Kadyrov is new Chechen president

Kadyrov became acting president after last week's dismissal of Alu Alkhanov.
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Published on Mar 02, 2007 06:36 PM IST
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AP | ByMusa Sadulayev, Grozny

Chechnya's parliament approved regional strongman Ramzan Kadyrov as the war-battered Russian republic's new president Friday in a nearly unanimous vote a day after President Vladimir Putin made the nomination.

Kadyrov's confirmation, which had been seen as a foregone conclusion, cements the 30-year-old former security chief's rise to power. He is widely feared, but also credited with a reconstruction boom in a region devastated by two separatist wars since the Soviet collapse.

Kadyrov, who had been Chechen prime minister, became acting president after last week's dismissal of Alu Alkhanov, who had increasingly criticized Kadyrov.

His nomination won 56 votes in the 58-member, two-chamber legislature, with two ballots ruled invalid. Although tainted by widespread accusations of abuse by security forces he controls, Kadyrov has been praised for efforts to rebuild Chechnya and has been at the heart of a Kremlin strategy to crush continued rebel resistance and establish order in the mostly Muslim region.

Kadyrov's father, Akhmad Kadyrov, was Chechnya's first pro-Moscow president. He was assassinated in 2004, less than a year after he took office following a Kremlin-conducted election aimed at undermining the separatist rebel movement.

Ramzan Kadyrov turned 30 in October, the minimum age for a president, and had been expected to seek the job. As prime minister, he led a largely federally funded campaign to rebuild the region, left in ruins by two wars since 1994 pitting Russian forces -- and their local allies in the second war -- against separatist rebels who have increasingly voiced a militant Islamic ideology.

Construction and repairs have transformed the face of the capital, Grozny, and the second-largest city, Gudermes. Buildings have been plastered with banners praising Kadyrov and his late father, part of a personality cult he claims to oppose.

Russian and international rights groups have accused security forces under Kadyrov's control of abuses against civilians, including abductions, torture and killing. Prominent Russian groups boycotted a human rights conference in Grozny this week, saying attending would lend his government legitimacy.

Analysts say Putin has entrusted Kadyrov with power in part because he is seen as the only person who can keep large numbers of former rebels -- many of whom now serve in the police and security forces in Chechnya -- under control.

But his growing clout is also seen as a risk for the Kremlin, particularly after Putin steps down at the end of his second term next year, because some see his loyalty to Russia as closely tied to his relationship with Putin.

Kadyrov has repeatedly praised Putin -- including calling for him to stay on as president despite the two-term limit -- but has harshly criticized the Russian government and the state-run oil company Rosneft, calling for greater economic freedom for Chechnya and for a larger share of its oil revenues.

Analysts say that with the power to foment new turmoil in fragile Chechnya and create serious problems for Russia, he could take a more demanding stance if his relations with the Kremlin become clouded.

Major fighting died down in Chechnya by 2001, but rebels and Russian soldiers still clash, and rebels have continued to attack Russian forces with roadside bombs and booby-traps. Chechen rebels have been involved in most of the terrorist attacks that have plagued Russia for more than a decade.

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