"Kadyrov is a war criminal, who has himself taken part in the torture and murder of civilians. He and his henchmen spread fear and terror in Chechnya. They go about night by night as death squads, kidnapping civilians, who are then locked in a torture chamber, raped and murdered." -- The Society of Threatened Peoples, a German human rights group, on Ramzan Kadyrov.
Early this March, Ramzan Kadyrov was elected as the prime minister of Chechnya. The vote was unanimous, and it's not surprising. He controls the Kadyrovtsy, a 3,000-strong militia, named after him. Nobody wants to be the one guy that voted against Kadyrov, having to explain it to a unit of Kadyrovtsy.
But the young prime minister, whose father led Chechnya until he was assassinated two years ago, does have a human side to him. He's an avid animal lover, for example, and he enjoys relaxing in banyas. While he's not "maintaining public order" and "liquidating bandit formations," he keeps in shape by boxing and practicing on his favorite Kalashnikov.
Last week, Komsomolskaya Pravda carried an interview with the 29 year old prime minister. Below are a few choice moments from this interview which we thought you'd find interesting. As you read this, keep in mind that Kadyrov only finished a few years of elementary school.
From the very beginning, Kadyrov displays a kind of menacing wit which the KP reporter handles remarkably stoically:
Komsomolskaya Pravda:Hello, is this the prime minister?
Ramzan Kadyrov:What, you can tell that I became the prime minister just by my voice?
KP:Yes, right away.How hard are you willing to work?
RK:24 hours a day. I think, I'm honoring the trust that was given. There are no more hours in the day... I can't ever be like Putin, but I'll try to emulate him.
If you want to be more like Putin, you're going to have start wearing a suit.
KP:How are you going to form the government?
RK:We already have it. We'll just figure out who is going to stay and who is going to leave.
It's hard to tell exactly what he means there -- is he planning a purge, or is Kadyrov less in-control that one would have thought? Read on.
KP:Cleaning house, yes?
RK: Not yet. If they can't handle the work, we'll say... In the past my question was -- how do I increase security? Now -- how to improve the economy.
KP:To improve it? You mean to start it up?
RK:I have this very educated and brave friend -- Sergey Abramov. At any time I can call him and discuss economic questions. He called two times.
Soon, he'll come to Grozny to celebrate his birthday.
They really should think about how to bring back the glory days of kidnappings. The economy was so much better when you could just snatch Western reporters off the street, or innocent Russian farmers from the Stavropolskii Krai.
Kadyrov comes across as a prickly interviewee, although you don't really label truly dangerous warriors like him "prickly." When the reporter asked him whether or not a future Chechen government might contain some ethnic Russians, Abramovich snapped back, "What kind of question is that? There won't be anything in the future. And I don't understand the question. Or I understand it as insulting."
If we were the reporter and we heard Kadyrov blow a fuse like that, we'd be on a plane back to the States faster than you can say "plastic surgery." No, wait, we wouldn't fly, we'd take a boat. It would be safer that way.
The KP reporter, however, pressed the "offensive" question: "What's not to understand?" he asked. "Will there be Russians in your government?"
"There won't, there are. Minister of Transportation, Russian.
Practically half of the apparatus is Russian. And it doesn't make a difference.We're citizens of the Russian Federation -- a great nation.
"I'm fully Putin's person. I'll continue to do everything so that we have peace. I'll give my life!"
You know that RK is totally pissed off when he starts talking about giving his life for peace and Putin. You just get this feeling that he's about ready to head out to another zachistka, if only to feel human again.
KP:What are you going to start with? What decisions are on your table?
RK:What's on my table, I don't know. I haven't been in the office today. I'll look later and tell you.
I'm reading this last part and thinking, shouldn't have RK said "I'll look later and call you?" Am I being paranoid, or does the word choice imply speaking face to face? For the KP reporter's sake, I hope he's paranoid too. It just might save him.