Russia’s Renegade Puppet

When the Kremlin installed Ramzan Kadyrov as president of Chechnya, he seemed an effective antidote to the jihadist threat. But the logical conclusion of the Kremlin’s policy appears to be precisely what it sought to prevent – Chechen independence – when it engaged in the first Chechen war almost a generation ago.

MOSCOW – Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya, recently proposed to Ahmed Zakaev, a leader of the nationalistic and comparatively moderate Chechen opposition, that he return to Chechnya. Kadyrov promised Zakaev amnesty and various positions ranging from director of the local theater to Minister of Culture.

Zakaev looked ready to accept the proposal. His position in the nationalist opposition was weak. There seem to be few, if any, fighters in Chechnya who recognize him as commander; his recent attempt to send an emissary to create a fighting unit directly under his command was not successful.

At the same time, Zakaev maintained rather friendly relations with Kadyrov, whose achievements – making Chechnya practically independent – he implicitly acknowledged. The Kremlin supposedly would not have opposed the deal.

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