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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: March 26, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Kremlin Spokesman Denies Plans to Supply Mexico with Weapons After Chechen Parliament Calls for Deployment
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Yesterday, Dukuvakha Abdurakhmanov, the parliamentary speaker of Chechnya, gave an incendiary speech, published on the parliament's web site, in which he denounced a resolution passed by the US Congress to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, and threatened to deliver weapons to Mexico to use against the United States to revive secessionist struggles in southern US states (translation by The Interpreter):

Hence it follows that the US has no right to advise Russia how to conduct itself regarding to a neighborly friendly people. The supply of arms to Ukraine will be perceived by us as a signal for appropriate actions -- we will begin with the supply of the latest armaments to Mexico to revive disputes about the legal status of territories annexed by the US, where there are now the American states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and part of Wyoming.

We reserve the right to conduct conferences in Russia, Mexico and America to raise the question of separating the above-mentioned states from the US and delivering arms for the partisans there.

Abdurakhmanov seemed heedless of the actual parallels of what he was saying with Russia, which has supplied armaments and troops to the separatist war in southeast Ukraine -- including some fighters from Chechnya's Interior Ministry troops.

The speaker said that Russia was "fed up" with America and the "millions" it had supposedly killed in wars from Iraq to Libya to Afghanistan and that it must renounce "its imperialist ideas of its greatness and impunity" and reconcile itself to Russia. The speaker left out the million Afghan civilians killed by Soviet troops in the 1980s and perhaps more pointedly, the 200,000 Chechen civilians killed by Russian troops in two wars in his own republic.

Needless to say, the Chechen threat to deploy weapons in Mexico has gotten a lot of attention in Russia and abroad in the last news cycle, mainly in the form of ridicule.

Finally today Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia has no intention of deploying weapons in Mexico.

"Such statements cannot be coordinated with Moscow. The subjects of the Russian Federation cannot deliver special equipment [weapons] abroad or trade in them. This is simply impossible under our existing legislation."

Peskov said he hadn't read the Chechen parliamentary web site, but the notice is still there, after a warning about DDoS attacks is clicked through.

The Chechen speaker's threat came in response to news stories about the US Congressional resolution to provide lethal aid to Ukraine -- which remains to be approved by President Barack Obama, who opposes it.

The US has provided non-lethal supplies to Ukraine in the last year, and yesterday delivered Humvees. Military trainers are also scheduled for this spring.

This incident is the latest in a round of incendiary statements to come out of Grozny.

Putin condemned the terrorist attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo which had published cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims, and expressed condolences to the victims' families. But he let Russia's state-approved Muslim leaders and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov do the talking after that, and they made statements that the journalists had "committed the sin of provocation" which seemed to justify the attacks. Kadyrov organized a million-strong march of Muslims in Grozny to protest the cartoons, and himself has made ominous statements to Ekyo Moskvy editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov, who decided to publish a number of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons satirizing various figures from different religions.

But what can Kadyrov do when he needs to a layer of plausible deniability and can't have his image consist only of threats? He can turn to the Chechen government administration and parliament which have been increasingly active. It was the head of the presidential administration, not Kadyrov himself who announced that Chechnya was filing a libel lawsuit against talk-show host Kseniya Sobchak who challenged the practice of burning down the homes of  terrorists' relatives. And now the speaker of parliament has made the threat regarding weapons in Mexico.

Kirilly Martynov said in Novaya Gazeta that Abdurakhmanov seemed ill informed about politics in the Americas, noting that the US had good relations with Mexico and "had no intention of fighting for Texas and California" and participated in NAFTA.

More worrisome, said Martynov, was the idea that Chechnya saw itself as an arms supplier to the world -- competing with the centralized Rosoboroneksport, the state agency that manages Russia's arms sales world-wide:

"Where is the Chechen Republic getting the 'latest models of weapons'? Perhaps they're talking about the flails and Kalashes seized from the devils in the mountains? Or perhaps there's something we don't know and the Chechen Republic -- on track for further growth of federalism -- has been preparing secret caches of artillery and rocket systems, combat aviation and tanks?"

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick