02/07/2022, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Chechnya, Moscow's raw nerve

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Kremlin glosses over a meeting between Putin and Kadyrov. The Russian tsar seems incapable of containing the Islamist excesses of the Chechen satrap. A federal judge and his family have been targeted in Chechnya over allegations of torture in local prisons.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Between his trips to Beijing and war mongering on the Ukrainian border, Russian President Vladimir Putin is being forced to keep a watchful eye on the domestic front. Recently, Chechnya, the Caucasian republic of the Russian Federation, has been simmering again due to internal and external conflicts, with dangerous drifts towards Islamic fundamentalism beginning with its own president, 45-year-old Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the sporting and military hero Akhmad, the president of the post-Soviet wars killed by an explosion in 2004.

Putin and Kadyrov have met in recent days in a semi-secret format, with little communication about the places and contents of their "working sessions". Chechnya has been shaken for days by the scandal surrounding the Jangulbaev family, with the elderly parents, magistrates, standing up for their rights alongside their son Abubakar, founder of an "anti-torture committee" to denounce violence in Chechen prisons.

Abubakar's mother was kidnapped and deported from Nizhny Novgorod to Grozny. In the squares of the Chechen capital there are demonstrations calling for the execution of these "enemies of Islam", whose heads Kadyrov's close collaborator, Moscow Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov, has promised to "cut off". Other relatives of the Jangulbaevs were forced to disown their relatives to avoid retaliation.

Many wonder how it is possible to admit such a level of violence and religious fanaticism within Russia, and why President Putin does not at least intervene to calm tensions. A number of Duma deputies have tabled questions on the subject; the media and some humanitarian organisations have filed complaints with the prosecutor's office and the courts to verify the legitimacy of the actions of the Chechen satrap, who seems to want to introduce a religious-totalitarian code into what should remain, at least superficially, a rule of law.

As the Russian-Chechen political scientist Abbas Galjamov commented on Currentime.tv, "the most striking thing is the Kremlin's silence on the meetings with Kadyrov, trumpeted by Groznyj's press officers and confirmed by Moscow only days later. In these cases, the losers pretend that nothing has happened, while the winners propagandise; Kadyrov evidently feels he has won this game. Kadyrov evidently feels that he has won this game'. The victory is said to have consisted of resisting Moscow's orders, claiming the right to carry out such sensational actions as arresting a federal judge, kidnapping his wife and threatening his family with death.

Putin has failed to bring his loyal Kadyrov into line, and this is interpreted as a sign of weakness on the part of the Russian president. Some commentators observe that perhaps Kadyrov is more useful to Putin than the other way around. In the war with Ukraine, rather than the feared invasion, so-called 'hybrid actions', mercenary assaults in the Donbass and other regions such as Kharkov or Sumi near the border, could resume. It is no secret that the mercenaries of these dirty operations are largely recruited from among the Chechens, who are supported by the republican government.

Putin is actually risking a lot with the conflict in Ukraine, and not only internationally, but also in the internal dialectics. The oppositions have been annihilated throughout the past year, from Naval'nyj's arrest in February to the "tame" elections in September, but the Ukrainian war with its costs and uncertainties could give the dissidents a new lease of life and spread further negative feelings among the public.

Kadyrov exploits these contingencies to strengthen his local power and his influence on Russian politics at federal level. Moreover, Chechnya was a crucial junction in Soviet times, a land of clandestine trafficking and mafia connections, and it is said that a large part of the Soviet Communist Party's monetary "treasure" was hidden in these Caucasian valleys.

The only comment made by the ineffable Kremlin spokesman, Dmitrij Peskov, was that "revenge is a Chechen tradition, even if it does not agree much with Russian legislation". Threats and retaliation are excellent deterrents for all kinds of sins to be hidden, in Groznyj as in Moscow.

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