The head of Chechnya has noticeably lost interest in fighting in Donbas, instead he is strengthening his positions in the republic .
Ramzan Kadyrov seems to be more willing to talk about a hypothetical future war in Europe than about real battles in Donbas. For example, on January 6, he called for the “denazification” of Poland and fighting “Satanism” there”. Giving support to Ukraine, Warsaw has managed to exhaust its own military resources, and now it is concerned: what if, after the successful completion of its special military operation, Russia moves on to denazify and demilitarize the next country? After all, on the maps Poland is right next to Ukraine!” Kadyrov wrote in his Telegram channel, adding that “he has repeatedly stated that the fight against Satanism should continue throughout Europe and, first of all, on the territory of Poland”.
In the meantime, while generously multiplying various geopolitical threats, stylistically more suitable for Dmitry Medvedev, all criticism of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff leadership has practically disappeared from the Kadyrov Telegram channel. The last record of such kind was about the prohibition to all military servicemen to wear beards and carry tablets. It is not difficult to notice that criticism of the military forces disappeared from Kadyrov’s lexicon in January, closely following the demotion of the former Russian troop’s commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, whose appointment Ramzan Kadyrov had lobbied together with the creator of the Wagner PMCs, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and the appointment of General Alexander Lapin to the post of Chief of Staff of the Ground Forces, whom Kadyrov called “incompetent” earlier for his poor performance during the battles in Red Lyman.
Another noticeable detail is the disappearance of all mentions of his former ally Yevgeny Prigozhin (likewise in Prigozhin’s channel the last mention of Kadyrov dates back to January 11, and is consistant with the Lapin appointment), whom the head of Chechnya earlier referred to as “dear brother”, whose fighters are “real professionals and patriots of Russia, fearless, persistent, courageous.” Obviously, Kadyrov has decided to distance himself from the current conflict between the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the Wagner PMCs, hoping at some point later on to join the winner. Who will be determined by the outcome of the battles for Bakhmut.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that despite the intensity of the fighting in the area of Bakhmut and Vuhledar, there are practically no reports of Kadyrov’s inner circle representatives visiting the front line, the number of mentions of Chechen units presence in the SVO zone has noticeably decreased. From extremely abstract plots like “capturing a trench” or “training to destroy Leopard tanks”, it can be concluded that the Chechens are in secondary positions, taking very little part in combat. The fact that has been indirectly acknowledged by Kadyrov himself, who wrote in his comments to the footage of the pompously organized dispatch of Chechen servicemen to the front that the soldiers would be sent to the “third frontier”.
While waiting for the results of the battle of Donbas, Ramzan Kadyrov from time to time makes resonant statements like the aforementioned “desatanization of Poland”.He paid a lot of attention to the Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan, who had burned a Koran near the Turkish embassy – the head of Chechnya called him “a demon who will burn in hell”. Also, in response to the burning of the Koran, Kadyrov threatened to “sweep the whole of Europe, cleansing the peoples of the Old World from the abomination cursed by the Almighty.” He returned to the topic of “The End of Europe” once again on January 7, promising to complete the operation “before the end of the year”. After that, according to Kadyrov, “the European states will recognize the wrongness of their actions, the West will kneel, and, as usual, the European countries will begin to interact in all spheres with the Russian Federation. There should be no other and there will be no other.” Obviously, these and other similar revelations have only one purpose – to help the head of Chechnya stay in the Russian media zone.
Besides, since the beginning of the new year, Ramzan Kadyrov has been actively strengthening his already exceptional influence within the Chechen Republic itself. Continuing the tradition of placing his relatives in leadership positions, the head of the region on January 2 appointed Khamzat Kadyrov’s 26-year-old nephew the Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya. Also, in November Kadyrov appointed Ibrahimazakriev’s nephew the head of the joint Ministries of Property and Land Relations and Agriculture of the Chechen Republic. In September, his son Ahmed became the head all children’s and youth organizations of the republic at the age of 16. And in 2021 Kadyrov’s daughter Aishat became the Minister of Culture of Chechnya. Thus, the number of relatives of the head of the republic appointed to high positions in regional state structures has reached 44 people.
The appointment of the nephew was made, apparently, from the territory of the Maldives, where the plane serving the head of Chechnya departed on the same day. By the way, the head of Chechnya also spent New Year’s holidays outside of Russia – in Dubai, where he owns a real estate. It is worth mentioning that all those trips were made during the time of increasing restrictions on the international travels of the officials . For example, the Kursk United Russia deputy Maxim Vasiliev, who boasted of a New Year’s tour to Mexico, has not only lost his position as the head of the committee: after Senator Turchak threatened him with a “Wagner sledgehammer”, Vasiliev voluntarily went to the SMO zone, where he is building fortifications, recording appeals in support of the army at the same time.
There have also been several events in Chechnya in the last few months that can be interpreted as distancing its leadership from Moscow. On January 30, Ramzan Kadyrov made an unexpected statement in which he reproached Europe (the one he promises to “desatanize”) for not supporting Chechnya in the war of independence with the Russian Federation. “Where were you when we fought for Ichkeria, when we defended the interest of independence, why did the European states (including Ukraine) not support us, and today suddenly you’ve decided to support a non-existent state (Ichkeria)”? Kadyrov asked in his telegram channel. “I was an Ichkerian, and it was you who did not allow us to build a state,” the head of Chechnya said, at the same time stating that now Ichkeria has “long been gone even on paper.” But this is also a noticeable shift in the rhetoric of the permanent head of the republic, who previously called “Shaitans” the Chechens fighting on the Ukrainian side.
In addition, following the precedent of the Parliament of Tatarstan, which legalized the name “rais” for the head of the republic, deputies of the Chechen parliament proposed to introduce into the Constitution the name of Kadyrov’s position as “mekh-da”, which means “father of the people” in Chechen. It is characteristic that earlier, it was the Kadyrov’s initiative that a provision was introduced into Russian legislation prohibiting the heads of the constituent entities of the federation from being called “presidents”. Alternative names in national languages, but with the same meaning, are a kind of regional fronde. Kadyrov positions himself as a defender of the sovereignty of Chechnya: the anniversary of the formation of the Chechen Autonomous Region last year was magnificently celebrated as the “Centenary of Chechen statehood.”
Carried away by big geopolitics, Putin let the processes in the regions take their own course, where certain forces have become stronger, and for them the center has not been a force worth considering for a long time, and the loyalty of the elites is bought by large financial injections. However, in the reality of drying up financial flows, Kadyrov, putting aside his plans last year to lead the Rosgvardiya and cooperation with Prigozhin, is preparing for a new “parade of sovereignties”, hence the need to place numerous relatives in power positions, loyal armed detachments in Chechnya itself instead of Donbass and “soverignity of Chechnya” as an ideology.This is what is most important for the head of Chechnya, and not the “desatanization of Poland” or the “denazification of Ukraine”, it seems, they are no longer a priority for him. But the “father of the people” is forced to repeat these spells, as they have become an obligatory component of Russian political rhetorics over the past year.