -- and quickly.