An interview with Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov

Ramzan Kadyrov, prime minister and de facto leader of Chechnya, has just turned 30 – making him eligible to become the president of Chechnya. Many observers expect this to happen, but Kadyrov himself claims he has no such intentions in the immediate future.

Question: You are now eligible to become president of Chechnya. Do you have any plans regarding this? If the people of Chechnya insist, will you heed them?

Ramzan Kadyrov: I’ve made the decision for myself that it’s still too soon for me to be president. I have too much work to do to even think of it. My main objective at present is to revive Chechnya’s economy and improve living standards – and I don’t have to be president for that.

Question: Now that Shamil Basayev is dead, do the separatists still pose a real threat in Chechnya? Can Doka Umarov influence anything? Actually, you’ve said that his days are numbered.

Ramzan Kadyrov: We’re looking for that demon, and we’ll soon find him, I can assure you. There’s still a small bunch of renegades hiding out in the highlands – running around the mountains, hiding from pursuit. Most of them are Arabs or Turks. There aren’t many Chechens in the mountains. They have no real influence over the situation in Chechnya, and never will have any – I’m stating this with full authority.

Question: There was a very difficult situation recently in the town of Kondopoga, Karelia, when local residents protested strongly against the presence of ethnic Chechens. Do you think this might happen again in other regions? And if it does, would you intervene?

Ramzan Kadyrov: I think it could happen again – more than once. In my view, such incidents could continue right up until the presidential election of 2008, since this kind of situation is instigated by those who stand to benefit from instability in Russia. Ethnic Chechens are citizens of the Russian Federation and have the right to live wherever they choose. The government of Chechnya will always look after Chechens who live in other regions, and make every effort to help them if necessary. But I should note that Chechens living on the territory of Russia must be clearly aware that if they break federal legislation, which is now firmly established on the territory of Chechnya, they won’t be able to hide from the law in Chechnya as they could in the Dudayev or Maskhadov eras.

Question: In connection with Kondopoga, there has been renewed talk of ethnic Chechen organized crime groups trying to take over legal business enterprises.

Ramzan Kadyrov: Any crime in Russia gets attributed to Chechens, by force of habit. In my view, the ethnic origin of criminals makes no difference at all – and besides, the era of Chechen crime groups is long since over.

Question: Will Chechnya continue to insist that there should be a referendum on re-electing President Putin for a third term? Or is this now a closed issue for you?

Ramzan Kadyrov: I will continue to support the Chechen parliament’s proposal to nominate Putin for a third term. I consider him to be the one and only leader who is capable of maintaining Russia’s achievements and increasing them. This politician has raised Russia to the level of world powers, and he’s solving domestic economic and political problems – so why should he go?