Sunday, January 20, 2019

‘Why Can Kadyrov Do What He Likes and We Can’t?’ Other Federal Subjects Asking in Anger

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – The decision of a Chechen court to write off the gas debts of the population is leading to a parade of demands among many other federal subjects for the same thing, leaving Moscow in an impossible position where politically it can’t allow only one subject to do this but economically it can’t allow all, according to Aleksey Makarkin.

            The vice president of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies says that the Chechen decision has proven infectious because of tensions in the population brought on by the pension reform, inflation, and the sense of stagnation (

                All these factors have played a role, Makarkin suggests, in leading ever more Russians to conclude that Ramzan Kadyrov is permitted to do things that others are not and that in turn leads them to feel they are insulted and injured and even second-class citizens in their own country, an unsustainable psychological state.

            Whether Moscow really gave Kadyrov permission is unclear, and whether the court decision in Chechnya will stick is uncertain. Gazprom has promised to appeal. But Russians aren’t concerned with these details but rather with what they see as the unfairness of the situation especially because the Chechen court made two arguments for its ruling.

            On the one hand, it said that these gas debts had been incurred in war time, a reference of course to the war between Chechnya and the rest of Russia which Russia nominally won. And on the other, the court held that writing off such debts was necessary to avoid the rise of mass public protests in the republic. 

            Leaders of other federal subjects, who know they will be evaluated in terms of how well they prevent protests, are not surprisingly asking why Chechnya can take this step to do so but they cannot, Makarkin continues. “Even systemic politicians cannot fail to react to this because otherwise they will lose the support of their voters.”

            Chechnya’s Kadyrov, of course, is “a unique subject of the Federation,” he continues. “He has exclusive ties with the federal center. If he makes some declaration which as a rule is viewed negatively by the liberal part of society, the issue rises to the federal level. But since we have so few liberals, the authorities typically don’t devote much attention to it.”

            But now he has taken a step which doesn’t upset the liberals as much as the population, and its response is something the powers that be can’t ignore so easily.

            Makarkin says he does not know how Moscow will respond to what the paper calls “the gas flashmob” of the regions. It can’t allow Chechnya to act in ways it prevents others from doing, at least in this case; but it can’t possibly afford to allow all regions to write off gas debt. The Kremlin’s “debt” to Gazprom is too high.

            And the risk that one of the systemic parties, the KPRF, could exploit this situation is very real: One communist deputy has now proposed that the Russian government write off the gas debts of all residents of Russia, lest “the gas flashmob” trigger an even more dangerous “parade of sovereignties” (

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