In recent months, Russia’s observers have sounded the alarm about the internal ramifications of Moscow’s faltering campaign in Ukraine, which appears to have resulted in a thick nightmare of unintended consequences.
The rise of a new and still rare breed of Russian political actors who espouse hardline views and wield excessive power is a new phenomenon with potentially dangerous effects for Russia’s future. The head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov and the billionaire businessman Yevgeny Prigozhinwho both sent their private forces into the war zone, are regularly labeled the newcomers who have gained too much influence by virtue of their role in the conflict, popularity in the media and ties to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The new Russian strongmenit is said, they hold no official position within the country’s defense ministry or its security agencies; however, they play “a significant role on the battlefield and in shaping the narrative of warfare”.
In truth, both Kadyrov and Prigozhin have recently been extolled by the Russian propaganda machine as selfless patriots who contribute much of their human and material resources to the country’s war effort, which should be emulated by others. Neither of them shied away from expressing strong opinions about the failings of the Russian military, the incompetence and ineffectiveness of some of its commanders, as well as the lack of enthusiasm among the Russian elite for mobilisation. Even now, Prigozhin can be heard talking about such patented liberal bogeymen of the 90s as state capitalism and government bureaucracy.
It is equally true, however, that neither got close to the actual battlefield, preferring instead to lead their men to a safe distance. This contrasts with the activities and modus operandi of Adam Delimkhanovdeputy of the Russian State Duma and right-hand man of Kadyrov, who spent a lot of time in eastern Ukraine but is far less inclined to trumpet his exploits or pontificate on finer points of government. Delimkhanov prefers to operate discreetly, sharing all actionable intelligence with his boss in Chechnya, who then publicly takes credit for any successful deals. This secrecy may not be viable under all circumstances and certainly not conducive to the advancement of Delimkhanov’s political career.
However, it allows him to fly under the media radar, lull Grozny’s jealous and vengeful caudillo into a sense of security, and continue to build his little empire right under everyone’s noses.
Delimkhanov’s early years were boringly ordinary, beginning with conscript service in the Soviet Army and non-prestigious blue-collar occupations thereafter. He did take part in the first Chechen war, but people familiar with his background claim that all he did during that conflict was chauffeur Salman Raduyev, a Chechen warlord best known for the dramatic 1996 Kizlyar-Pervomayskoye hostage crisis, which thrust him onto television screens. worldwide.
When the Second Chechen War began, Delimkhanov sided with the renegade Chechen cleric Akhmat-Hadji Kadyrov, Ramzan’s late father, who soon became the head of the pro-Moscow administration in Grozny, and it was then that Delimkhanov began to rise to prominence. Linking her fortunes to those of the Kadyrovs, she became a key part of the Kremlin’s peace plan for Chechnya, not only because of her loyalty but also because of her organizational skills, extreme brutality, ability to operate under duress, and propensity for discretion.
Delimkhanov’s true role in the tacit pact between the Kadyrovs and the Kremlin became clear in November 2006, when the former head of one of Chechnya’s shadowy security forces and a former Kadyrov ally, Lieutenant Colonel Movladi Baisarov, was killed in Moscow by Chechen security officers. The former mayor of Grozny Beslan Gantamirov he said that Delimkhanov – who, at the time, was serving as Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister, mainly overseeing the republic’s security forces – was directly involved in the operation and that Baisarov was shot by a weapon registered in the register of name Delimkhanov.
Three years later, Delimkhanov, perhaps inadvertently, made headlines again when Dubai Police officials identified him as the prime suspect behind the assassination of former Chechen general Sulim Yamadayev, who, incidentally, came from the same tiny village in southern Chechnya of Delimkhanov and belonged to the same clan. Yamadayev, a former loyal member of Akhmat-Hadji Kadyrov’s entourage, was, for several years, the commander of an elite army unit that hunted down Chechen insurgents. But he had been fired from active duty a year earlier following a long and bitter rivalry with Ramzan Kadyrov.
Emirates police said it would issue an international arrest warrant through Interpol for Delimkhanov, who, by then, had become deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Federal and Regional Affairs Committee. The Emirates did its best to bring Delimkhanov to justice, who predictably denied any involvement in the coup, but the pattern was already clear. Those capable of eliminating unwanted compatriots at home or abroad without batting an eye were on the rise in Russia, often protected by the state. Though Putin has said he believes in the power of jurisprudence and that Russia is governed by the rule of law, his reign has seen the elevation to prominent positions of some individuals who have egregiously violated Russian law.
It is not known for certain how many men Delimkhanov could deploy under arms. The overall size of his private army in Moscow alone may be as few as a few thousand, mostly composed of active or former police and security officers. And Delimkhanov has done nothing to dispel allegations that these men were involved in forced takeovers of companies across Russia, large-scale protection rackets and fraud.
But these individuals constitute only a part of the potential force at his disposal. Delimkhanov’s three younger brothers each hold senior positions within Russia’s Interior Ministry and National Guard (Rosgvardia). Alibek Delimkhanov, for example, is the first deputy commander of the North Caucasus district of Rosgvardia, while Sharip Delimkhanov leads Rosgvardia’s troops in Chechnya. If the four brothers pool their resources, they could emerge as a key faction in the anticipated power struggle, both in Grozny and Moscow, that so many commentators currently seem to envision. In any case, if the list of Russian strongmen is ever to be even remotely relevant and complete, Adam Delimkhanov should occupy a prominent place in it.