The approach of Kadyrov's 30th birthday has stirred speculation about if -- and how soon -- he might step up to the presidency of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration.
For his part, Kadyrov has assumed an air of modesty, suggesting he is not yet ready to become president. He has added a critical caveat, however. He would consider the position, he says, if it was "the will of the people."
"Moscow is, of course, grateful to Ramzan for what he's done. But it disapproves of his ambitions."
And in a country where Kadyrov's leadership style -- part efficiency, part intimidation -- has generated a kind of grudging respect, the public could be expected to back such a move.
Ruslan Martagov is a former spokesman for an earlier, Moscow-installed Chechen government -- that of Doku Zavgayev in the mid-1990s. Now head of the Antiterror Foundation in Moscow, Martagov says Kadyrov has long had his eye on the presidency, a post previously held by his father, Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who was assassinated in May 2004.
"It's very difficult to measure the scale of Ramzan Kadyrov's political ambitions. They are boundless. But his next goal is to become president of the Chechen Republic, and he will seek to achieve that goal. If the Russian president continues to show goodwill toward him, he will reach it very soon," Martagov says. "So far, Putin's goodwill is intact. But I think the first alarm bells are ringing."Staying On Kremlin's Good Side
In fact, Kadyrov has not been an easy political partner for Moscow. He is notorious as the head of a personal army of 10,000 so-called "Kadyrovtsy" -- heavily armed fighters who use kidnappings, torture, and other brutal means to maintain a sense of control in the republic.
Kadyrov is credited with bringing security to Grozny and other cities (ITAR-TASS)
But at the same time, Kadyrov is largely credited with improved living standards in the republic, which during the past decade has been devastated by two federal wars against separatist rebels. Highways have been resurfaced, the electricity grid repaired, and new cafes and shops have opened -- not only in the capital Grozny, but in the towns of Argun and Gudermes as well.
By bringing a sense of normalization to Chechnya, Kadyrov has provided a political boost for Putin, who himself came to power vowing to resolve the crisis in North Caucasus republic. It had been expected Putin might reward Kadyrov by helping clear the way for his presidency as soon as possible after his 30th birthday on October 5.
The Chechen parliament has already taken steps to amend the constitution to expedite the replacement of the current president, Alu Alkhanov, whose term formally expires in 2008. Sheen Starting To Fade
It is unlikely, however, that such a move could proceed without a green light from the Kremlin. And analysts say there are signs that Kadyrov's aggressive political style has started to disturb Russia's political elite, including the president himself.
Chechnya expert Aleksei Malashenko says a lot has changed since Putin first summoned Kadyrov to Moscow just hours after the assassination of his father. "Putin then treated him maybe not like a son, but definitely as a young, unfortunate man. Putin had a lot of respect for his [Ramzan's] father, and the sympathies he felt for the father extended to the son," Malashenko says. "But as Ramzan's ambitions grew, Putin understood that he was quite an autonomous, independent, and even -- in a sense -- dangerous figure."
Putin (center) may now prefer Alkhanov (left) to Kadyrov (right) (ITAR-TASS)
Kadyrov's increasingly autonomous style appears to be inconsistent with Moscow's notion of how a loyal Chechen official should act.
Kadyrov recently irritated the Kremlin by openly criticizing Russian officials for failing to control ethnic riots in the northern Russian city of Kondopoga, vowing to restore public order himself if necessary.
He has accused "certain ministers and bureaucrats" in Russia -- carefully excluding Putin -- of trying to steal Chechnya's $450 million in annual oil revenues. He has also angered Moscow by donating funds to separatists in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia. The Alkhanov Card
His behavior has prompted at least one lawmaker in the State Duma to put forward a motion to have Kadyrov removed as prime minister. In the end, says Malashenko, the more pliable, less flamboyant Alkhanov may prove a better political partner for Moscow.
"Moscow is, of course, grateful to Ramzan for what he's done. But it disapproves of his ambitions," Malashenko notes. "Ramzan has very powerful opponents in Moscow who are gradually starting to play the Alkhanov card. Alkhanov is not only more loyal to Moscow than Ramzan, he's also better integrated into Russian society, into the Interior Ministry and all these structures. He is more predictable, he is unlikely to take unpredictable actions like Ramzan."
It is unclear what response a Kremlin rebuff would elicit in Kadyrov, or how he would react if his path to the Chechen presidency were blocked.
Perhaps aware of his vulnerability, he has continued to praise Putin as "the only person who can save Russia." But for all Kadyrov's loyalty, it is not clear that Putin can save him.