THE INTRIGUES OF CHECHNYA

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THE INTRIGUES OF CHECHNYA

Argumenty i Fakty, January 22, 2003, p. 5

The upheaval in the government of Chechnya continues, and few know what the conflict between Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the administration, and Prime Minister Mikhail Babich is really all about. But we have managed to find out some details. Some time ago, Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin got Akhmad Kadyrov to pass on a certain memorandum to President Putin. This set out arguments for the need to transfer government, administrative, and financial authority in Chechnya to the military commandant offices.

It is said that the memorandum received approval. And only then did others learn of it: FSB director Nikolai Patrushev, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov. Their interests were infringed, and the defense minister was especially annoyed at not being informed of this in advance. The conflict between the General Staff and the Defense Ministry must have had some bearing on this.

As a result, the president’s signature of approval on the memorandum was withdrawn.

What’s more, the FSB – which is supervising everything in Chechnya, including the prime minister’s performance – decided to put some pressure on Kadyrov, considering him overly-independent. This is why Babich entered into a public dispute with Kadyrov over the appoinment of a finance minister, a key position in Chechnya. The Kremlin spent some time deciding which side to support. The outcome is known: Kadyrov has once again been given carte blanche. We can only note that among Kadyrov’s active supporters are federal minister Stanislav Ilyasov, presidential envoy for the Southern federal district Viktor Kazatsev, and presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

Under the circumstances, Babich has two options: he can continue to stand his ground, or resign. At present, he is in Moscow, seeking support.

FIGHTING AND STEALING

Ekspert, January 20, 2003, p. 6

The arrival of an Auditing Commission team has raised tension in Grozny, and a personnel crisis has broken out in the government of Chechnya.

Prime Minister Mikhail Babich’s dissatisfaction with the personnel policies of Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the administration, had been building up for a month; and it found an outlet. When Kadyrov announce that the post of finance minister of Chechnya would go to Eli Isaev (a former deputy to Finance Minister Sergei Abramov), Babich accused Kadyrov of taking matters into his own hands and violating the decrees of President Putin and directives from the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district. Those instructions set out procedures for making personnel decisions in the government of Chechnya: all decisions should be discussed with the prime minister.

Kadyrov has already described the scandal in Chechnya as “a government crisis”; but his conflict with Babich has been an echo of some larger events.

Firstly, a team from the Auditing Commission has been working in Chechnya for several months now, and their conclusions are bound to lead to a few prosecutions on charges of embezzling state funds. Secondly, eleven Finance Ministry staff died when truck-bombs exploded outside the Chechen government’s offices on December 27. The fact that the Finance Ministry’s offices were hardest-hit by the blast has been noted.

Ever since taking up his appointment in Chechnya, Mikhail Babich has personally been analyzing the accounts of the Finance Ministry; and, according to our sources, he has been shocked at the extent to which funding allocated for the restoration of Chechnya has been stolen. Thus, it seems the current scandal has less to do with Kadyrov’s attempts to appoint his own people to Finance Ministry posts – and more to do with the previous Finance Ministry team’s determination to resign before the Auditing Commission can catch up with them.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK

Konservator, January 24, 2003, p. 3

The silliest response one can make to the YUKOS oil company funding the Communist Party is calling this “privatization” of the Communist Party or saying that the Communists are selling out. The Russian Communists have by no means exhausted their ideological or organizational reserves, and despite many predictions of doom, the Communists have made comeback after comeback, once again “scaring” their political opponents.

However, the Communist Party has never been able to break out of the “political ghetto” which has been allocated to it, that 33% of the vote. This is primarily because of its funding shortage, which has made the Communists unable to afford quality campaign advertising or the services of specialists. The Communist Party has not been known for being the kind of political center which concentrates material, intellectual, and organizational resources. The Communist Party has been on the periphery of real big-time politics; the regime has used it as a “scarecrow” or a counterweight to other political forces, perhaps not as strong as the Communists, but more influential politically.

Money from YUKOS will give the Communist Party not only a chance to emerge from the ghetto, but the hope of moving into big-time politics – even into government. The Communists could significantly change their image as “a party of the past”, becoming “a party of the future”; they could change their voter support base and their activists, attracting cohorts of young intellectuals who are enthusiastic about leftist revolutionary ideas and strongly opposed to the present regime.

S.G. Kara-Murza, an influential Communist ideologue, notes: “In its present form, the Communist Party doesn’t aspire to be a breakthrough party; it is more like a cadre division. It is not battle-worthy; but when the war begins, the situation changes drastically, and all these old men guarding the base and lubricating the vehicles move aside, so that some different people entirely can drive the vehicles and occupy the command posts.”

With the money of YUKOS, such people will certainly turn up. Once it is “in the money”, the Communist Party has every chance of changing itself back from a harmless oppositional “parliamentary party” to an actual “party”: that is, a movement more suited to the task of uniting communists and leading them to power.

One shouldn’t assume that YUKOS chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky is “buying” the Communist Party – in contributing such substantial sums, the oligarch is essentially becoming a hostage to his own investments, and will have to continue investing. Khodorkovsky himself doesn’t seem too concerned about this; he is known for a quip about not fearing the prospect of the Communists returning to power – since they wouldn’t get their hands on his money, and might “appoint him a minister or a director”. However, those who were counting on privatizing the Communist Party and rendering it conclusively harmless, with Khodorkovsky’s help, are in for a surprise…

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