Kadyrov's Power Grows As Commander Leaves

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has sidelined the last federal security agency in the republic, suspending the commander of a battalion that hunts rebels, a Chechen official said Tuesday.

Kadyrov announced the suspension of Vostok commander Sulim Yamadayev on Monday and called on Chechen and military prosecutors to investigate whether Vostok troops, including Yamadayev, were linked to murders and kidnappings in Chechnya and Dagestan.

Kadyrov's adviser, Timur Aliyev, said by e-mail that prosecutors had decided that the suspension after Kadyrov repeatedly urged federal military commanders to investigate Yamadayev and his troops. He said the move meant no commanders or security agencies capable of challenging Kadyrov remained in Chechnya.

The Defense Ministry declined comment. Vostok answers to its Main Intelligence Directorate.

Kadyrov and Yamadayev are former rebels who switched sides and were rewarded with senior posts by Moscow. Tensions flared between the two on April 14, when a convoy of Vostok vehicles failed to yield to Kadyrov's motorcade, causing a crash and a scuffle in which at least two people were reportedly shot to death.

The traffic incident served as a pretext for the shuffle, said Andrei Soldatov, a security analyst with the Agentura think tank.

Kadyrov earlier replaced the chief of a special police unit that reported directly to the Interior Ministry. He also has disbanded a Gorets unit that reported directly to the Federal Security Service. That unit's commander, Movladi Baisarov, was killed in Moscow last year by officers from the Chechen branch of the Interior Ministry, which answers to Kadyrov.