Staunton, Jan. 30 – On January 27, Polish Prime Minister Mateus Morawiecki said that Russia remains a prison house of peoples and that parts of it, including Chechnya, which have sought to secede, deserve independence and can and should be liberated (twitter.com/DariusRochebin/status/1619029754887421952).
Such remarks by a senior Western official only became thinkable after Putin invaded Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution in October 2022 that declared the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria a land “temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation” (meduza.io/news/2022/10/18/verhovnaya-rada-ukrainy-ob-yavila-ichkeriyu-territoriey-okkupirovannoy-rossiey).
They have been condemned by Moscow; and it is unclear how many other Warsaw’s lead. But perhaps the most intriguing response and certainly the one that will have the greatest impact in the near future came now from other Western governments but from Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya.
The day after Mazowiecki made his statement, Kadyrov noted that “he says one must support Ichkeria. I have a question: where were you when we fought for Ichkeria, when we defended independence? Why didn’t European countries, including Ukraine, not support us then. But today you suddenly decided to support a non-existent state?” (t.me/RKadyrov_95/3308).
Even though Kadyrov is a Putin loyalist, his remarks on this point create real problems for the Kremlin which has long insisted that the West did support separatism in Chechnya. By even posing this question, the Chechen head makes nonsense of those Moscow claims (meduza.io/feature/2023/01/30/premier-ministr-polshi-zayavil-chto-chechnya-zasluzhivaet-nezavisimosti-gde-vy-byli-kogda-my-voevali-za-ichkeriyu-otvetil-kadyrov).
But perhaps the most important lesson from this exchange between the Polish prime minister and the Chechen head is this: Russian aggression within that country’s borders and Russian aggression beyond them are deeply intertwined, and failure to address both at the same time ensures that one or the other will soon reemerge.