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Chechnya's Political Circus

The Chechen people look on with bemusement as the authorities attempt to impose "normality" on the war-torn republic
By Musa Yusupov

The civilian population of Chechnya has never felt so isolated.


Not only have they lost faith in their chosen representatives but now the authorities imposed upon them by the Moscow government seem increasingly distant.


And attempts to restore a semblance of normality to the breakaway republic remain little more than symbolic gestures and political sideshows.


The past month has seen a series of ructions in Chechnya's civilian administration which have reinforced this sense of estrangement.


On April 12, Adam Deniev, deputy head of the civilian administration, was fatally injured in a bomb attack just minutes after finishing a live interview on local TV.


Deniev, head of the Adamalla (Humanity) social organisation, was one of the main organisers of the Congress of Chechen Peoples scheduled for May 3.


It is thought that this initiative - coupled with widespread accusations of links with the Russian secret services - signed Deniev's death warrant.


Certainly, it was no coincidence that Deniev was killed just days before a meeting to organise the event which many saw as a means of rallying the Chechen population around Akhmad Kadyrov's pro-Russian civilian administration.


With other Chechen organisations - such as Duma deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov's Union for the Rebirth of Peace and Concord in Chechnya - trying to muscle in on the scene, it was vital for Kadyrov's cabal to take control of the congress and neutralise the political and ideological influence of their rivals.


The attack in Avtury has radically changed the situation. Haunted by accusations that the civil administration is vulnerable and helpless, Kadyrov is now set to publish a decree banning any congresses, meetings or demonstrations until the situation in Chechnya stabilises.


Once again, the Chechen people have been deprived of their democratic right to take part in the political process.


The hopelessness of their predicament was reinforced when Vladimir Putin visited Chechnya on April 15.


The Russian president listened to presentations from Chechen officials in Shali, Urus-Martan and Achkhoy-Martan who complained of widespread human rights abuse, extortion and embezzlement of public funds.


That day was no different to any other. There was sporadic shooting and an alleged arms dump was destroyed. In Grozny's central market, a man armed with a handgun shot three Russian women dead and escaped into the crowd.


Meanwhile, the president reassured delegates that the Kremlin had approved an increased budget for the Combined Army Group in Chechnya, including extra cash bonuses for servicemen involved in combat.


In the days that followed the presidential visit, the civilian administration announced its official migration from Gudermes to Grozny, ensuring that the capital will once again become the administrative and political centre of the Chechen Republic.


The move, however, is largely symbolic since the pro-Russian officials will remain in Gudermes until the end of May.


And the transfer of power was accompanied by the news that no attempts will be made to rebuild apartment blocks destroyed during the siege.


The administration has blamed the decision on a lack of funds and equipment, however most locals speculate that the federal authorities are concerned tall buildings will be used by rebel snipers.


If nothing else it is an indication that the Russian army is far from being in control - even in the administrative heartland.


This impression was further reinforced by the extensive security operation surrounding the new train service from Grozny to Moscow. Restored on April 21 for the first time in two years, the service will run one train to the Russian capital every six days.


A return to normality? Every passenger was searched by police with sniffer dogs before boarding the train, and the procedure was repeated on their arrival in Moscow. Normality still remains a distant memory.


Musa Yusupov is an independent Chechen journalist from Grozny


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