Article By: Angelo Manaloto
On February 27, Boris Nemtsov was shot in the back four times right outside the walls of the Kremlin. Nemtsov was a Russian statesman and liberal politician—a belligerent and outspoken critic to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In the first two weeks near the beginning of March, Putin vanished from the public eye, his absence captivating the political class in Moscow and—as expected—prompting a flurry of rumors ranging from kidnapping to death across the blogosphere. Upon his return, this absence was justified by Putin’s spokesman under grounds of ‘politicianing’.
However, the fact that Russia’s most powerful law enforcement agency, the FSB, has targeted and arrested individuals who answer to a member of Russia’s power elite has elicited widespread curiosity in Moscow. Among those detained is Zaur Dadayev, a man who answers to the Chechen Head of State, Ramzan Kadyrov, who some call “the second most powerful man in Russia.” Over the past decade, Putin has obliged Kadyrov the power, as The New York Times states, “to effectively create the Islamic republic that Chechen separatists had dreamed of—albeit one entirely reliant on Moscow for financial support.” In Chechnya, Kadyrov’s government is absolute.
In light of Dadayev’s arrest, Kadyrov issued a statement to the press, labeling Dadayev a “Russian patriot”. This is a subtle but clear sign that Kadyrov has established opposition to those who humiliate his men in Moscow. Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky notes that for the first time in an almost two-decade rule, Putin faces an extremely serious dilemma. On one side, it is imperative for Putin to pacify the FSB, one of the most critical tools in his political arsenal. On the other is the thorn that is Ramzan Kadyrov, who has kept the lid on an uncooperative North Caucasus.
Kadyrov has a long standing history of silencing his opponents. In 2008, Chechen military leader and politician Ruslan Yamadayev was gunned down in Moscow after a span of tense relations with Kadyrov. In that same year, loyalist-turned-oppositionist to the Chechen regime Umar Israilov was assassinated in Vienna. Both men convicted for the murders were coincidentally named Dadayev.
Still, it is not that far-fetched to assume that Nemtsov, oppositionist to the Kremlin—Kadyrov’s stem of power—was assassinated under Kadyrov’s orders. The dilemma posed to Kadyrov in all this, however, is that he is no longer faced by opposition from outer circles, who accuse him of crimes against the Chechen people. Instead, he is faced by the security core of Russia.
In the late Boris Nemtsov’s unfinished exposé on the state of Russian affairs, he writes, “We are at war now.” This may very well be the case.