NEW Chechen President to deal with OLD problems

Posted in Russia | 15-Oct-04 | Author: Dmitry Udalov

Since the tragedy involving school children in Beslan, the problems of the Caucasus region have become evident to the rest of the world. However, Chechnya is undoubtedly the major hot spot of this region. Stability in this part of the world depends largely on a stable political and economic situation in the republic. On October 5th, Alu Alkhanov became the new President of Chechnya. Who is this man and what can we expect of him?

Since the political situation is based upon a mixture of ethnic, religious and even family factors, Moscow needed a strong and wise individual who was capable of tackling tricky Chechen matters. Ahmad Kadirov was probably the best political figure for this task (see article) His assassination on May 9th dealt a heavy blow to Chechnya and Moscow.

Alu Alkhanov won the elections that were held according to the Constitution of Chechnya on August 29th. He won 73,68% of the vote.

At his inauguration ceremony, Alu Alkhanov said: "The Chechen authorities and people should unite. We can only defeat terrorism together with all of the Russian people", he stressed. "We shall always remember President Akhmad Kadyrov and continue his creative policy", the Chechen President noted.

Alu Alkhanov has been actively involved in the Chechen problem since the first Chechen war in 1994, when he fought against rebel attacks on Grozny. He was badly injured. Since then, Alu Alkhanov is believed to have been closely connected with Chechen anti-separatists (it isn’t a well-known fact, but a lot of Chechens didn’t support Dudayev in his strive for independence. They were the first to counter Dudayev’s plans - long before federal armed forces started military actions).

During the assassination of the President, Kadyrov Alkhanov was right near him. (First on the left.)
During the assassination of the President, Kadyrov Alkhanov was right near him. (First on the left.)
In April 2003, Kadyrov appointed Alkhanov to the post of Regional Interior Minister, one of the key positions in the Chechen government. Alkhanov was responsible for restoring peace and order in the republic. His work was highly commended by many experts as well as by President Putin. Of course, Kadyrov was also pleased with Alkhanov's work and respected him greatly. In general, Alkhanov was a faithful member of Kadyrov’s team, a team that the Kremlin as well as the Chechens could trust. This could explain his overwhelming success in the elections.

Today, as we see it, the main aim of Alkhanov is to maintain the momentum for reconciliation in Chechnya that was so painfully gained by the former president. In an interview with the Trud Daily, Alkhanov noted, “I’ve never said that I am ready to hold negotiations with Maskhadov. I said that I am ready to talk with anyone if the dialogue will lead to peace and security in the Chechen Republic.”

Alkhanov and his administration still have a long way to go. Among the general and vital long-term issues for reconstructing the Chechen economy, restoring peace and order etc., there are several burning issues that demand urgent measures:

  • Terrorist activities in Chechnya and bordering regions. According to FSB director Patrushev, there are more than 10 al Qaida leaders in Chechen territory. Although most of the terrorist bases were destroyed during the latest phase of military actions, it is still a rough task to defeat all terrorists in mountain areas of the Chechen Republic.
  • The problem of kidnapping people.
    According to information from the Chechen prosecutor’s office, 561 people were listed as having been kidnapped and 419 embezzlement cases were opened in 2003. 70 people were freed. As many as 258 people and 94 went missing since the beginning of 2004. This information was cited at the scientific conference on the problem of human rights in Chechnya in Grozny on September 24th.
  • The problem of the Chechen refugees. Not long ago, there had been a period when the number of internally displaced persons in Ingushetia (a republic bordering Chechnya) was twice as large as that of the local population. Over the last 2 years, approximately 200,000 people have returned from Ingushetia to Chechnya. President Murat Zyazikov of Ingushetia assured that refugees returned voluntarily from Ingushetia to Chechnya. The situation in Chechnya including the status of refugees is one of the topics to be discussed at the autumn session of PACE, to be held in Strasbourg.