Staunton, December 25 — Vladimir Putin rose to power with a promise to suppress Chechnya’s drive for independence, but his actions in recent years, including his new decision to hand over to Grozny the oil refinery there have put that North Caucasus republic on “the final stage” toward the establishment of an independent country, according to Ilya Yashin.
Indeed, the liberal Russian politician argues in an article in Yezhednevny zhurnal on December 25, Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov has effectively “unmasked Putin’s imperialism as an absurd caricature,” one that has real content in some directions but is completely false in others.
Earlier this week, it became known that Putin has “agreed to transfer to the control of Ramzan Kadyrov the oil industry in the Chechen Republic. Until now, the company, Chechenneftekhimprom, had been controlled by the federal government, in fact by Rosneft (read Igor Sechin).”
That represents yet another step along a path in the course of which “the head of the republic has concentrated in his hands extraordinary authority” far beyond that of any other Russian region, Yashin suggests.
“Chechnya has become the only subject of the Russian Federation where a regional army functions.” Its officers and men are nominally in the FSB or MVD of the Russian Federation, but “in reality, they are loyal only to the head of the republic.” And their commanders are “former militants, amnestied by Kadyrov, that is, they are obligated to him not only for their pay but their freedom and even lives.”
Moreover, Yashin continues, “the influence of the federal siloviki [law-enforcers] in fact does not extend to Chechnya – the only law there is the word of Kadyrov. Everyone understands” that Kadyrov feels free to attack Moscow only because they lack the power to do anything about him or his criticisms.
As a result, Kadyrov’s appetites are only growing. And with the acquisition of the oil refinery, he has taken from the federal authorities important economic levers. “A few years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that someone would aspire to take something away from Sechin, a key Putin oligarch.” But the Chechen leader now has.
In recent months, many have called Russia an empire, and it is clear that “Putin himself likes such rhetoric. However, the Kadyrov phenomenon unmasks Putin imperialism as an absurd caricature” of the real thing.
“An empire runs its own territories. In Russian realities, however, one of ‘the colonies’ boldly dictates its will to the center of the empire and receives many billions in subsidies from the state treasury,” even though that colony is headed by “a former militant who fought the Russian military with arms in his hands.”
And consequently, it is possible to conclude, Yashin says, that “Kadyrov is playing a most important role in Russian politics. He is the little boy in [Hans Christian] Anderson’s story who shouts at Putin, ‘But the Emperor has no clothes!’”