So, Ramzan Kadyrov is playing head games again -- and everybody knows it.
The Chechen leader announced this weekend that he was prepared to step down when his term expires in April and urged the Kremlin to find a replacement.
"My time has passed," he said.
Nobody believes him, of course.
Kadyrov's latest piece of performance art actually had two purposes.
One was simply to annoy and upstage Russia's beleaguered opposition.
The announcement came as thousands marched in Moscow to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, which is widely believed to have been ordered by Kadyrov.
But Kadyrov's real audience was one man: Vladimir Putin.
Kadyrov knows he has many enemies in Russia's security services who would like to remove him.
But he also knows that Putin and others in the ruling elite fear that if he were removed, Chechnya would again descend into chaos.
Whether or not this is actually the case is not important. What is important is that Putin appears to believe it's the case.
So Kadyrov is basically pushing the issue and blackmailing the Kremlin leader.
Go ahead and fire me, he seems to be saying, I dare you.
And as if on cue, the hashtag #РамзанНеУходи -- "Don't Go Ramzan" -- is already trending on Twitter.
So now the ball is in the Kremlin's court.
Reappointing Kadyrov will only embolden him. But not reappointing him risks a new round of conflict in the North Caucasus.
Kadyrov is basically Putin's Frankenstein monster. Putin created him, and now he can't control him.
Which leaves Kadyrov free to terrorize the countryside.
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