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Ramzan Kadyrov (center) at his father's funeral in May
Since the death of his father, Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, in a terrorist bombing on 9 May, 28-year-old Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov has emerged as the most powerful and the most feared man in Chechnya despite his lack of formal education and the alleged involvement of his security force in the systematic abduction, torture, and execution of Chechen civilians.
While Russian human rights activists decry Kadyrov's reported involvement in human rights violations, he can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of the Russian leadership, which has augmented his powers and bestowed on him one of the country's most prestigious awards.
Since being named in October as an aide to presidential envoy to Southern Russia Dmitrii Kozak, Ramzan Kadyrov has extended his control to encompass not only police and security but also economic issues. The latter are, at least in theory, the preserve of Kadyrov's nominal superior, Prime Minister Sergei Abramov. Then in late November, pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov appointed Kadyrov to head the republican commission tasked with allocating compensation payments to Chechens whose homes were destroyed or damaged during the fighting of the past decade. Kadyrov was quoted by ITAR-TASS on 30 November as declaring "a ruthless and uncompromising struggle" against unfounded and fraudulent claims for compensation and vowing to punish all officials who condoned such fraud.
Kadyrov also embarked on a series of visits to rural regions to monitor the restoration of war-shattered infrastructure, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 December. He promised residents in Vedeno Raion that gas supplies to the region will be restored in 2005, and in Achkhoi-Martan Raion he announced that television transmission to the district will be restored and equipment provided to repair local roads.
...Not Without Concern
Some observers have expressed concern, however, that granting Kadyrov responsibility for allocating compensation payments will enable him to use those funds for his own personal ends. As chechenpress.info observed in a 1 December headline, alluding to Kadyrov's alleged involvement in extrajudicial abductions, torture, and executions, "Chechnya's chief executioner will now become chief thief as well." According to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Kadyrov is notorious for demanding kickbacks from all members of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration, including Alkhanov, as his extensive financial interests (including a chain of gas stations in Chechnya and Daghestan) do not generate enough income to cover his expenditures on state-of-the-art weaponry for his so-called presidential security service and bribes to senior Russian officials.
Those clandestine payments could explain why the top Russian leadership seems totally unperturbed by the disquieting rumors linking Kadyrov to egregious human rights violations. It is, after all, probable that Vladimir Putin's advisers provide the Russian president with only carefully filtered information on the situation in Chechnya that would not in any way call into question the wisdom of his previous policy decisions. Such information tactics could help to explain the announcement on 29 December by the Russian presidential press service that Putin had bestowed on Kadyrov the prestigious Hero of Russia award in acknowledgement of his "courage and heroism in the line of duty." Or, alternatively, is Putin aware that he might be backing the wrong horse in Kadyrov but reluctant to admit his mistake? But in that case, why compound the damage by bestowing such a prestigious award on a man who could prove to be a dangerous liability?
Relations With Moscow
Incidentally, in what appears to be an attempt to provide Kadyrov with more impressive academic credentials, the citation accompanying the Hero of Russia award identified him as having graduated in 2004 from the Makhachkala Institute of Business and Law -- despite the total lack of any previous mention that he was studying there. Russian human rights activists, who regard Kadyrov as a ruthless psychopath, were shocked and bewildered by Putin's move.
Meanwhile, the role of liaison between Kadyrov and Moscow appears to have devolved to Taus Dzhabrailov, chairman of the interim Chechen parliament, a man described by RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service as an apparatchik of the old school, motivated by the desire to please, and be of use to, his masters in Moscow. In an interview published on 24 November in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Dzhabrailov advocated first the merger into one federation subject of Chechnya and Ingushetia, and then their incorporation, together with Daghestan, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and North Ossetia into a single North Caucasus region. But in the same issue, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" also quoted an unidentified member of Kozak's staff as rejecting the concept of a single North Caucasus republic as inappropriate at the present time.