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Tensions In Chechnya Boil Over

Published: April 18, 2008 (Issue # 1366)


MOSCOW The standoff between Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and an influential Chechen clan entered its third day Wednesday as both sides traded accusations of murder and abuse of power.

There were conflicting reports regarding the number of casualties suffered by the two sides since a collision Monday near the Chechen town of Argun between Kadyrovs motorcade and vehicles transporting serviceman from the Defense Ministrys elite Vostok battalion.

Regardless of casualties, the confrontation is a clear sign of the ongoing power struggle in the often violent world of Chechen politics, which Kadyrov is trying to monopolize.

The conflict has pitted Kadyrov against brothers Sulim, Ruslan and Badruddi Yamadayev, former Chechen rebels who lead a powerful clan based in Gudermes, Chechnyas second largest city.

This standoff, and the fact that the Yamadayevs are not giving ground easily, is a signal to Kadyrov that he should not think he is the only one calling the shots in the republic, said Alexei Malashenko, senior expert on the Caucasus at the Carnegie Moscow Center. There are powerful people in [federal] power agencies that do not like the way he runs things, and they will side with the Yamadayevs.

Ousting Sulim Yamadayev from the Vostok battalion, which he commands, would allow Kadyrov to complete his consolidation of power in the republic by putting his loyalists in charge of all local police and the Defense and Interior ministries local commando units, which are manned primarily by ethnic Chechens.

Such a takeover has been resisted by top commanders in Moscow, who do not trust the former rebels that have fought alongside their troops in Chechnya, according to national media reports.

Their suspicions are shared by hard-line policymakers who fear that giving complete control of Chechnya to former rebels could allow the republic to slip out of Moscows hands should a national crisis arise.

Kadyrovs goal is to make himself irreplaceable after his chief backer, President Vladimir Putin, leaves office next month, experts said. The president has the power to hire and fire regional leaders.

The Yamadayevs clearly enjoy support of top military brass, who do not want Kadyrov to install his own people in Interior and Defense ministry units, which answer to Moscow.

With the exception of Vostok, Kadyrovs men call the shots in all of the Defense and Interior ministries local commando units, including the Yug and Sever commando battalions, which report to the Interior Ministry, and the Zapad battalion, which reports to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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