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Gazeta, May 11, 2004

After the Act of Terror in Grozny on May 9

By Andrei Ryabov

The developments of May 9 in Grozny really shocked the Russian political class. This is not simply a strong epithet. The moral and psychological consequences of the act of terror which took away the lives of the president of Chechnya Akhmat Kadyrov and several heads of the republic are obvious. All the assurances of the Russian military that the situation in Chechnya was under control and normalising quickly and the forces of the militants had been gradually reducing have been depreciated. The leaders of the separatists Maskhadov and Basayev are still elusive, and the official head of the republic is killed during the festivities of a national holiday. Finally the idea that there has been no normalization of the situation in Chechnya and the militants still have the initiative may prevail in public opinion.

The political consequences of these developments seem even more unpredictable. It is obvious that this threatens to disrupt the whole process of peaceful regulation in Chechnya, including the referendum on the Constitution of the Republic and presidential elections, which were all conducted for one man Akhmat Kadyrov. And all the more or less important political figures were ousted from the political scene of Chechnya to eliminate any obstacles to the person backed by the federal centre put. Consequently it will be very difficult to find a replacement for the killed leader of the republic from Kadyrov's competitors who were previously turned down by the Kremlin. And if such a replacement is finally found, a new problem will emerge: how to fit the powerful clan of the assassinated president, who served as the basis for Moscow s policies in Chechnya for the past few years, in the new political landscape.

However, the consequences of the tragic events in Grozny are not reduced to the Chechen dimension only. It is even more difficult to figure out how the assassination of Kadyrov will influence to Russian policies in the Caucasus in general. Obviously there has been a relative stabilization of the situation in Chechnya where Kadyrov played no small role in the complicated diplomatic maneuvers undertaken by Moscow in its desire to normalize relationships with the present Georgian authorities, including during the resolution of the Adzharian problem. Therefore we can assume that inevitable changes in Chechnya which will happen there after Kadyrov s death will this or that way affect Russia s relationships with the neighbouring Caucasian states, and probably Moscow s approach to the most acute problems of the region- the Abkhazian and the South Ossetian problems.

It is likely that the issue as to what should be done with the naughty republic in the Northern Caucasus may cause new conflicts at the top of Russian politics. As previously far from all the residents of the Russian political Olympus liked Kadyrov. Some influential people thought that when Kadyrov demonstrated his loyalty to Moscow and intimidated people by asserting that without him the republic would fall into chaos, he was in actual fact accumulating huge resources in his hands, which would in future open up opportunities for Chechnya to preserve only formal dependence from Russia. Now the supporters of the tough line in relationships with Chechnya may say that the stake at the constitution of the Republic and local elected executive authorities was not justified. It is no coincidence that some Russian politicians have already made statements on the viability of introducing direct presidential rule in Chechnya. This is unlikely to appeal to people expecting to regulate the conflict through Chechens loyal to Moscow and building with their help a Chechen statehood within the Russian Federation.

It may be claimed that the influence of different opinions in the top political circles in Moscow on Chechnya in Russian domestic politics should not be exaggerated. It is an important issue, but it touches upon only one aspect of the domestic political life of the Russian state. However, those who think like this should not forget that the history of Russia, like that of other countries, is built on a huge number of examples when local conflicts inside ruling elites finally lead to serious changes in domestic political course.

We should not ignore a conclusion or a lesson which should logically be drawn from all the developments and which, one would like to believe, the Russian political elite will learn. In politics, especially in transitional periods, betting on specific individuals, even those who seem very reliable and professional, rather than on institutions, is always a high-risk strategy. One unpredicted accident and you have to start everything again from scratch. Therefore the most efficient way to attain the goal, either peaceful regulation or socio-economic reforms, is to bet on precisely verified balances of forces and real interests represented in society rather than on good executors.

The author is a political scientist, expert of the Moscow Carnegie Centre


See also:

War in Chechnya

Gazeta, May 11, 2004

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