Another Caucasus war for Putin? Daghestan aligns with Chechnya against Russian law enforcement

Putin and Ramazan Abdulatipov, the Putin-appointed head of Daghestan (Image: kremlin.ru)

Putin and Ramazan Abdulatipov, the Putin-appointed head of Daghestan (Image: kremlin.ru) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Vladimir Putin’s “Kadyrov problem” just got a lot larger, so large in fact that it may ultimately cost Moscow control of the North Caucasus: Yesterday, Ramazan Abdulatipov, the Putin-appointed head of Daghestan, said that he supports Ramzan Kadyrov’s position in his conflict with the Russian Interior Ministry.

Abdulatipov said that if anyone wants to cross into Daghestan, including those who identify themselves as federal forces, he expects to be advised and then he will give the answer as to whether these are “ours or not ours.”

There are at least three reasons why the Daghestani leader’s declaration makes Putin’s problem a great deal larger and far more complicated to resolve.

For background on Putin’s “Kadyrov problem,” see How Putin’s ‘Kadyrov problem’ impacts Russia and Ukraine.
  • First and most immediately, it means that if Putin sacks Kadyrov in order to curry favor with the siloviki in Moscow, he almost certainly will have to fire Abdulatipov and perhaps other North Caucasus republic leaders as well, something that almost certainly would in and of itself lead to the further destabilization of the region.
  • Second, and even more worrying from Moscow’s perspective, it suggests that a united front may be emerging among these republic leaders about how the Russian authorities are conducting themselves in the North Caucasus. Abdulatipov normally is one of the most cautious of the group. Consequently, if he is saying this, others likely feel the same way.
  • And third, it shows that Moscow’s ability to rely on its longstanding policy of divide and rule in the region may be increasingly limited. If the center can’t isolate Kadyrov the way it isolated Dzhokhar Dudayev, it loses one of the most important levers it has to control Chechnya or any other part of the region.

Edited by: A. N.

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