Posts Tagged ‘Chechnya’
In one sentence: there is nobody else the Kremlin trusts to maintain control over the Republic as well as Kadyrov has been able to do.
The truth is that Kadyrov has the Kremlin over a barrel, and everybody knows it. He has essentially eliminated any threat to his grip on power. The Yamadaevs were eradicated, Alkhanov was always too weak, an d Baisarov is dead. Dzhabrailov is a possibility, and may just be biding his time. But say you replaced Kadyrov with someone like Dzhabrailov. What guarantee does the Kremlin have that he’d be able to maintain the kind of control that Kadyrov regularly brags about? Now, of course, Kadyrov’s control and stability reassurances are overstated. There have been several fire fights in the past year that have led to casualties on the part of the authorities, but the information is ruthlessly suppressed.
The danger now is that Kadyrov will continue to extend his reach. It was thought that he called a halt to the border dispute with Yevkurov in an attempt to show solidarity in the run up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. But it looks like things have quietened down on that front for the moment. Meanwhile, however, it appears that he is making moves to assert his influence in Crimea. In a recent post on his Instagram account, Kadyrov indicated that money from the Akhmad Kadyrov Foundation (a charity managed by Ramzan’s mother) would be used restore a mosque in Sevastopol.
“I have an acquaintance who has a firm reputation as a playboy. And even if he were now living in a monastery, people would still say: He’s the playboy who… and would recall legends and fables from his turbulent life as a playboy. Basically, legends outlive people, as is well known.
–Nataliya Gevorkyan discussing Surkov in Kommersant July 2005
Over the years many legends have been given to us about Vladislav Surkov. We were told he was “publicity shy”. This was proven to be untrue when Surkov went on a media blitz in both the domestic and foreign markets in the middle of 2005. At the time his actions sparked speculation that Surkov was putting himself forward as a contender in the race for “Operation Successor” to replace Vladimir Putin as President of Russia in 2008. If Surkov did put his name in the ring, he did it with such skill that it appears he was never considered a serious threat. At least he never appeared to fall victim to the schemes and intrigues that befell so many others in the pre-2008 in-fighting.
Then Surkov revealed that he was half-Chechen, and that myth was born. That of the man who could solve Chechnya’s problems.
Other narratives have emerged over time: Surkov the liberal. Surkov the novelist. Surkov the lyricist (it is rumored he writes lyrics for the Russian band, Agata Kristi). Surkov the hipster.
Slava Surkov’s persona of 1980s hipster has inspired a portfolio of memes on the internet. He has achieved a cult status on Tumblr where a cursory search of the Surkov tag has the potential to end hours later, bleary-eyed and wondering where the time went.
When he left the Government this past May, you could almost hear the collective groans of disappointment across the Internet. But enthusiasts need not have worried. Slava was still posting photos on Instagram, still making trips down to Chechnya to go fishing with Kadyrov, and making sure we did not forget him.
He even managed to introduce us to his father in Ufa. An interview in Russkiy Pioneer (a youth magazine) less than a month later revealed few new facts, but served to heighten the aura of mysteriousness that Surkov cultivates.
Meanwhile, it appeared that Surkov was in talks with the Kremlin about his future place in the ranks. Rumors would surface periodically over the summer about his imminent return. But these were all quickly quashed. When the most recent gossip surfaced, it was treated with some skepticism, but they turned out to be true, and Surkov is once again safely ensconsed in the Kremlin. He has replaced Tatiana Golikova as Presidential Envoy to Abkhazia and South Ossetia (2 breakaway regions in Georgia). However, the speculation has already started up again about Surkov’s future. Because surely Surkov’s ambitions must be greater than mere Presidential Aide and Envoy.
The latest gossip, by the way, is that Surkov will replace Kadyrov as chief of Chechnya. However, this rumor seems unlikely due to a number of factors.
First, Surkov is only half Chechen. This makes him something of an outsider in Chechen society. Added to this is the fact that he is not a practicing Muslim, and is, allegedly, a baptized Orthodox. And he was not raised in Chechnya or even in a Chechen community. In fact, Surkov is so much the outsider that I would argue that it would be impossible for him to maintain a firm grasp on power for very long.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is that Surkov probably would not want the job if it were offered to him. Not that he would not welcome the challenge if it were offered him, but that he is already running Chechnya by virtue of the fact that he has Kadyrov’s ear.
Further, Surkov was the alleged author of Chechenization (or Kadyrovization, as I have taken to calling it) where power in the ethnic republics is concentrated on one person who rules with an iron fist.
Given all of that, why would Surkov want to take on a more public role when he cearly does not need one? No, for better or for worse, Kadyrov will remain chief of Chechnya. And Surkov will keep stringing us along, which is his real hobby.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s op-ed that was published in the New York Times this morning has been met with both much praise and much derision. My own Twitter feed has been filled with comments, jokes, and links to responses. However, what caught my eye early on was this comment from Steve Lee Myers, the acting Bureau Chief for the New York Times in Moscow:
As Prime Minister in 1999, Putin oversaw the Russian incursion into Chechnya in the name of state security. Many in the world community saw this as a cause for concern, and President Bill Clinton raised the issue when the two men met in Oslo in November of that year.
The emotional tone of the 1999 article [http://nyti.ms/1d6Z7LL%5D is the very first thing that jumped out at me. Putin begins by saying: “Because we value our relations with the United States and care about Americans’ perception of us, I want to explain our actions in clear terms.”
He then goes straight into a hypothetical scenario of a terrorist attack on New York City (something that is very odd to read 12 years after 9/11), and urges his readers to imagine renegade militias out of Montana running rampant across middle America and striking fear into the hearts of citizens. He compares this imaginary scenario to what Shamil Basayev was doing in Chechnya.
The whole essay is very artfully done. Putin appeals to Americans’ experiences in the post-Cold War reality. He cites incidents of terrorist violence on American targets around the world, and says, “Terrorism today knows no boundaries.”
He insists: “The antiterrorist campaign was forced upon us. Sadly, decisive armed intervention was the only way to prevent further casualties both within and far outside the borders of Chechnya, further suffering by so many people enslaved by terrorists….”
And his ending paragraph reads in an odd mixture of defensiveness, and meekness:
“But when a society’s core interests are besieged by violent elements, responsible leaders must respond. That is our purpose in Chechnya, and we are determined to see it through. The understanding of our friends abroad would be helpful.”
Contrast this with today’s article written in response to President Obama’s recent speech about Syria . Again Putin appeals to the American public as a whole, and not just their leadership, saying: “It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.”
The following sentence was especially noteworthy when compared to the 1999 article in defense of the Russian incursion into Chechnya: “Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country.” Sound familiar at all?
Or compare the following two sentences. Putin in 1999 defending his actions in Chechnya: “Yet in the midst of war, even the most carefully planned military operations occasionally cause civilian casualties, and we deeply regret that.” And Putin in 2013 warning against targeted strikes in Syria: “No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.”
As Presidents do not write their own speeches, neither do they write their own articles. Whatever the differences between these two articles, the authors of each one know their audience and worked hard to appeal to it.
The world has changed a lot in the last 14 years, and the reality today is much different than it was in 1999. President Putin has now been in power in one form or another for almost 14 years. Chechnya was destroyed and then rebuilt, but Russia is not really much safer than it was 14 years ago.
America meanwhile has had boots on the ground in Iraq for a decade, and Afghanistan for 12 years. Most Americans are not enthusiastic about becoming entrenched in another conflict overseas no matter how noble the arguments for involvement are. In that kind of environment, who could object to the following sentiment? “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”
Putin’s appeal to the American public is not falling on fallow ground, as just skimming the 600 plus comments in his New York Times’ article will attest. And the article has spawned a “Putin For Peace” trend on Twitter, with rumors of a possible Nobel Peace Prize nomination in the offing. Mr Putin knows his audience, but does his audience know Mr Putin?
As previously noted, on Friday April 13th, Kavkaz Center posted what they claimed to be a new video of Dokku Umarov, self-proclaimed leader of the Caucasus Emirate. The video was titled “Dokku Umarov Answers Questions”. And for 20 minutes that is exactly what Umarov does. He reads a question, and then he answers it. He reads another question, and he answers it. Umarov gives no indication of where he got the questions he claims are from “Caucasian journalists”, but they have been written out on a piece of paper that he reads from.
The video itself is reminiscent of previous videos submitted by the Caucasus Emirate. Umarov is shown sitting on a rug in a room with no natural light. On the wall behind him is black flag of the Caucasus Emirate, and a green wall peaking out from behind that. Umarov himself is wearing all black. However, unlike previous videos, the distracting background noise in this one was kept to a minimum, with only one other person coughing in the background a few times throughout the video that lasts 20 minutes.
Umarov again denies that there is a split in the leadership of the Caucasus Emirate, saying that it is all just rumours and gossip. However, he does not present Gakayev and Vadalov as proof, so it is difficult to determine if there is actually any truth in his claims.
The most emotion that Umarov shows in the video is when he is discussing the price the Americans have placed on his head under the Rewards for Justice program. In fact, he appears very smug about the fact that he is worth $5 million to the Americans, and mentions it repeatedly. While this is not a lot of money (for comparison, Ayman al-Zawahiri is worth $25 million, and Mullah Omar is worth $10 million under the same program), it is enough to make Umarov self-satisfied about his position as a leader in the worldwide Islamic jihad.
I am not convinced that the video is entirely legitimate. While the man in the video is almost certainly Dokku Umarov, I have a hard time believing that the video was taken last month. There are several odd choppy cuts at the end, and Umarov never mentions the alleged assassination attempt on Russia’s President-elect Vladimir Putin, or gives any proof that the video was taken in March 2012. In addition, the topics that he chooses to discuss are somewhat dated. The Americans placed Umarov on the Rewards For Justice list in May 2011. The split with Gakayev & Vadalov was allegedly resolved last July. That being said, Umarov does not say anything that would indicate the opposite either.
In the end, there was very little new information offered in the video. The video is called “Umarov answers questions” but, quite frankly, I still have questions. Why does he not mention Gakayev & Vadalov by name? Why doesn’t he mention Vladimir Putin’s reelection? Why doesn’t he mention the Russian opposition? Is the moratorium on civilian targets over now that Vladimir Putin has been reelected? These are just some of the questions I would like Dokku Umarov to answer. Maybe he will take the time to answer them in his next video.
I am veering away from my usual topics (the elite in Moscow) to talk about the latest Dokku Umarov video. I am doing so because while Umarov is physically far away from Moscow and its elites, he seems to be more aware of what is taking place there politically than the elites are. And he is taking advantage of the weakness that the Putin regime has portrayed (and is continuing to portray) in its moment of political crisis.
The latest video was posted two days ago on the rebel website Kavkaz Center, with the headline: “Dokku Umarov has changed the status of the population of Russia, and gave the order to avoid attacks on civilian targets.” Umarov’s stated reason was that in protesting the falsified elections, the civilian population is currently in direct conflict with the regime, and therefore deserving of this moratorium.
While the man in the video was almost certainly Umarov, the sudden and remarkable change in tactics shows that Umarov may not be the one making all of the decisions anymore. In bringing Vadalov & Gakaev back into the fold last summer, some concessions were probably made about how decisions are reached within the Caucasus Emirate. Neither Vadalov nor Gakaev were in this most recent video, and Umarov made no mention of them. However, I find it very doubtful that they are not participating in discussions on tactics, and strategies, and targets. In fact, I would be willing to posit that the two are very much involved in the larger tactical plans.
Umarov and the Caucasus Emirate leadership seek to portray the Putin regime as weak, but they are weak too. Umarov may have been trying to project strength here, but everything about this video (except for the great graphics in the first 35 seconds) screamed weakness. He’s sitting out in the cold snow, and he is obviously in pain. A terrorist attack in Moscow, or anywhere outside the North Caucasus, has not been staged for a little over a year (since Domodedovo). We have not really heard anything from Riyadus-Salikhin since then. They tried to claim responsibility for the assassination of Yuri Budanov last June, but no one really took them seriously. And as for Khamzat, the supposed leader of Riyadus-Salikhin, we saw him the last time we saw Umarov (back in October) when Umarov declared that Khamzat had not been killed in Istanbul.
As a political strategy, this moratorium is a good one, but in practical terms, it is highly doubtful that the Caucasus Emirate is currently capable of attacking even a soft target in Russia’s heartland.
I found this story on my Google Reader, but the details were vague, and I was curious to see what other information I could find. A quick Google News search directed me to this story from Al Jazeera: Chechen rights activist ‘abducted’. A somewhat different interpretation from the first story, but not necessarily wrong. Actually, I find it to be much more believable.
The reason I am posting this is because it, once again, forces us to confront the problem of Ramzan Kadyrov. We were told that Chechenisation would solve the problems in Chechnya. But that is simply not true. When you have a President of a republic who can commit murder in another country with impunity, or can kidnap a man off the street in Moscow with no questions asked, you have a problem. And not just a problem with Ramzan Kadyrov as an individual, but with the entire system that was set up by Putin, and Surkov (the supposed author of Chechenisation). And it proves that Putin’s regional policies have failed miserably.
For all his faults, and downright evilness, Ramzan Kadyrov does have his moments of comic relief. The latest is aided by Movladi and the folks at Kavkaz Center. First, the picture of Kadyrov is pretty amazing (and slightly frightening).
Most of Ramzan’s claims seem to be bogus. Particularly this one: “Earlier, two of his assistants – Magomed Hambiev (former CRI defense minister) and Shaa Turlaev (former head of CRI president Maskhadov’s guard), who took the side of Russian infidels, were also sent to mountains to fight against Mujahideen.”
This is confusing because I thought that Shaa Turlaev could hardly walk. Maybe I am thinking of someone else, though… okay, I found a picture of Shaa without a leg, but I think he sustained other injuries later.
There is some relevance to Putinania in this article, when Kadyrov says: “Vladislav Yurivich is a strategist, he knows all difficulties in state politics, all its kitchen. He often helps me with advice. When I am tired, when I am irritated, saddened, I go to him. He listens to me and so calmly, delicately, lightly explains to me the hardships of the moment, and I calm down.”
Vladislav Surkov, the man who does everything.