Naryshkin in Surprise Visit to Chechnya

Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin and his deputy, Vladislav Surkov, made a surprise visit Thursday to Chechnya to meet with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and discuss local governance and economic sustainability.

Addressing a group of Chechen officials, Naryshkin said the war-scarred republic was making progress but that there remained much to do.

"Clearly the republic's economy is moving forward, but there are still more problems unsolved than solved," Naryshkin said, Interfax reported.

He pointed out that the federal government has earmarked 120 billion rubles ($5.1 billion) for Chechnya's development, money that should be "used efficiently," Interfax reported.

Naryshkin's unannounced trip with Surkov -- who has a Chechen father and has been the Kremlin's chief ideologue -- came as Kadyrov appears to be fully consolidating his power, weakening powerful commanders who report directly to the Kremlin. The visit was likely connected to Kremlin concerns about its overreliance on Kadyrov to maintain control, analysts said.

At Thursday's meeting, Naryshkin criticized the absence of functional municipal government structures, saying Kadyrov's government -- rather than local officials -- is essentially running towns and cities.

In televised remarks, Naryshkin said some 2,500 trained specialists were needed to improve local governance.

Kadyrov said he had already signed several decrees aimed at boosting the effectiveness of municipal authorities and that the Chechen parliament had passed 20 laws on the issue, Interfax reported.

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst on the Caucasus at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Moscow's efforts to install local governments in Chechnya were doomed and that Kadyrov would maintain a stranglehold on the republic. "It is simply impossible," Malashenko said. "He might promise to comply but he will then betray [the federal government]."

Malashenko added, however, that the fact that Naryshkin and Surkov had come to Grozny was telling. "It shows they feel there is a special situation," he said.

Kremlin officials will try to build new coalitions of clans, Malashenko said. "The situation in Chechnya is dangerous because everything depends on Kadyrov," he said. "If he is murdered tomorrow, who will rule?"

Kadyrov last month consolidated his power in the republic even further by suspending Sulim Yamadayev from his duties as commander of the Vostok battalion, which reports directly to the Defense Ministry.