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  If not Putin, then who? Maybe... Kadyrov? (1)

Vaiva Sapetkaitë, Institute of International Relations and Political Science Vilnius University
2016 03 14

In January the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who is supported by the Kremlin has again showed what he is up to. He declared that members of Russia’s protest opposition should be treated as traitors of the country; he called them jackals and enemies of the people (the most insulting words for Russians; during Stalin‘s times „enemies of the people" were despised and condemned). According to Ramzan Kadyrov, liberal opposition tries to use Russia‘s economic difficulties in order to destabilise the state and they should be prosecuted for sabotage.

In Riga, the news portal „Meduza Project“, established by the journalists who emigrated from Moscow, explains whom Kadyrov considers to be an enemy: non-systematic opposition (in Russia these are the people who criticise Government, among them – pro-Western liberals and defenders of human rights);  emigrants, and journalists of the radio station „Echo Moskvy“, independent TV channel „Dozhd“ and news agency RBC.

By the way, the survey carried out after Kadyrov‘s statements, revealed that 59 percent of Russians do not agree with his words about „enemies of the people“. Despite that, as a personality he is treated positively: 36 percent of respondents are neutral toward Kadyrov, 22 percent cannot say anything negative about him, 10 percent respect him and 7 percent are in favour of that person.

Allergy of the Chechen leader toward critics

Controversially evaluated Ramzan Kadyrov is constantly involved in scandals. The media, especially the Internet sites are one of the ways to show his power. There is no secret that Kadyrov controls Chechen‘s media and uses it regularly in order to attack the ones he dislike, including protesters criticizing the Kremlin.

The radio station „The Voice of America“ also highlights that Ramzan Kadyrov is an insulting and revengeful person. For instance, when some of the Chechens who emigrated to Europe took to the streets of European capitals in protest of the sad situation in Chechnya, Kadyrov was indignant and said that according to Chechen traditions „a brother is responsible for a brother“ and gave the order find out the names of protestants, their parents, brothers and clans they belong to. And he did it in order to exact revenge on the relatives of protestants residing in Chechnya.   

In fact, Ramzan Kadyrov does not spare time for ordinary events as well: for example, when Aishat Inayeva, an ordinary citizen of Chechen Republic, announced in the Internet that officers collecting taxes use force, she was made to take her words back in public. Recently quick-tempered „great king“ has also got furious when deputy of one of the country‘s region called him Russia’s shame. And surely, to the shame of the entire Russia, K.Senchenka, deputy of the Council of Krasnoyarsk region, apologised publicly to the comfort of Kadyrov via the federal TV.

Since Ramzan Kadyrov and his authoritarian ruling methods have frequently been in the focus of liberal intelligence, journalists and politicians opposing the official government (in other words, Russia‘s „enemies“), it is natural that he doesn‘t like them. Moreover, that according to Ilya Yashin, a friend of Boris Nemtsov who was killed last year, and deputy chairman of the opposition party „ParNas“ (People‘s Freedom Party), the opposition is preparing report about authoritarian ruling of Kadyrov, violations of human rights and corruption in Chechnya.  

Chechnya‘s leader is fond of using media and social networks (he is well aware of how to use these networks: in Instagram Kadyrov has about 1,5 million supporters). In the Russian RTVi broadcast „Osoboye mnenye“, the writer Dmitry Glukhovski, one of the representatives of Russian liberal intelligence said: „His constant showing up on the media should form his image as a young Stalin-2. Kadyrov is also from mountainous region, he has fighter‘s experience and he is charismatic. I have no doubts that I am not alone to have these associations.“  

Although the West evaluates Russia‘s opposition positively, there are few who believe in its possibilities to change the situation. It is unlikely that in the near future there will emerge a critical mass of people having real influence on political and social processes in the country and capable of changing political authorities. Regime opponents are often referred to by the so called patriots as toothless dogs, irritating flies, including other humiliating epithets.

According to Dmitry Glukhovski, the regime, based on propaganda and soviet archetypes about the „enemies surrounding the great homeland“, is irritated by the critically thinking intelligents and some of the middle class representatives who are free from the narrative of interpretation of the real situation. „They instil fear because they can see real things, the truth. If this was not the truth but a simple paranoia, they wouldn‘t be dangerous“, said Glukhovski during RTVi broadcast. „Such adverse groups should be eliminated.” According to the writer, when society automatically turns on old reactions, e.g. that everybody is against Russia, therefore it is necessary to unite, support the leader and overlook certain actions of the Government, - this is what the Government likes most of all. Russia is full of problems, nobody wants to face new problems.

Kadyrov – one of the two real Russia‘s politicians?

Although it is difficult to treat Kadyrov (appointed in 2007 by Vladimir Putin as Chechnya‘s leader) as a serious politician, but when you realise that he has 20 thousand security troops, his influence becomes obvious. He himself  selects and appoints higher officials and they take personal oath to him. Kadyrov can do in Chechnya whatever he wants, he appoints own people, and spends the Kremlin‘s money where he wants.

In exchange of frequent Kadyrov‘s loyalty to Putin, he was one of his favourites for a long time. Moscow pretended not to see many things, because Kadyrov‘s support in ensuring stability in North Caucasus, fighting with terrorists or making contacts with the Muslim leaders, is very important for the Kremlin.

Although the impression is that Kadyrov is loyal to Putin, many political analysts have great doubts and consider his demonstrated loyalty as overestimated by time. They say that Kadyrov‘s loyalty is based on rhetoric rather than on real actions: he will act like this until the Kremlin continues to help him stay in power and give money. Besides, it is considered that support of the Kremlin provides to Kadyrov more possibilities to resist Putin in the future.

Although Razman Kadyrov‘s ruling in Chechnya ensures certain stability, he himself can turn everything upside down. For instance he authorised Chechen security forces to shoot Russian federal troops if they operate on the territory without consent. This led to multiple talks about worsening relations of Kadyrov and Kremlin and that Putin is losing control over his favourite.

According to Konstantin Kalachev, the head of the Political Expert Group, Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov are the only two real politicians in Russia, the rest are only playing politics. The newspaper „The Moscow Times“ seriously considers on whether Kadyrov is really the second by political power and influence in Russia and whether he has ambitions to become the first in the future. (According to Russian media, if some day  Kadyrov leaves his „game ground“, he would give the power to his relative Adam Delimchanov). Of course, he is not welcomed by everybody in Moscow, and Putin‘s nepotism in the capital causes certain political tension and splits the associates. It should be noted that one of the most serious opponents of Putin‘s policy in Chechnya is Federal Security Council (FSC) which cannot be easily silenced.  

In his interview to the „Voice of America“, I.Yashin said that Chechnya‘s problem is growing each year as a malignant tumour and today is threatening not only security of North Caucasus, but also of the entire Russia. According to him, nobody is able to control Ramzan Kadyrov. If no actions are taken, nobody could solve this problem. He also says that Kadyriov has already trespassed all possible red lines and that the process of his elimination from power should have started long time ago. „The Kremlin is well aware that Kadyrov‘s regime is dangerous and that he is also dangerous. In fact, Kadyrov acknowledges the power and authority of only one person – Putin, and he will support Putin until it will be useful him“, said I.Yashin. „The problem is that Kadyrov‘s appetite is increasing with every year.“

Anyway, it doesn‘t seem that Kremlin has much room for manoeuvres: if Kadyrov is eliminated in the near future, it is not clear what happens with his administration and the subordinate well-trained and armed security forces. Then not only Chechnya and North Caucasus but also a large part of Russia would be in chaos. Moreover that famous ratings of Putin have been decreasing due to many political and economical causes, and he doesn‘t like charismatic politicians around. Who’s next then? Kadyrov?  

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