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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kadyrov Knows the Secret

Ramzan Kadyrov is the new prime minister of Chechnya. The Kremlin seems to have adopted a hands-off policy, apparently reasoning that since the war in Chechnya is officially over, it has no business appointing the prime minister of a peaceful republic. The presidential administration doesn't appoint the prime minister of the Ivanovo region, after all.

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Kadyrov is in control of Chechnya, and his power rests on nothing so flimsy as his status as prime minister. Kadyrov's power comes from his ability to do whatever he likes to anyone in Chechnya at any time.

Chechnya enjoys greater independence from Moscow under Kadyrov today than it did between the first and second Chechen wars under then-President Aslan Maskhadov. Federal troops are afraid to step outside their base at Khankala, which has come to resemble a reservation more than a military installation.

Moscow pays tribute to the Chechen government in the form of compensation for housing destroyed during the two wars. The going rate is a 50 percent cut off the top. Moscow has already shelled out for 140,000 private homes and 500,000 apartments, more than could have possibly existed in Chechnya before the fighting started.

The regional government is instituting Shariah in Chechnya. Casinos have been banned. The authorities have cracked down on the sale of alcohol. They're even checking mobile phones to make sure that married women aren't calling their old boyfriends. Needless to say this doesn't stop Kadyrov himself from tossing wads of cash at female singers in Moscow restaurants.

Kadyrov makes no attempt to conceal his true feelings for Russians. When former Prime Minister Sergei Abramov was staying at Kadyrov's compound -- complete with chickens, horses and various other farm animals -- he was regularly hounded by Kadyrov's fighting dogs, which would be let out "by accident" as Abramov's car pulled up to the house. Everyone in Chechnya knows that Kadyrov doesn't respect the legendary 19th-century political and religious leader Imam Shamil because he surrendered to the Russians -- or "infidel dogs," as Kadyrov puts it -- in 1859.

A couple of months ago, a drunken Chechen colonel cut off a Mercedes with tinted windows, grabbed his machine gun and approached the car. The driver's side window opened, revealing none other than Kadyrov behind the wheel. Kadyrov ordered the colonel to get in the trunk. The colonel climbed in.

On another occasion Kadyrov went incognito to visit a looted construction site. A drunken special forces officer stuck a machine gun in his gut. Kadyrov identified himself, but the officer said that he couldn't care less.

It's remarkable that both the colonel and the special forces officer are still alive. They didn't even end up in a cellar in Tsentoroi, Kadyrov's native village. It's said that prisoners are no longer being held in the cellars of Tsentoroi; cages full of prisoners have been set up in the yard where dogs once chased after Abramov.

Kadyrov mentioned both of these incidents in a speech on local television as examples of what is wrong in Chechnya. Shortly thereafter he launched his war on booze: Three million bottles were confiscated -- and subsequently sold in neighboring Khasavyurt.

Kadyrov should not be underestimated. Anyone who refers to Russians as "infidel dogs" but still has President Vladimir Putin's private phone number, and who is implementing Shariah with Russian money, is neither a dope nor a puppet. Kadyrov has managed to do what Dzhokhar Dudayev and Maskhadov could not: He has built a centralized Chechen state for the first time in history.

Kadyrov knows the secret of the Putin regime: The Kremlin will turn a blind eye to absolutely anything. Plenty of people know this secret, but most take advantage of it to get themselves off the hook. Kadyrov takes advantage of it to increase his power.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.