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The Daily Vertical: What Does Ramzan Want? (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

So what exactly does Ramzan Kadyrov want now?

That is always the first question that comes to my mind when the mercurial Chechen leader starts making noises about resigning, as he did in a recent interview on Russian state television.

Speaking to Channel One this weekend, Kadyrov raised eyebrows by saying it was his dream to resign, that it was time for a change in Chechnya, and that there are several people who are fully capable of doing his job.

The whole thing appeared to catch the Kremlin off guard. Interfax cited an unidentified official as simply calling it "strange."

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It's actually more than just strange. It's a potentially major headache for Vladimir Putin's regime.

Because, rightly or wrongly, the consensus in the Kremlin has long been that, without Kadyrov in power, Chechnya -- and potentially other areas of the volatile North Caucasus -- could descend into chaos.

This has given Kadyrov license to pretty much do as he pleases -- a license the wily Chechen leader has taken advantage of with abandon.

He blatantly flouts Russian law with impunity.

He is widely believed to have been behind the assassinations of Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov.

He extorts exorbitant subsidies from Moscow and treats Chechnya as a personal fiefdom.

And now just weeks before Putin is expected to announce plans to seek a fourth term in the Kremlin, Kadyrov apparently wants something.

And he has apparently decided it is time remind everybody how irreplaceable everybody believes he is.

Kadyrov's latest attempt at extortion is a stark reminder that while the Putin regime appears rock solid on the surface, in reality it is built on fragile foundations.

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