Staunton, October 16 – An article in Moscow’s Novaya gazeta two days ago suggested Ramzan Kadyrov had launched a major purge of his government to get rid of those who opposed him, an action the Chechen leader immediately denied as the work of his enemies (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/10/14/82356-chistka-klassa-lyuks).
Analysts who follow Chechnya say that there could be officials who are “really dissatisfied” with Kadyrov, but they aren’t going to launch any move against him without support from Moscow. Indeed, there are unlikely to be reports about such opposition unless the center wants them to appear (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/341246/ and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/341197/).
And that means, these analysts say, that the interesting part of the Novaya story is in Moscow rather than Grozny. While Kadyrov may be purging people – he has to periodically to maintain himself – the question really is: what is Moscow is playing at. Is this a simple reminder that the center has leverage against him? Or is it the opening move in a plan to oust him?
At the same time, these observers who include Maksim Shevchenko say, Kadyrov himself wouldn’t launch any major move to purge his government without the support of some in Moscow, even if dismissals in the Chechen capital would undercut other officials in the Russian one.
Shevchenko says that he allows that “officials in local places are not very satisfied with the leadership of Chechnya and may in telephone conversations and personal interaction be expressing their dissatisfaction. I even do not doubt this. Naturally, loyalty is the most important criterion and factor of stability in a state of frozen conflict.”
Consequently, periodic purges are required to send a message that loyalty is required, he says; but every such purge and especially every new report about them in the Moscow media highlights something many appear to have forgotten: Kadyrov’s power rests on his use of force almost alone, and he is thus more vulnerable that many think.
And this vulnerability comes not just from Moscow which has it own reasons both for supporting and limiting him or from the surviving members of those who fought him and Russian forces in the past but also from those within his own regime who also fought the center earlier.
That in turn suggests that Kadyrov’s hold on power in Grozny may not be as tight as many assume, including Vladimir Putin, who may be afraid to get rid of his protégé precisely because the Kremlin leader knows that if Kadyrov goes, those in Grozny likely to emerge after him will be far less willing to cooperate with the powers who installed him.
They may in fact be far more open that either Kadyrov or Putin thinks to those in Chechnya and Chechens now beyond its borders who have opposed both.