Akhmad Kadyrov: Had I been the dictator of Chechnya
Date: March 22, 2002
An interview with Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the administration of Chechnya
Author: Akhmad Kadyrov discusses the current situation in Chechnya, and gives his views on what the federal government, the military, and the people of Chechnya ought to do. He believes the war in Chechnya will be over soon, most likely by autumn this year.
Question: What do you think of the so-called peace talks between Kazantsev and Zakayev the Kremlin refers to every now and then?
Akhmad Kadyrov: I have always objected to the idea. I told the president that it would avail us nothing and that only Maskhadov's side would benefit. That's exactly what happened.
Question: And what are these benefits you are talking about?
Akhmad Kadyrov: Maskhadov was given another chance at deceiving the people. When the talks began, he immediately released several addresses to the Chechen people - that Putin had allegedly understood pointlessness of the war, that "were it not for Kadyrov, the troops would have been withdrawn in January, but this bastard Kadyrov rushed to Putin to plead to leave the troops..." An influential field commander I know was ready to lay down the arms and disband his detachment shortly before the negotiations were announced. Guess what happened when he discovered that the talks were about to begin. He said, "No". Other field commanders also opted to wait and see what would happen. Had the troops been withdrawn after the negotiations, the people would have branded them traitors for the decision to lay down the arms.
Question: What is the current state of affairs in these peace talks? Are they underway? Are they over?
Akhmad Kadyrov: No talks are underway, and no are planned. Some meetings do take place because I know for a fact that all these mujahedin are kept on the short leash by secret services. I discuss surrender with several armed groups. Nineteen men laid down the arms and ceased the resistance in Gudermes not so long ago, the fact utterly dismissed by the media.
Question: Do you remain in touch (perhaps, discuss the same thing) with field commanders like Basayev, Gelayev, or Khattab?
Akhmad Kadyrov: Only with Gelayev. I sent my envoys to him on several occasions. They even travelled to Georgia. He is stalling for time. Gelayev always says he needs time to think it over. He is waiting too.
Question: Your attitude to the so-called Pankisi gorge problem?
Akhmad Kadyrov: I'm sorry for the noncombatants residing there. We will do everything to have refugees return from Georgia, Ingushetia, and even from Turkey. A spokesman for refugees in Turkey approached us not so long ago. As I see it, our refugees are completely abandoned there, no one helping them anymore, and they are prepared to return home on any conditions.
As for the Pankisi gorge, this is what I can say. There are armed men there of course. I would not call them guerrillas, however, because guerrillas are those who are here, who are fighting. Over there, in Georgia, they are armed refugees. I would not call Gelayev a guerrilla, for example. He has not been a guerrilla for a long time now. Neither is Vaja Arsanov, Maskhadov's vice president, even though he is called a direction commander. General Aslanbek Arsayev is abroad, not a guerrilla either.
Question: All right. How would you say the secret services should treat Arsanov, Gelayev, Arsayev?
Akhmad Kadyrov: As criminals. They are criminals all right, otherwise they would not have been murdering the imams and village mayors. If a mayor is assassinated, how will the people get their pensions and other benefits? I might have understood this practice of assassinations had Maskhadov provided the people with everything necessary. In this case the people would not have been working for the existing regime. But Maskhadov has not been doing it.
Question: Why do you think men like Khattab and Basayev, the most notorious field commanders, are still at large?
Akhmad Kadyrov: Well, I have my suspicions which I would not disclose. As soon as these commanders are taken out, the war will be over. Some generals do not want that - they are too busy lining their pockets (businesses, oil, etc). I do not doubt that had the security structures wanted it, not a single oil truck would have been moving nowadays... I pin a lot of hopes on the latest Security Council meeting where all these problems were discussed. The president was fairly tough.
Question: What do you mean?
Akhmad Kadyrov: The president said that more trust in the Chechens themselves was needed because only the Chechens could restore order in Chechnya.
One other factor was discussed by the Security Council. When a person disappears, no one tells the relatives what happened to him, and only the body is found later. Every such episode creates at least a dozen new guerrillas. That is why the number of guerrillas has not been going down.
Question: The major problems of modern Chechnya are evaluated as the sweeping operations, inadequate and unjustified use of force against the population, looting, and tortures. How do you intend to fight the practice of sweeping operations which results in appearance of new guerrillas?
Akhmad Kadyrov: Once again, I rely on the latest Security Council meeting and on the president. Why is that not a single general is ever responsible for whatever happens during the sweeping operations? I demanded from him. The president ordered no more sweeping operations. Unfortunately of course, this is not the first presidential order on Chechnya which is ignored...
Question: Still, what can you do to put an end to the military's abuse of power in Chechnya?
Akhmad Kadyrov: I'm helpless against the military. I asked the president for this sort of power but Kazantsev objected and acidly inquired what sort of powers Kadyrov wanted now. Was he going to become a dictator? That's what Kazantsev asked.
Question: How did the president react?
Akhmad Kadyrov: He said that Kadyrov was correct and that he needed broader powers. We will see now.
Question: Do you think there should be one single leader in Chechnya?
Akhmad Kadyrov: Yes, a single person should bear responsibility for everything. Including, before you ask, the security structures. Future Chechnya should be a presidential republic where everything is controlled by one man only. There will never be order in Chechnya otherwise. The republic needs a bona fide dictator.
Question: All right, let's fancy you are a dictator already. The army mounts a sweeping operation in Argun? It's your move now.
Akhmad Kadyrov: Had I been the dictator, there would have been no sweeping operations in Chechnya. I would not have bothered with armored vehicles etc. I'd have compiled information on who is a criminal and who is not quietly, without much noise, and visited the criminals in nighttime. This criminal would have never been seen afterwards. Three to five such incidents - and everyone would have got the message. This is how the NKVD operated in its time. Everyone knew it, and everyone was afraid.
Question: What do you think of Maskhadov's future?
Akhmad Kadyrov: He will never be a pauper, that much is clear. He will be found a pension and a place of residence somewhere. What's more, he himself knows it.
Question: Who will find all that for him? The Russian Federation?
Akhmad Kadyrov: Yes. In return for some concessions of course.
Question: Like what?
Akhmad Kadyrov: Like disowning what he doesn't have and has not had for some time already. The powers. In a formal manner. Like apologizing to the people. If he does all this, he will leave Chechnya and live a normal life somewhere. That's what I've been offering him.
Question: What do you think it is going to happen?
Akhmad Kadyrov: When Shamil is gone, Maskhadov will undergo a dramatic change. Like a werewolf. You will all be surprised yet. As for now, he fears Shamil.
Question: How would you estimate losses in the second Chechen war?
Akhmad Kadyrov: No one knows exact figures. All I know is that the second Chechen war took much more lives of the armed men than the first one. (According to field commanders, 2,740 armed men were killed in the first Chechen war. In this war, 1,200 lives were lost in Komsomolskoye alone.) As for losses sustained by noncombatants, no one has counted them. It will probably be done only when the war is over.
Question: When do you think that will be?
Akhmad Kadyrov: This year, I think. Before autumn.
Question: How will we know it's happened?
Akhmad Kadyrov: By the formal announcement that those cut- throats, Basayev and Khattab, are gone.