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Russia’s Renegade Puppet

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.

But, although Zakaev was one of the most moderate members of the Chechen resistance, an amnesty for him needed the Kremlin’s approval, and he does not seem to have received it, which is probably why he refused Kadyrov’s offer. But the reason the Kremlin balked at offering Zakaev an amnesty is unlikely to be related him personally, but rather to Kadyrov.