In the wake of Natalia Estemirova’s murder in Chechnya, Dmitry Medvedev has rubbished suggestions that Ramzan Kadyrov, the region’s president, sanctioned her killing. Although, ostensibly, it is possible that the Memorial activist was abducted by a group which was not linked to the Chechen authorities, the incident will raise more questions about the methods by which Kadyrov has stabilised the Russian republic.
After the last campaign in Chechnya the Kremlin’s pressing priority was to restore order without expending needlessly the lives of more Russian soldiers. Clearly Kadyrov, with his rapid ascent through government posts and his strong arm tactics, has succeeded in pacifying the republic. There is scarcely any doubt, however, that the thirty two year old is a highly unsavoury character, given to autocratic and violent methods. Knowingly, Vladimir Putin entered into a Faustian pact when he allowed Kadyrov free rein to subdue separatism in Chechnya.
The former rebel, who fought for independence during the first Chechen war, then switched sides in 1999, has integrated his devoted paramilitary following into the republic’s security forces. This ‘kadyrovtsy’ has been accused of all manner of illegality, kidnapping and murder. Progressing through Chechnya’s government seamlessly since his father, a former president, was assassinated in 2004, Kadyrov assumed the role in 2007, having reached the statutory minimum age required by the Chechen constitution.
Whilst Moscow has given the Chechen President considerable latitude in the furtherance of a secure republic, he has proved a headstrong ally. Having introduced aspects of Sharia law during his period as prime minister, Kadyrov quarrelled with the Kremlin about Chechnya’s oil revenues. He has established a cult of personality around his leadership which barely alludes to any type of democratic propriety. And he has made an attempt to attract back to the Republic a coterie of exiled separatist criminals, on the pretext of providing a new start for the ‘Chechen nation’.
In Northern Ireland we are familiar with moral compromises aimed at realising peace and stability. We are even conversant with crime and violence being ignored, supposedly for the greater good. Compared to the crucible of conflict, terrorism and blood letting which characterised Chechnya from the early 90s, Kadyrov’s regime has obvious attractions for the Kremlin. Whether it can continue to ignore accusations of murder and criminality, in the interests of a quiet life, is doubtful.