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Analysis: Chechnya Spells Out Demands To Moscow

  • Liz Fuller --> The long-awaited draft power-sharing agreement between Chechnya and the Russian federal government is finally ready for signing, Chechen State Council Chairman Taus Djabrailov announced on 18 January -- almost two years after Russian President Vladimir Putin dubbed it the logical next step in the process of "normalizing" Chechnya following the adoption in a controversial referendum of a new constitution for the region.

But the main provisions of the seven-page agreement, especially the financial concessions Chechnya demands, are so exorbitant as to raise the question: does Moscow really believe that the problem of Chechnya can be solved simply by throwing money at it? Or is the draft intended to serve as a basis for negotiations in which Grozny too will be required to make substantial concessions -- even if those concessions are not publicized?

According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 January, the main provisions of the agreement include granting Chechnya the status of a "region of intensive economic development" for a period of 10 years, during which time the republican government will have exclusive rights to the land and mineral resources, including the right to develop and sell those resources. In addition, all taxes collected in Chechnya will be transferred to the republic's budget; residents of Chechnya will be provided with free electricity and gas; Chechnya will receive annually a credit of 3 billion rubles ($100 million); and any intervention into Chechnya's internal affairs by Russian "force agencies" will be forbidden.

Those last two provisions will almost certainly serve to strengthen the position of First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, who is already widely suspected of using budget funds for his own purposes, and whose so-called presidential security force engages with impunity in the abduction for ransom, torture, and killing of Chechen civilians. At present, the federal forces in Chechnya constitute the sole constraint on the "kadyrovtsy"; removing that constraint would be tantamount to granting Kadyrov carte blanche to perpetrate unlimited human rights violations.
Granting Chechnya the status of a "region of intensive economic development" for 10 years is one of the main provisions.

The draft treaty also entitles Chechen survivors of Stalin's repressions to a lump sum comprising 1,000 times the minimum monthly wage for the loss of housing (a total of 720,000 rubles, or $25,762) and 5,000 times the minimum monthly wage for the loss of other possessions. By contrast, the federal law on the rehabilitation of victims of the Stalin purges foresees maximum compensation of 4,000 rubles, "Vremya novostei" noted on 24 January.

Finally, the draft treaty raises the question of revising the demarcation of the border between the republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia agreed upon in 1993 by the then presidents of the two republics, Djokhar Dudaev and Ruslan Aushev. According to "Vremya novostei," Chechnya hopes to recover territories in Ingushetia's Sunzha and Malgobek raions that were part of Chechnya prior to the amalgamation in January 1934 of the Chechen and Ingush autonomous oblasts to form the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Oblast (which was upgraded in December 1936 to the status of an autonomous Soviet socialist republic).

Former Chechen Prime Minister Mikhail Babich, now a State Duma deputy, told "Vremya novostei" that the demands enumerated in the draft treaty exceed by far the most intemperate claims made by the late President Dudaev. But Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center was quoted by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 and 25 January as expressing doubts that Moscow would agree to all the Chechen leadership's demands, as doing so would be "a defeat" in the eyes of Russia's political and military elite, and of President Putin personally. Malashenko predicted a process of horse-trading in which Ramzan Kadyrov would be forced to make unspecified concessions. Mercator Group Director Dmitrii Oreshkin pointed out that if Moscow agrees to the Chechen leadership's conditions, it would unleash a storm of protest from other federation subjects objecting that Chechnya should receive such largesse while they receive proportionately far less in subsidies despite their loyalty to the Russian leadership.

On 25 January, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted unnamed Kremlin administration officials as confirming that the treaty would merely designate Chechnya a "zone of special economic development" and provide unspecified tax breaks. And in what may be an attempt at saving face, Djabrailov told the paper, "So far there has been no reaction at all from the Kremlin." But he also said that the draft he had described was simply the final version as proposed by the Chechen side, and that "it still needs to be worked and worked at" -- a process that the paper likened to "bargaining in a mine field." Meanwhile, Chechen Finance Minister Eli Isaev told a cabinet session on 24 January that Chechnya's annual budget for 2005 has been cut by 400 million rubles in connection with the planned streamlining of the republican government, kavkaznet.web reported.