A massive rally supporting the Kremlin-backed government led by Ramzan Kadyrov in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, was staged on Saturday, January 22. Officials estimate that a million people were in attendance. The real figure was probably much lower, and most were probably forced to show up, but there were a lot of people in the streets.
This is the second large demonstration in recent weeks and comes on the heels of much snarling and gnashing of Kadyrov’s teeth against Russian political opposition figures on social media. Pictures of the Chechen leader holding back snarling dogs, and promising to commit Putin’s critics to psychiatric hospitals where the “injections will be increased” have been normal fare as of late.
Perhaps this activity has been spun up per the Kremlin’s request. Perhaps Kadyrov is simply doing what he does best, keeping Chechnya under control for Moscow. Intimidation has been part of the Kremlin’s tool kit for some time now. However, there seems the possibility that other driving currents are under the surface.
Could Kadyrov be unhappy with some in the Kremlin who may be advocating in favor of a more liberal tone with the West to achieve relief of sanctions; that along with the collapsing price of crude, have seriously weakened the Russian economy and, therefore, the regime’s hold on power?
Could he be sending a message to Moscow? The message being that the subsidies that Moscow pours into Chechnya should not be reduced as Moscow looks for ways to cut expenses with oil at $27?
It is interesting to note that one of the main recipients of the angry crowd’s wrath was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom they called a “faggot.” Khodorkovsky is a former oligarch that Putin released from prison ahead of the Sochi Olympics. It’s a given that Khodorkovsky is back on the Kremlin’s revenge list as he plots to overthrow Putin’s government from exile is Switzerland.
“We want to strongly oppose those who throw mud at the country, call for sanctions against Russia, and attempt to escalate tensions,” Husain Soltagereyev, the head of Chechnya’s Council of Trade Unions and the event’s organizer, told the state-run TASS news agency, as reported Radio Free Europe.
Several prominent Kadyrov supporters traveled from Moscow to attend the rally, including State Duma lawmaker Adam Delimkhanov, who is from Chechnya, and nationalist biker Aleksandr Zaldostanov, a staunch Putin supporter who is known as “The Surgeon.”
“A very deep bow to the leader of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov for his honesty and straightforwardness,” Zaldostanov told the crowd. “We can only answer the enemies if we stand united, united with the Russian president.”
The presence of Putin supporters who traveled from Moscow makes it likely that the event had Kremlin support. Or, perhaps they were there to remind Kadyrov who he works for.
In any event, as the economic screws tighten on Russian government officials, it will be interesting to watch where that pressure is released. As the pie of oil money shrinks and insiders jockey for position, there will be winners and losers. It’s just a matter of time.
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