The price of Chechnya’s peace

The war is over. Russia on Friday announced the end of counterterrorist operations in Chechnya, which should see the withdrawal of 20 000 federal troops. This marks the end of the tight security regime that has been in place for almost a decade since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent in federal troops in 1999.

The event is being celebrated as a victory, but two serious questions remain. First, was what has been achieved worth the price paid? Second, have the Kremlin’s objectives really been reached?

Chechnya enjoyed de facto independence until 1999, when Putin ordered in the Russian army to quash separatism in the North Caucasus region.

Unlike in the first war in the mid-1990s, Moscow managed to co-opt several powerful clan leaders who had previously fought on the opposing side, among them Akhmad Kadyrov. These now pro-Moscow forces were essential to the “pacification” of Chechnya that followed.

After being elected president in 2003, Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004. But the rebels were on the wane: over the next few years, a number of important rebel leaders were hit, and hundreds of fighters surrendered. Kadyrov’s son, Ramzan, now rules as president with an extremely tight grip. The various security forces operating in Chechnya have been brought step by step under his control, and huge amounts of federal money have been ploughed into the reconstruction of the republic.

That Ramzan Kadyrov has brought some sort of order and stability to Chechnya is widely accepted in Russia. The insurgency is blunted; budget revenues have increased; reconstruction is ongoing. But the price was a heavy one, with massive human rights abuses reported within the republic and extrajudicial shootings in recent months as far afield as Dubai and Austria. This is stability in a similar sense to that which Putin has brought to Russia: eliminating dissenting voices by coercion or buying them off.

There is also a sense that the stability is something of a myth, carefully constructed for consumption, both internal and external, via the media, much the same as Russia’s “raising itself from its knees” under Putin. The insurgency is not over; neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia also remain extremely volatile.

The consolidation of power under Ramzan Kadyrov leads to the second question of whether Moscow has achieved its objectives. Chechnya has not seceded, but neither has it been integrated into Russia. Elites have been pacified, but problems not solved. The pact with the Kadyrovs meant ceding a great deal of power to the local ruler in return for formal recognition that Chechnya is part of Russia. Kadyrov pays lip service to Moscow, which in return acquiesces to the more unsavoury aspects of his rule.

One North Caucasus expert has gone so far as to say that Kadyrov has achieved the dreams of the separatist leaders, but by connivance with Moscow rather than fighting. In this sense, the end of security operations there represents a victory for Kadyrov. He already runs Chechnya as his personal fiefdom, a state within a state, and will now gain even greater control. This creates a potentially enormous headache for Moscow. What if the Kremlin decides it needs to remove Kadyrov from power? – guardian.co.uk

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.


The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

James Marson
Guest Author
Advertising

‘Tenderpreneurs’ block the delivery of protective equipment to schools

Protests by local suppliers have delayed PPE delivery, which according to the DBE, is one of the reasons the reopening of schools has been pushed back until June 8

‘Soon he’ll be seen as threatening, not cute’: What it’s...

There is no separating George Floyd’s killing from the struggles black people have faced ever since the first slave ships landed on these shores

How schools could work during Covid

Ahead of their opening, the basic education department has given schools three models to consider to ensure physical distancing
Advertising

Press Releases

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday