Moscow is no longer in control the situation in Chechnya
In the 16 years since the beginning of the Chechen War, the vertical of the executive power in the republic has not been restored. The Constitution and the laws of the Russian Federation have virtually no effect in Chechnya. The republic is headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, who differs from Dzhokhar Dudaev and Aslan Maskhadov in his constant expressions of respect and love for Vladimir Putin.
“We need to survive in order to avenge ourselves”
Ramzan Kadyrov came into politics as the son of the first post-war head of the pro-Russian administration, Akhmad Kadyrov. Incidentally, by electing the latter as the loyal leader of the Chechen administration, the Putin government humiliated the “national pride of great Russians.” Akhmad Kadyrov was a Chechen mufti under President Dudaev and publicly called on killing Russians as a way of getting to paradise. He has not renounced his words after switching to the federal government. Even now you can watch a YouTube video with his interview from the time when he headed Chechnya:
Reporter: Did you really say that every Chechen had to kill 150 Russians in order to get to paradise?
Akhmad Kadyrov: No, I … In the 1995–96, I called on Chechens to kill as many as they could. I did not say 100, 150, 200 … I said: As many as you can. At the time, I was calling for a jihad. So this is no secret. But I didn’t say 150.”
The Russian government’s response to this nostalgic, cynical and honest response was silence. Moreover, when Akhmad Kadyrov was murdered during a 9 May Victory Day celebration in Grozny, a street in the South-Western Administrative District of Moscow was named after him as "a great son of the Chechen people" in violation of naming procedures.
Mr. Kadyrov’s successor, his son Ramzan, is also taking liberties without facing consequences. For example, in June 2010 the mass media accused the fighters of his Sever unit of treason for their “criminal inactivity” during a joint operation with an Ufa-based internal troops unit against Chechen “separatists.” As a result, several Russian commandos were killed. Mr. Putin came to Bashkiria, expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased, and … imposed no sanctions on Mr. Kadyrov.
Another extremely revealing fact is that the federal government connives at Mr. Kadyrov’s lawlessness in the situation with the Yamadaev brothers. Like the Kadyrovs, they belonged to teip Benoy and also fought in units that were part of the Dudaev resistance movement during the First Chechen War. Later, again just like the Kadyrovs, they switched to the federal government and faithfully served Moscow. All three of them were awarded the distinction of Hero of Russia. The Yamadaev-led Vostok battalion fought on the side of the Russians in the Russian-Georgian war. Today all three brothers, Heroes of Russia, are six feet under. The Yamadaev family has made multiple public appeals to the Russian president, asking him to stop the extermination of the family and claimed that Ramzan Kadyrov commissioned the murders. (This was also the testimony of the killer who made an unsuccessful attempt on one of the brothers.) The Kremlin was again silent. Mr. Kadyrov’s impunity is so obvious that Sulim Yamadaev was killed in downtown Moscow.
As of today, the majority of Chechen nationalist groups which fought in 1994–2000 against Russia either sided with Mr. Kadyrov or declared their loyalty to his government. Many Chechens explain their choice in Internet discussions as follows: active military actions now would lead to the destruction of the Chechen nation, while the Kadyrov rule is an opportunity for advocates of an independent Chechnya to get a break, wait until the younger generation grows up and to restore Chechnya, while helping it physically revive at the expense of the Russian federal budget.
It should be noted that Mr. Kadyrov is doing everything he can to have pardoned leaders of the Dudaev era return to Chechnya. This pertains in particular to Sugaipov and Khambiev who represented the Maskhadov government in European countries. On a personal invitation from Mr. Kadyrov, the noted Chechen bard singer and fighter Timur Mutsuraev also returned. He sings anti-Russian songs that are popular in Chechnya: “Welcome to hell,” “Brace up, Russia, we’re coming,” etc. Mr. Kadyrov also invited the father of Movsar Baraev, the leader of a terrorist group which carried out the terrorist act in Dubrovka.
In politics, little has changed in Chechnya since Maskhadov times except for the rhetoric:
1. As president of the republic of Chechnya Mr. Kadyrov has formed his own military units and is financing them from the Russian federal budget. In 2008, he issued the order “On the Organization of the Draft of Citizens born in 1981–1990 into the Military in October–December 2008 on the Territory of the Chechen Republic,” thus establishing Chechnya’s own national draft. Local draftees serve only on its territory.
2. Mr. Kadyrov is active in foreign-policy matters. Take, for example, his initiative to build an international airport in Gudermes with a Chechen customs office and his talks with representatives of the Middle East countries.
3. The entire system of government is determined by Mr. Kadyrov and government agencies in Grozny with little intervention on the part of federal bodies.
4. Nearly all Russians have been moved out of Chechnya, turning it into a one-nation state.
Subsidies for peace
Reconstruction programs in Chechnya are financed from the federal budget, a fact which pains Russian taxpayers. Everyone is speaking about corruption and kickbacks, but government subsidies to the republic rise with each passing year. Chechnya's budget is currently more than 80% dependent on transfers from the federal budget. The republic is one of the top 10 subsidized regions.
However, the Kadyrov administration always has a counterargument to the accusation that it is leeching off Russian taxpayers: We are prepared to abandon the subsidies, but give us all of the Chechnya’s oil production. Today Chechnya produces 1.9 million tons of oil per year, but the oil-generated income would not set off even 60% of infusions from the Russian federal budget. However, this setup may turn out to be advantageous to Chechen leaders. First, Russian subsidies are, evidently, associated with excessively high kickbacks. Second, the Chechen government probably has information about some hidden resources in the oil business.
Kadyrov-controlled mass media outlets constantly raise the subject of transferring the oil production license from Rosneft to Chechnya's Groznneftegaz. If Mr. Kadyrov succeeds in getting the oil business under his control, one is left to wonder why the Russians sacrificed so many soldiers in two Caucasian wars, especially if you consider that Rosneft is planning to build a cutting-edge oil processing plant in Chechnya in the near future.
Meanwhile, the restoration works in the republic are financed by “great Russia” in the form of budget transfers in exchange for “stability.” The WikiLeaks dossier on Chechnya recently revealed that, according to American diplomats, a third of Russian subsidies earmarked for “reconstruction” go personally to Mr. Kadyrov. But even the “transparent” part of expenses in the republic is not very satisfying to the Russians. For example, some of the federal money was channeled into financing a presidential whim — the Terek Grozny soccer club. The Russian Audit Chamber found that a total of 738 million rubles was spent on Terek in 2008–2009. This year Mr. Kadyrov decided to send golden greeting cards to 500 women on Women’s Day. They allagedly cost USD 17,000 a piece…