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Chechnya's Independence Of Sorts

Chechnya President Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechnya President Ramzan Kadyrov
Russia has declared an end to its antiterrorist operations in Chechnya. At least some Russian troops are expected to be withdrawn as a result. It's not clear, however, when the withdrawal will start and how many Russian servicemen will be pulled out.

But the problems for Chechnya are far from over and, rather than being a victory for Russia in restoring order to the restive republic, it's really a victory for Chechnya's strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, who I profiled recently here.

Kadyrov is bound to consolidate his power further -- he will probably attempt to kick as many Russian agencies out of the republic as politically expedient.

Of course, the Russians will keep some troops there -- there's no doubt about that (in fact, Moscow signaled today that Interior Ministry troops and at least one army brigade would stay behind), but really this is about the continued "Kadyrovization" of Chechnya.

Chechnya's strongman will be more free to build up his regime: he will likely open an international airport and his own customs service, which, he hopes, will enable him to attract massive foreign investment.

Whether or not aid agencies and international human rights groups will be allowed to open their offices in Chechnya, is not clear.

Essentially, and perhaps paradoxically, this all amounts to de facto independence. True, Chechnya, like some other North Caucasus republics, to a large extent depends on the Russian government for its budget, but Russian subsidies increasingly look like war reparations.

The question that both Russians and Chechens may start asking themselves now is, was the virtual independence for the Kadyrov regime worth all that fighting for the past 15 years and those thousands of destroyed lives on both sides?

Liz Fuller has more at the Caucasus Report.

-- Aslan Doukaev

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