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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: February 2, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
An Explanation for Kadyrov's Increasingly Belligerent Behavior - Two Months Till His Presidency Ends
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Vedomosti has found a good explanation for why Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been behaving so aggressively lately -- there are two months remaining in his tenure as president, reported.

After that, President Vladimir Putin will have to appoint a temporary acting president until elections take place.

Kadyrov was appointed March 2011 by then-President Dmitry Medvedev for a period of five years; this term expires on April 5, 2016. The parliament confirmed him then, but the next president of Chechnya will be elected directly from among multiple candidates, per changes made in the Chechen Constitution in 2012.

Despite Kadyrov's increasingly provocative behavior -- yesterday he posted a video clip on Instagram showing two opposition figures through a sniper's scope -- the Kremlin has continued to back him.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin said Kadyrov was "an effective leader." Sergei Ivanov, head of the presidential administration also endorsed him last week; asked by reporters if Kadyrov was becoming an irritant, he said (translation by The Interpreter):

"As for the activity of the head of the Chechen Republic, it does not provoke any questions in the administration of the president."

Mikhail Vinogradov, a political analyst, told Vedomosti that he believes Kadyrov has to come "all at arms" to be appointed acting president and then be elected in the direct elections. Once elected, he will have a higher status than other leaders in the North Caucasus who have been appointed. No decree has been issued yet about his status as acting president, and there are rumors that he may be made vice premier. For now, Kadyrov has to pretend he is not worried about the coming appointment, and is concerned with "the larger topics of Islam, the opposition, and so on," said Vinogradov: 

"Ramzan is hated by many people for different things. But the peak of his unpleasantness has passed and there is no threat. And he is demonstrating that to everyone."

We could note that few have any doubt that Kadyrov would be able to manipulate such elections, as he has secured 99% support in elections for Putin.

Another source, close to the presidential administration who was not named said that he did not believe the Kremlin was seriously thinking of replacing Kadyrov; most likely their only worry was how to reduce the subsidies to Chechnya. Kadyrov is "raising the stakes," he said; after looking at his Instagram account, no minister will think of cutting his subsidies.

Yesterday, as it turned out, Instagram's management turned out to be bolder then Kremlin ministers; a representative told Vedomosti that they had removed the threatening video, saying death threats and calls to violence were a violation of community standards. The video still remains in place on the Instagram account of Magomed "Lord" Daudov, however, speaker of parliament and Kadyrov's close comrade-at-arms.

Kadyrov reacted predictably on Instagram last night, saying:

"No sooner did I say a few words about the chained dogs of the USA than they removed my post from Instagram. There it is, the much-praised freedom of speech, American-style! You can write anything, but don't touch the dogs of America, of the State Department and Congress. You know perfectly well what I'm talking about.

Today, Kadyrov has only doubled down, posting a photo of himself reviewing his troops in desert camouflage and commenting again on the opposition:

2016-02-02 15:34:39

I've always spoken directly and said only what I thought. I thought the opposition are people who are the same kind of patriots of their country who have some support among a certain part of the citizens and try to get across their vision of how to resolve the problems of state. When I look at 15-20 people without a Motherland and a flag who call themselves by the serious word "opposition," along with contempt, other issues arise. Despite the incessant barking of the "Kasyanovs" and his little friends, scared to death by my video in Instagram (which was immediately removed), and also those who sympathize with them, I still want to understand a simple truth: who are they?!

Can you consider opposition people who unconscionably and openly help those who try to force our country into a blockade by sanctions and provocation, as the fascists did with Leningrad at one time?! To exhaust us and then dictate to us their political will!? Can you consider opposition those who embrace the Nazis in Kiev, supporting the bloodshed in the Donbass?! Or let's say those who, emphasizing their hatred of all the peoples of Russia, swear to return our Crimea after they come to power!? Or those who, the other day, called my people "the most difficult" and insist on the "secession of Chechnya!?

Can you consider full-fledged citizens of our Fatherland, enjoying its goods and protection, those who approve of the publication of lists of our pilots fighting in Syria!? The list of such crimes aimed at the rapid collapse and enslavement of Russia could be continued for a long time. So who are they, these pathetic beggars, standing with outstretched hand at the embassies of the USA and its allies? Is that really the opposition? For such an opposition, we have prevailed over international terrorists, losing thousands of faithful comrades!?

What should we consider those who fall into hysterics over a short video!? Could a real opposition be so cowardly!? I am certain it could not. And those about whom I speak with revulsion are for me personally, traitors and betrayers of Russia and its People. And another thing. If these cardboard "heroes" are so terribly afraid of my laughing at them, then the road to the courthouses is open to them. I am a law-abiding citizen, responsible for my every work and remain with my firm opinion. I've said everything.

Sergei Mitrokhin, former leader of the opposition party Yabloko and now chair of its Moscow branch sent an appeal to Putin and the heads of the FSB and Prosecutor General to open up a criminal case against Kadyrov on grounds of calls to extremist activity and organizing an extremist organization. By the latter, he apparently means the troops within Chechnya that are called "Kadyrov's personal army" although nominally they belong to the Chechen branch of the Interior Ministry.

The Levada Center recently found in a public opinion poll that 60% of Russians did not approve of Kadyrov's calling opposition figures "traitors" and threatening reprisals against them.

Another short-term factor that could be driving Kadyrov's behavior is the upcoming year anniversary of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov on February 27. The Investigative Committee has said they have "solved" the case and are expecting to transfer the case to a military court. Since the chief defendant, Zaur Dadayev, was in the Chechen Interior Ministry's Sever Battalion and was praised by Kadyrov as a "patriot," his sentencing will further call into question Kadyrov's judgement.

A spotlight will also be shed on two figures, Ruslan Geremeyev, head of Sever and a relative of Kadyrov's and Ruslan Mukhatdinov, his driver, said to organize the murder. Both have fled Russia. The opposition believes the masterminds of the murder have not yet been found and have already indicated they believe the trail leads to Kadyrov himself.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick