Every Chechen dreams of the war being over – Kadyrov
Sophie Shevardnadze: Ramzan Kadyrov, President of Chechnya. Thank you for being with us today. All the North Caucasus republics have been joined together into one Federal District. A politician from Siberia was appointed as head of this district. He's also been appointed Deputy Prime Minister. What changes are you expecting with these changes? Do you know him personally?
Ramzan Kadyrov: I have met him. Our expectations involve the economic development of the region. As President of the Chechen Republic, I can say that developing the economy is our priority at the moment. It doesn’t matter whether he’s from Siberia, St. Petersburg or Moscow. What matters is that he is a good executive. He has good personal qualities. He has worked in executive authorities. He ran some businesses and organizations in the region, so he’s familiar with the system. As for the rest – we will all help him. So, now he has the status and the position. If he gets the authorities to match the position, then the regions of the North Caucasus Federal District will prosper, first and foremost in terms of their economy.
SS: But still, is the fact that this person is not from the Caucasus a positive or negative thing?
RK: It is in fact very positive. If he were a Kabardian, other nationalities would be jealous, etc. We do have rivalries among us. So, it’s good that he’s not from here and that he’s not a general either, because then people would think that there’s tension with the neighboring states and that we may be up to something. But here we have a man of a purely economic standing. This is better for us. It’s better for us that he is an outsider.
SS: But you and other heads of the North Caucasus republics have your own vision on how to restore the economy in your republics. What if your vision and his don’t coincide? How are you going to find a common language?
RK: We had a talk and he promised that his first business trip would be to the Chechen Republic. And after he gets acquainted with the republic and with the region, it would be clear what measures will need to be taken. I am sure he will do very well because he used to be Head of the Krasnoyarsk region, which is one of the biggest regions in the Russian Federation.
If he is going to help and assist us, we will welcome that. If not, we will say “why do we need him?”
If I don’t like something, I will speak out for sure.
SS: President Medvedev said that our political system requires liberalization. If we take a look at the ruling party in the North Caucasus Republics, we see some Soviet-style results – like, for example, the fact that 90% of voters support the ruling party. What does it tell us? Does it show the real power that the party has or that people don’t have any other choice? Or maybe it tells us that it’s difficult for opposition to exist in the North Caucasus?
RK: In Chechnya we have a party that is the party of the people and the ruling party. The party that actually does real work. The party that participates in the social, political and economic life of the republic and carries out work on spiritual and moral development and education. The party that lives the life of the republic, with its problems and good things, day and night. The other parties show up only at election time.
Sure, it’s easier to just shift the blame onto someone and it’s much harder to actually do something. Social and political parties must first show what they are worth – not by condemning and reproaching the ruling authorities in the state or region, but by cooperating with them. Then such parties will have people voting for them in the elections and people will view them as political leaders. For now, though, they are all talk and no action.
SS: Mr. Kadyrov, it’s been a year since the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya ended. What does a peaceful life mean to you? A new airport? A city that has been rebuilt? Or a change in people's attitudes?
RK: Every Chechen dreams of the war being over… that there be no bombs, explosions or military jets flying over their heads… that we could go visit other states, flying from the airport in Grozny… that we could receive guests, foreign athletes, cultural and political representatives. It’s a dream for everyone in Chechnya, and even more so – for me.
SS: You have mentioned that the militants in the Caucasus have powerful support from the West. Who are these people?
RK: Well, I don’t know the names. But there are states that fight against the sovereign state of the Russian Federation. Those are the Western states that are under American influence and their task is to tear Russia apart. Why? Because they need to have an enemy.
They know that people in the Caucuses believe in God, that we are Muslims, and they think that we are fine with resorting to terrorism. They think that the Chechens took offence with the Soviet Union, that we were made to go to Russia, and initiated the first and the second campaign.
As for Islam, it has nothing to do with it. The fathers of those who talk about stuff like the call of Islam for Shariah law and for jihad have never prayed, and their grandfathers never prayed either. They’ve always betrayed Islam together with our customs and traditions.
Take Umarov – he’s been a criminal his entire life. Maskhadov served in the army his entire life, he never prayed and then he came here and started calling for jihad. The same about Dudaev!
SS: Do the Chechen terrorists have a link with Al Qaeda?
RK: Who founded Al Qaeda? The United States. The United States gave birth to it. America promised to give them Iraq or Afghanistan, but did not live up to its promise. That’s when Bin Laden started acting against them. They sent the remaining forces to the Caucuses. That’s where Al Qaeda originates from. Naturally, they represent Al Qaeda. If they were not, they would mention our people in their addresses. But they never do so. Umarov once said that Chechen people are his enemies. What is he expecting, if he declared our people his enemies? Al Qaeda has its own ideas. These are people who were offended. They fought for America – America gave birth to them, but did not fulfill its promise. That’s it. That’s the root cause.
SS: Mr. President, there have been some events that damaged the image of the Chechen Republic. A recent one was the murder of Natalya Estemirova, a prominent human rights activist. It stirred up the West. How is the investigation progressing?
RK: Estemirova’s murder was provoked by the people who murdered Politkovskaya and Litvinenko. I am pretty sure that that’s [Berezovsky’s] job. Politkovskaya was speaking about Chechnya all the time. When everything became fine in our republic, and there was nothing to blame us for, was the perfect time to kill her and shift the blame on Kadyrov to undermine the system.
Progress has been made. I am sure that the Prosecutor’s Office, which took up the responsibility, will solve the crime. The most important thing for us to know is who is responsible for the crime. We’ve already been saying that there are no terrorist attacks, crimes or kidnapping in our republic. Once we started saying this, Estemirova was murdered, then Sadulayeva, a representative of an NGO – I can’t recall the name – was killed. Then a Russian family was killed. And all these murders occurred over a short period of time. What am I supposed to say after it? That’s the biggest and the most important crime we must solve, though we also have to investigate the assassination of our first president. So much time has passed, and we still have not solved the case. In a word, we are doing everything possible to solve this crime as soon as possible.
SS: How difficult is it to be a human rights activist in the North Caucasus?
RK: We have a lot of organizations uniting social activists in our republic. Those who deal with social issues arrange their private lives, and I do not think that they are under greater threat than others. They talk, discuss things and condemn other things. My colleagues keep nagging me about each others work, and they continue calling me every day saying that something can’t be done because of economic or other problems. I suggested organizing a number of events together and I asked them what is more important for them: to resolve the problems of people, or to blame us. And I suggested that we work together.
I set up a committee and appointed Yestemirova as a Chairman and Kuchiev as Deputy Mayor of Grozny. She did not want to work. She was trying to find reasons not to do it… She started receiving a little money from the West. Their aim was to speak more about us and get more money. They got paid for speaking about our problems. We told them, why scream about our problems as long we are taking care of everything. That’s why we exist, that’s why we get paid. If we have some failures, why tell the whole world about it!
If there is a problem in some of the regions, draw our attention to that. If we overlooked something, tell us about it or write about it to us. If any problem arises, they tell the whole world about it at once. And when America kills innocent people in Iraq, or they kill and torture people in Afghanistan – all the social activists keep silent. When a crime is committed in the Chechen Republic – something like domestic violence – Kadyrov is the first one to blame. I cannot be responsible for a million people. Anyway there will be crime, crimes are committed everywhere.
SS: Terrorism is a global problem, not just in the Caucasus. The whole world is trying to fight it. Do you have a plan on how to root out terror?
RK: We’ve been keeping up dialogue with them for a long time now. We wanted to get back the people using TV, radio and other mass media. We managed to get back 78 people. In May 2009 we stopped doing so. But they took advantage of the situation. We got back 78 people, while they recruited another 56 people. Half of them were ill, mentally or physically, like blind people – in a word, disabled people. In addition, they turned them into suicide bombers.
They made the disabled die, exploding themselves, and go to hell. We announced then that starting from that day we would stop holding negotiations. I will not keep up dialogue any more. There is blood, where they are – that’s what the prophet said. And we carry out cruel steps to fight them.
SS: OK. Now let’s return to peaceful life. The Western audience is very much interested in one question. You support polygamy, don’t you?
SS: Does Moscow show understanding regarding this question?
RK: I do not ask them about it, as we are not pushing through a law on multiple marriages. That’s a tradition we’ve always had. God allows Muslims to do so. We’ve always had multiple marriages in our history. And I am all for it.
And there is another question here: is it better to have 20 lovers, rather than 4 lawful wives? And they know where their husband is today, where he is tomorrow and where he is the day after tomorrow. But if he has 12 or 20 lovers, nobody knows where he is, and he lies to each of them saying he is at work and stuff. That’s promiscuous behavior, but everyone is fine with that, while having another lawful wife is a crime. If women are sold everywhere, and in our state as well – I mean official and unofficial brothels. And people are fine with that! Ask any father – is it OK if your daughter is sold for $50? What would he say to that?
SS: Thank you so much for the interview.
RK: Thank you very much!