CHECHNYA: YET ANOTHER PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS

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Ramzan Kadyrov is establishing his own hierarchy of governance

Sergei Abramov’s resignation as prime minister of Chechnya is a natural development. Unless something is done about this situation, the next couple of years will see Chechnya turn into a region not controlled by the federal government at all, with federal funding as it sole connection to Moscow.


At first glance, Sergei Abramov’s resignation as prime minister of Chechnya seems like sensational news. In fact, it’s an entirely natural development. Unless something is done about this situation, the next couple of years will see Chechnya turn into a region not controlled by the federal government at all, with federal funding as it sole connection to Moscow.

Ethnic Russian officials don’t stay in today’s Chechnya for long. Sergei Abramov is the undisputed record-holder among them. He lasted three years.

The first ethnic Russian official in post-war Chechnya was Nikolai Koshman: federal government envoy in Chechnya, deputy prime minister in the federal government, and head of Chechnya’s provisional administration. During Koshman’s period in office, household gas networks were restored in the Naurskii, Shelkovskii, and Nadterechnyi districts; electricity was provided for the same districts and part of the Grozny rural district. Koshman received periodic complaints about the actions of the military; he clashed with federal commanders (Troshev, Kazantsev, Shamanov), expanding the powers of the civilian authorities as best he could in a region packed full of troops.

In March and May 2000, President Putin met in the Kremlin with all of Chechnya’s district administration leaders. Their main request was for a single source of authority: one ruler in charge of all military and civilian bodies. These district chiefs saw Koshman as a practically perfect leader for Chechnya. With a background in construction, he was professionally suited to leading a devastated region. Moreover, he was an ethnic Russian – thus free of the various family connections that largely determine the appointments policy of ethnic Chechen leaders, who often consider clan identity much more important than professional skills when assessing candidates.

However, Putin decided otherwise.

After Akhmad Kadyrov was appointed as the leader of Chechnya, his administration also included an ethnic Russian official: Stanislav Ilyasov, who lasted two years as prime minister of Chechnya without distinguishing himself in any way. The situation in Chechnya grew noticeably worse during that period. In December 2002, shortly before Ilyasov stepped down, the office building occupied by the government of Chechnya became the target of a truck-bombing.

Ilyasov was replaced as prime minister by Nikolai Babich, who soon resigned amidst controversy. Babich didn’t explain his motives, but unofficial reports from his close associates indicate that he quit because he didn’t want to be held responsible, as prime minister, for money stolen before he took office.

Babich was replaced by Sergei Abramov. In many respects, Abramov proved to be the most suitable person of all for both Akhmad Kadyrov and his son. Ramzan Kadyrov managed to dominate Abramov completely – in psychological terms, primarily. That explains why Abramov remained in office for so long, while the rebellious Babich didn’t even last two months. In all his time as prime minister, Abramov never expressed the slightest doubt that the actions of Chechnya’s leaders were lawful. This is a very difficult position to sustain. It probably explains why Abramov has now resigned. After being injured in a car crash, he had the opportunity to step down for health reasons, with no controversy – and he took that opportunity.

Abramov will probably be replaced by some ethnic Chechen official – filling the one and only vacancy that might have been taken by a strong federal official, independent of Chechen rulers and customs.

The RIA Novosti news agency quotes acting Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov as saying: “Sergei Abramov’s decision to resign came as a surprise for me, and I greatly regret it. I value our personal relationship very much. He (Abramov) is like a brother to me, and I’m sure we shall remain good friends, wherever we may be. He’ll always be a welcome guest in my home.”

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