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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia Now in Kadyrov Column

ReutersActing President Ramzan Kadyrov chairing a government session last week.
The pro-Kremlin party United Russia on Friday appeared to throw its support behind Chechnya's acting president, Ramzan Kadyrov, who assumed the post last week and must get parliamentary approval before becoming the republic's full-fledged president.

Political analysts said Kadyrov's ascendancy from prime minister to the top job, replacing President Alu Alkhanov, could backfire for the Kremlin.

Dmitry Kozak, Putin's envoy to the region, will travel to Chechnya next week and propose potential successors to Alkhanov within the next 10 days, his spokesman, Fyodor Shcherbakov, said.

Alkhanov will now be the republic's deputy justice minister.

Kozak will submit at least two candidates to the president for consideration, Shcherbakov said. By law, Putin must propose at least two candidates within 14 days after a regional leader steps down.

Putin dismissed Alkhanov on Thursday, automatically elevating Kadyrov to acting president. Putin is likely to submit Kadyrov's name for president this week; his confirmation by the regional legislature is thought to be a fait accompli.

On Friday, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who also heads United Russia, told reporters in Tomsk that United Russia was prepared to back Kadyrov, Interfax reported.

But he also gave his party a little maneuvering room. "Let us see who the other candidates will be," Gryzlov said.

While voters no longer matter when it comes to regional leaders — a law eliminating regional elections came into force in 2005 — Rusland Yamadayev, a Duma Deputy from Chechnya, said all Chechens support Kadyrov.

Analysts said the Kremlin was playing a dangerous game by betting on a regional leader who is portrayed by critics as a despot and may become more difficult to control as he gains power.

"Putin has shown that loyalty to him personally is more important than loyalty to the country," said Sergei Markedonov, a Caucasus expert with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.

Kadyrov became first deputy prime minister after his father, Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, was assassinated in a bomb blast in May 2004. He became prime minister in 2006 and has been the de facto ruler of the republic ever since.

The Kadyrovs defected from rebel forces battling federal troops during the second Chechen war, swearing allegiance to Moscow.

Markedonov said whoever succeeds Putin next year will have to strike a new deal with Kadyrov to ensure his loyalty, a deal that would likely give the Chechen strongman more power. "Kadyrov will be bargaining hard, and the price for the government will be very high," Markedonov said.