Staunton, April 3 — The conflict between the FSB and Ramzan Kadyrov over who is to be held responsible for the murder of Boris Nemtsov is intensifying and increasingly affects Vladimir Putin, Andrey Piontkovsky says, because “any attack on Kadyrov indirectly or directly is an attack” on the Kremlin leader. At a minimum, it calls attention to his weakened position.
Many analysts had concluded, after Putin returned from his “unexpected disappearance” from public view, that the FSB and the Chechen leader had somehow agreed on a “compromise” in which the Chechen Dadayev would take the fall and everyone would agree that he acted alone and from Islamic motives.
But, Piontkovsky says, “the FSB had continued the pressure” on Kadyrov. “From those leaks which are appearing in the press from the FSB, it is clear that [the leaders of the security service] are demanding that more senior people around Kadyrov such as Germeyev and Delimkhanov be brought to justice or at a minimum questioned.”
And at the same time, the Russian analyst continues, “the Kadyrov camp has launched a counter-attack,” with Dadayev disowning his confessions and insisting that he “has no relationship to the murder” and made his earlier statements as a result of torture.
“Such a scandalous dead end on the question of naming the murderer of Nemsov is obvious and testifies to the fact that the power of the dictator has weakened. A dictator fully in charge would never allow such a conflict in his entourage or such a challenge to himself,” Piontkovsky continues. But “when and how the conflict will end” is beyond the power of anyone now to predict.
“But it must end somehow,” he suggests, “because the situation is becoming ever more scandalous: someone must be named as the murder of Nemtsov. Any real dictator be he Putin in full control undoubtedly would remove the entire leadership of the FSB as a result of this challenge to hiself. But apparently he cannot do that.”
Piontkovsky is absolutely right to suggest that the conflict between the FSB and the Chechen leader must end sometime, and he is right also to indicate that the longer it continues, the more it becomes a problem for Putin. But there are two possibilities about how this might “end” that the Russian analyst does not consider in his Gordonua.com interview.
On the one hand, in the new media environment in which all the players including Putin, the onrushing flood of events is so great that it is possible that Nemtsov’s murder however much it riled the Moscow political landscape at the time is going to fade as an issue. Everyone will remember it, and all sides will continue to believe in their versions of the truth, but it will be less central for each of them.
And on the other, like other dictators before him, Putin may use conflicts among his subordinates, in this case between the FSB and the Chechens to his own advantage, using the attacks on each to weaken the other and thus boost his own standing. Only if the FSB or Kadyrov goes public with the suggestion that Putin was directly involved would the Kremlin leader have to take action.