Jun 28, 2004

Chechen Republic of Ichkeria: FSB colonel runs for Chechen presidency

'Chechen Times' editorial on the nomination of a FSB colonel, Movsar Khamidov, for Chechen presidency
Changing the favorite?

Against the background of the widely discussed recent events in Ingushetia the following news remained almost unnoticed: on June 23 the vice-premier of the Chechen puppet government, FSB colonel Movsar Khamidov nominated himself as a candidate for “Chechen presidency.” However, we consider this nomination not a simple step.

The main thing what puts us on our guard is the date of the nomination – right after the night battles in Nazran, Karabulak and Sleptsovskaya. The scale and the success of the military operation were almost unanimously considered by most analysts as a complete failure of Putin’s policy in the Caucasus. The war in Chechnya spilled over its territory and threatens to engulf the whole North Caucasus. Afterwards no statements of Putin about “the established peace and normalization” can be seriously taken both in Russia and in the West. Regardless of all attempts of Russian politicians and information resources to present the recent events as a controlled and a common episode, the battles in Ingushetia are taken differently, and few doubt that the situation for the Kremlin in Chechnya (and not only in Chechnya) will deteriorate and the partisan war has received another and a very serious moral incentive.

It is an open secret – a lengthy partisan was depends not so much on support from outside as on attitude of the local population to such movement. Putin’s stake on “Chechenization” of the conflict turned out a failure. However, it became obvious long ago. Even before the first Chechen war Yeltsin’s flirting with the pro-Russian opposition allowed to united the overwhelming majority of Chechens around Dzhokhar Dudayev, many of whom had a complex attitude to the Chechen authority in general, and to some of its representatives in particular. Also take into account the fact that against the background of today’s Kadyrovites the-then “opposition” looked much more “human.” Applying intimidation and terror Russia has only aggravated the situation, thereby driving itself into a dead end. And probably, the Kremlin has gradually realized it as well as it understands the necessity to change the situation. Because Alkhanov’s appointment as “the president” is unlikely to improve the situation, most probably it will turn the highly explosive situation into uncontrolled. Probably, “the self-nomination” of Khamidov results from it.

The necessity of “a FSB president” for Chechnya has been discussed in Moscow for a long time. The candidacy of Said-Selim Peschkhoyev and other Chechens directly linked to secret services were named. The name of Khamidov was also mentioned.

He is not widely known. He was one of the most consistent critics of Kadyrov’s policy – to the degree such criticism was possible at all. Criticizing the system of paying off compensations and indirectly charging Akhmad Kadyrov with corruption, he made his “vice-premier position” a mere formality. Today Kadyrov’s team leaves him off board, and Alkhanov takes spasmodic steps in order to turn off all charges of corruption and crimes committed by Kadyrov’s “death squads.” Until recently he had no reasons to worry – he is the only candidate who met Putin, and to whom Putin made it clear – who would be appointed instead of Akhmad Kadyrov. And suddenly such an extraordinary event! It is impossible to imagine that FSB colonel Khamidov independently made up his mind to take part in the elections. Most probably, “the idea of his nomination” was a mere order “from the top.”

Two variants are possible here. Either Alkhanov is to face “worthy candidates” who will definitely lose the race to him in “a fair struggle,” or Putin decided to put his stake on “the old opposition” which hates the Kadyrovites and does its best to regain the Kremlin’s benevolence lost over the recent years. The recent hostilities in Ingushetia make the second option not so fantastic. Anyway, it will become clear in the coming days – whether or not the favorite has been changed.

How can such scheme change the situation? Undoubtedly, the population of Chechnya is likely to consider the dispersal of the Kadyrovites quite positively. From the other side, the federal center will hardly persuade Chechens that “the tsar is good – his aides are bad.” Putin too openly supported the establishment of Kadyrov’s death squads – as the key factor of the idea of “Chechenization” which he liked most of all. However, the Kadyrovites is not a drop in the ocean – most crimes are blamed on federal force structures. So far, only one thing is clear – Russia’s course in the Chechen question can be changed only because its failure is obvious. Obvious for the West, first of all. Russia, which is on the verge of losing not only TransCaucasus but the whole Caucasus, will never be taken seriously as a state claiming to be a super power. How useful can such status be to Russia, except for satisfaction of its imperial ambitions? Only more serious problems in the future.

Source: Chechen Times (by O. Sheligov)