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08MOSCOW2951 2008-10-06 08:27:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
Cable title:  

COMPARATIVE CALM IN CHECHNYA AS KADYROV

Tags:   PGOV KDEM PHUM PINR PREF EAID RS 
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1. (C) Summary: A September 22-24 visit to Chechnya, the
first by an Embassy political officer in almost two years,
showed that life -- in Groznyy, at least -- has achieved a
surface normalcy and that people were more interested in
solving their own "day-to-day" problems than worrying about
politics. A Moscow-based human rights organization noted,
however, that while the number of people killed or abducted
in Chechnya so far this year is about the same as last year,
there was a worrying spike in abductions during August.
Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov appears to have consolidated
his control over the former breakaway republic after the
September 24 murder in Moscow of former State Duma member
Ruslan Yamadayev by unknown assailants, although his death
may again stir up the rivalry between the two competing
clans. End Summary.



2. (SBU) As part of a September 21-27 trip to the North
Caucasus to visit humanitarian assistance projects funded by
the Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and
Migration, poloff spent three days in Chechnya. A veneer of
normalcy covers Groznyy. Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov
has almost completed rebuilding along the city's main
thoroughfare, which was totally destroyed as a result of the
two Chechen wars. Kadyrov announced October 5 that the name
of the street has been changed from Victory Avenue to
Vladimir Putin Avenue. In contrast to neighboring
Ingushetiya, things in Chechnya appeared calm and there was
not a noticeably heavy police or other law enforcement
presence on the streets downtown, where private vehicles
predominated and people walked freely along the sidewalks.
Identical vinyl-sided apartment blocks crowd next to each
other in several of the major residential areas. An
ostentatious, nearly-finished replica of Istanbul's Blue
Mosque stands in the center of town across from the renovated
stadium in which Groznyy's Terek football team plays. Side
streets, where ordinary neighborhoods with private homes have
not fully caught up with Groznyy's reconstruction boom,
remained unpaved and rutted.

Georgia Effect?


--------------------------





3. (C) Caucasus experts split on the question of whether
Russia's recognition of the independence of neighboring
Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia
will give rise to renewed separatism in Chechnya. Sergey
Markedonov, Head of the Institute of Political and Military
Analysis in Moscow, disagreed with the views of Caucasian
Knot chief editor Gregoriy Shvedov and Memorial Human Rights
Center's Aleksandr Cherkasov that groups in Chechnya and
elsewhere in the North Caucasus might be emboldened to press
for their own independence from Moscow. Markedonov told us
he believes that the ethnic nationalism popular in the 1990's
immediately after the break-up of the Soviet Union has waned
-- at least for now -- in the North Caucasus, only to be
replaced in some places by radical Islamism.

Memorial Warns of a Worsening Situation in Chechnya


--------------------------



--------------------------





4. (SBU) On September 29 Memorial issued a statement about
the worsening situation in Chechnya and Ingushetiya.
According to the report, 55 people (including 12 civilians,
17 members of law enforcement and 16 militants) have died in
Chechnya this year. So far this year, according to Memorial,
28 people have been kidnapped of whom 15 were later released
and one found dead; the remaining 12 are officially missing
or still under investigation. The report noted that although
the number of disappearances remained on par with last year
(which had decreased markedly from 2006), half of the
disappearances to date in 2008 occurred in the month of
August.

Conspiracies Swirl about Yamadayev's Murder


--------------------------





5. (SBU) On September 24, unknown gunmen in Moscow shot and
killed Ruslan Yamadayev, a former State Duma member whose
family has had a history of run-ins with Kadyrov, the latest
of which was an April 4 "road-rage" confrontation on the
federal highway in Chechnya that resulted in casualties on
both sides. According to the internet-based Caucasian Knot,
many residents in Chechnya believe that Yamadayev's
execution-style killing will increase the conflict between
the two sides. Theories abound in the Moscow press about who
may have carried out the murder. The first report of the
incident was that the victim was Ruslan's notorious brother
Sulim Yamadayev, former commander of the Eastern Brigade who

most recently saw action in Russia's conflict with Georgia
over South Ossetia, leading some to think that the killer had
made a mistake. Other commentators believed the murder was
meant to increase tension in the region by once again pitting
the two sides against each other.



6. (C) Chechen Ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiyev painted Kadyrov
as the victim, suggesting that the murder was an attempt by
others to discredit the Chechen president. This version was
not totally discounted by Moscow experts, including Caucasus
watcher Ivan Surkhov, who told us Yamadayev's death was "no
gift," potentially setting off a vicious cycle of blood
feuds. Sergey Arutyunov, Chairman of the Department of
Caucasian Studies at the Institute of Ethnology and
Anthropology at the Russian Academy of Sciences thought there
was less chance of a blood feud erupting in Chechnya over
Yamadayev's death than in neighboring Ingushetiya over the
death of opposition leader Magomed Yevloyev while in police
custody on August 30. Others speculated that Yamadayev was
on his way to or from a meeting at the Kremlin to discuss his
future or that of his three brothers. Kadyrov offered his
own explanation -- that the murder was rooted in a blood feud
by one of the several families whose members the Yamadayev
clan had killed in the past. Sulim Yamadayev told reporters
his brother was not engaged in any business or the subject of
any blood feud for which he could have been targeted, and --
after several tense days -- stated publicly that he did not
believe Kadyrov had a hand in his brother's murder.

Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) There are still pockets of resistance in Chechnya,
especially in the mountainous areas in the south bordering
Dagestan that the FSB advised us not to visit. The facade of
stability that Kadyrov has erected may face its greatest test
if Yamadayev clan loyalists see Ruslan Yamadayev's murder as
his work and a Caucasus blood feud ensues.
RUBIN