Nina Jobe and Karena Avedissian at Open Democracy look at the strange symbiosis between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov.
On 3 June, a group of masked men attacked the offices of the regional branch of the Russian Committee Against Torture in Grozny, Chechnya, destroying computers and documents, and damaging the organisation’s car. The police did not respond to calls by staff about the attack, and the Committee Against Torture reports that the attackers went about their business ‘slowly’, as if they knew the police were not going to be dispatched.
The Russian authorities have remained silent on the case, just as they remain silent on the de facto legalisation of polygamy and forced marriage in Chechnya, and the de facto acquittal of people close to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who are suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But these events prompt questions about the extent to which Chechnya remains a genuine subject of the Russian Federation, and highlight a deeper tension between the federal authorities and Chechnya – now boiling over after years of Kadyrov’s rule.
[. . .]
Chechnya is perhaps the most striking case of this asymmetry [between national and regional governments]. This has been exemplified in large part by Kadyrov’s repeated defiance and disregard of Russia’s federal laws. Kadyrov’s recent conflicts with the FSB – most notably when he threatened to have his men fire on federal troops who operated on Chechen territory without his blessing – and the silence of Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian elite, have only highlighted this situation further.
For instance, when opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered metres from the Kremlin’s walls in late February, blame quickly fell on men close to Kadyrov. The Chechen leader publicly came to the defence of one of the accused, Zaur Dadayev, and refused to turn over the others. Dadayev was an officer in Kadyrov’s private army, the Sever Battalion, as was Ruslan Geremeyev, another high-ranking member of the battalion, who is alleged to have been involved in organising the murder. Geremeyev has since fled abroad.
With the lack of a pushback or even a statement from the Kremlin for these acts, Moscow’s authority is beginning to lose traction. While this is sometimes mistaken for outright favouritism or even the opening of a ‘soft exit’ for Chechnya from the Russian Federation, this particular free rein of power resembles what Kimberly Marten calls ‘outsourcing sovereignty.’