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Scuffle In Russian Duma Could Highlight Kadyrov Clout

Russian State Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov (left) prays next to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (center) at Grozny's central A.H. Kadyrov Mosque in 2010.
Russian State Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov (left) prays next to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (center) at Grozny's central A.H. Kadyrov Mosque in 2010.
The altercation last week between Adam Delimkhanov, one of Chechnya’s State Duma representatives, and Rodina party Chairman Aleksei Zhuravlev is further evidence of the clout Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov wields in Moscow. Kadyrov, who happens to be Delimkhanov’s cousin, not only apparently had Zhuravlev summoned to account for his actions before the Russian presidential administration; he also succeeded in spinning the whole incident to underscore Chechnya’s crucial role as Russia’s bulwark against an anticipated new wave of Islamists currently fighting in Syria against the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to Zhuravlev -- who like Delimkhanov is a member of the majority United Russia Duma faction -- he went to talk to Delimkhanov at Naryshkin’s request. Delimkhanov had apparently complained, first, about Zhuravlev’s formal request to Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chayka to rule on the implications of a monument unveiled in Chechnya in September to women killed resisting the Tsarist conquest. Second, Zhuravlev had questioned on social media the legal framework within which former employees of Russia’s crack Alfa division are currently engaged in training Chechen Interior Ministry special purpose troops in antiterrorism techniques. A documentary on the subject was aired on Chechen state television in early October.

Zhuravlev said that Delimkhanov first warned him that if he continued to stick his nose into matters that did not concern him “it will end badly” and then suddenly punched Zhuravlev in the head. Zhuravlev retaliated in kind. An unidentified visitor to Delimkhanov’s office who tried to separate the two men had two teeth knocked out, and was subsequently hospitalized. The two desisted only after Delimkhanov dropped a gold-plated pistol. “Novaya gazeta” has formally asked Naryshkin to explain how Delimkhanov managed to bring a firearm into the Federation Council building.

Zhuravlev was quoted as saying that evening that his face was badly bruised and that he planned to raise the incident with the Duma’s ethics committee and with Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov. Delimkhanov aide Tatyana Lazina said he would not comment on what happened.

State Duma speaker Naryshkin, however, said that the Duma’s Ethics Committee would not get involved and that it was up to the police to investigate the fistfight. On December 4, Naryshkin and United Russia faction head Vladimir Vasilyev met with the two deputies separately to talk.

President Vladimir Putin also intervened: The two men were also reportedly summoned to the presidential administration and given a thorough dressing-down.

Meanwhile, Kadyrov issued a lengthy public statement explaining the rationale for coopting former Alfa members to train Chechen Interior Ministry troops. He flatly denied that any fistfight took place, suggesting that Zhuravlev “might have slipped” in the course of what Kadyrov described as a heated argument. For good measure, Kadyrov also criticized as “incomprehensible” Naryshkin’s proposal to involve the police in investigating the incident.

Just a few hours later, Zhuravlev and Delimkhanov announced their reconciliation. Zhuravlev added obsequiously that he hopes federation subject heads, and Kadyrov in particular, “never yield ground when taking crucial decisions.”

It thus appears probable that Kadyrov intervened directly with Putin on behalf of Delimkhanov, whereupon the two Duma deputies were summoned to the presidential administration, and Zhuravlev was ordered to backpedal.

Whether Kadyrov has become the tail that wags the Putin dog, or whether Putin is simply prepared to indulge Kadyrov’s whims because he views him as the sole effective counterweight to any attempt by the North Caucasus insurgency to sabotage the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February is impossible to state with any certainty. What can be chronicled are the numerous public statements in praise and support of Kadyrov from senior Russian officials, including Federation Council chair Valentina Matviyenko and former Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin.

Stepashin made headlines four years ago by commenting with regard to Kadyrov’s annual income declaration that “he owns the entire republic.” Visiting Grozny two years ago, he asked why funds from the federal budget were being spent on the construction of ostentatious skyscrapers rather than factories. During a subsequent visit in June 2013, however, Stepashin could not praise Kadyrov and his achievements highly enough, referring to Chechnya as a role model for other Russian regions. That volte-face raises the question whether Stepashin might have been bribed or bought off or, alternatively, threatened to compel him to revise his public opinion.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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