Was the attempted assassination of Yevkurov the prelude to a coup?
By Avraam Shmulevich, President of the Institute of Eastern Partnership (Israel), special to Prague Watchdog
In recent weeks a series of high-profile political assassinations has taken place in Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan. Most of them appeared to be carefully and professionally planned and organized. These events cannot fail to raise some awkward questions. One rather strange aspect of this unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks is the fact that Vladimir Ustinov, Moscow’s current Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Southern Federal District, has remained unpunished and indeed unmentioned. At the very least, it would have been logical to expect his resignation. However, if one looks back a few years, one can find other instances of this apparent official immunity.
For example, after the Beslan tragedy North Ossetia’s President Alexander Dzasokhov remained in his post until April 2005, when he refused to sign the "action plan for the resolution of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict”, which was in effect a peace treaty between the Ossetians and the Ingush and provided for the return of Ingush refugees. Despite this apparent defiance, he was transferred to Moscow and became a senator. There may be various reasons for this state of affairs. Even though there has recently been less talk of a "merging of the regions”, it is safe to assume that the logic of such a reform is still dear to the hearts of the Kremlin reformers. After all, its aim is to deprive the federal regions of the "excessive sovereignty" they "snapped up” under Yeltsin. And the ethnic republics are number one on the list.
It is, however, impossible to bring all this about within the framework of the Russian Constitution. In order to unite two regions of the Russian Federation a referendum must be held in each of them The same process must also be carried out to effect a significant change in the nature of their government. The federal centre would in most cases find it extremely difficult to achieve the desired results in the face of the explicit opposition of the public and the hidden or public financial backing of the local elites. Today, the Ingush will do anything to resist being reunited with Chechnya. Their support is for the United Russia party. And in any referendum they would vote for continued separation – otherwise problems worse than those of Kiev and Tehran would be ensured.
But now, as Moscow sees it, the real obstacle to merging has been removed. With Yevkurov gone, there is no strong presidential power in Magas any more. Perhaps now it is time for the Kremlin to "test the waters", and launch a new mechanism of power that lies outside the framework of the Constitution.
It may be apposite to recall that during the tenure of plenipotentiary envoy Vladimir Yakovlev Chechnya’s former president Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov was killed in a blast at Grozny Stadium on May 9, 2004 (as in the case of Yevkurov, on Victory Day). Among other things, he had made his co-operation with the Kremlin conditional on Chechnya retaining control of the republic’s oil and petroleum resources. But now as then, the republic is under the complete control of Rosneft. Part of the money from the sale of Chechen oil is banked in offshore investments, while the rest of it goes into Russia’s State Treasury, earmarked for the Ministry of Energy. The price that is charged for the oil that is sold and the percentage of profit that enters the state budget are official secrets.
No one was in any hurry to hand control of Chechnya’s oil resources to the republic’s new leader. But Kadyrov Senior tried to enforce the agreements. A week before he was killed, he told the people around him that he was seriously going to raise the question of Chechen oil with the Russian President during a private meeting ...
If in the coming weeks President Medvedev or Prime Minister Putin call a meeting and announce some new unconstitutional measures "to strengthen the vertical of power and achieve the consolidation of forces”, perhaps a few of the questions will be answered...
(Translation by DM)