Just one month ago, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov issued a statement rejecting as untrue media reports that his maternal cousin Odes Baysultanov had been dismissed as prime minister.
Those reports quoted unnamed sources within the North Caucasus Federal District administration as saying Baysultanov had been appointed to succeed fellow Chechen Suleiman Vagapov as a deputy to North Caucasus Federal District head Aleksandr Khloponin. Kadyrov said Baysultanov, whom he described as “an experienced and responsible member of our team,” was simply on vacation. And, indeed, Baysultanov returned to Grozny in time to participate in last week’s events to mark the anniversary of the killing in 2004 of Kadyrov’s father Akhmad-hadji and the Day of Memory and Grief.
On May 17, however, Kadyrov dismissed the entire Chechen government.
His stated reason for doing so was that the new tasks and problems facing the republic call for new approaches and tactics, the implementation of which requires changes in the composition of the government.
Whether that line of reasoning can be taken at face value, or whether Kadyrov simply wanted – or was pressured – to dump Baysultanov will only become clear when the new prime minister is named.
On the one hand, Baysultanov has served as premier for five years, since April 2007. During that time, a huge amount of reconstruction has been undertaken across the republic, although as the daily “Kommersant” noted, the lion’s share of the credit for that goes to Kadyrov rather than Baysultanov.
Kadyrov reappointed Baysultanov prime minister just 13 months ago, after then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nominated Kadyrov to serve a second term as republic head.
At that time, Baysultanov impressed on members of the outgoing cabinet the need for a new development program. “It is impossible to upgrade the republic’s economy without socio-economic growth, without creating new jobs [and] developing technologies, the construction industry, and the agro-industrial sector. And stability depends on the economy,” the news agency Regnum quoted him as saying. On the other hand, Kadyrov is rumored to be seriously unhappy with Baysultanov due to unspecified major financial irregularities and to have confiscated from him several formerly state-owned farms that Baysultanov had acquired in the Nadterechny and Sholkovsky raions.
“Kommersant” quoted an unnamed member of the Chechen government as saying that Kadyrov wanted to find a face-saving way of dismissing his cousin.
Assuming that Baysultanov will not be renamed prime minister, the question is whether his successor will be a Chechen – meaning Kadyrov’s choice -- or a Russian. Among the possible Chechen candidates are First Deputy Prime Minister Magomed Daudov, a former police chief said to be totally loyal to Kadyrov; the supremely efficient Finance Minister Eli Isayev; and Agriculture Minister Abubakar Edelgeriyev.
When the rumors of Baysultanov’s dismissal first surfaced last month, “Kommersant” suggested that Moscow might impose a Russian prime minister on Kadyrov to monitor more closely just how the astronomical subsidies Grozny receives from the federal budget are being spent. One potential candidate named in that connection was Oleg Zhidkov, who served as Grozny mayor in 2000-03 under Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, then as deputy presidential envoy to the South Russia federal district. Zhidkov is currently a senior member of the National Antiterrorism Committee.
If that prediction proves true, it would be a slap in the face for Kadyrov. It would also raise questions about how Kadyrov’s relations with his surrogate father figure Vladimir Putin will evolve in the course of Putin’s third (and presumably fourth) presidential terms.