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TOPIC: chechnya

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Inside Russia's "Game Of Thrones" To Succeed Putin

As Vladimir Putin's end increasingly seems near (political or physical), the battle to replace the Kremlin strongman heats up. Here are the main characters in this very Russian blood sport.

Today, Russia deservedly ranks among the most isolated and inhuman regimes in the world. And it's not just because of the war — this is the result of two decades of political and moral degradation of the Russian state.

The clans surrounding Vladimir Putin today resemble organized crime groups.

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Some of them command their own armies, like Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin and the head of the Rosgvardia, Viktor Zolotov. Others, like Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council, have security units.

And each clan has its financial resources — banks, state corporations and large companies. Some clans own entire regions, like Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya.

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Why Putin's Choice For New Ukraine Commander Is All About Closing Ranks At Home

The choice of General Valery Gerasimov to replace General Sergey Surovikin is a political defeat for Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov — and a sign that Putin may be getting skittish on the home front.

-Analysis-

Vladimir Putin has once again replaced his supreme military commander in Ukraine, just three months after a previous change at the top. The announcement Wednesday is clearly a sign of Putin's disappointment in the direction of the war – but perhaps more notably, a major political victory for the military establishment over outsiders who had been trying to gain influence.

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Putin’s choice of General Valery Gerasimov to replace General Sergey Surovikin is not expected to affect the immediate course of the war, but it speaks to a change in the Russian president’s mindset. Unsatisfied with the Wagner PMC mercenary group, and its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, recently tasked with a bigger share of the fighting, Putin has decided to rely on the established military elite again.

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Kadyrov's Bully Tactics Won't Help Russia Recruit More Soldiers In Chechnya

A skirmish between two law enforcement officers in Chechnya turned deadly last month, and ultimately led to a widespread crackdown by authorities. Strongman Ramzan Kadyrov taking sides in the dispute raises deeper questions about the lack of Chechen soldiers showing up for the war in Ukraine.

-Analysis-

Ten days ago in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, a small dispute broke out between a Rosguardian soldier of the National Guard of Russia and a local traffic police officer. What appeared to be just a minor skirmish quickly escalated, turning into an all-out attack on citizens who don't support the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's longtime strongman ruler.

It is yet another attempt by Kadyrov to show that he keeps complete control over Chechnya, a Russian republic that waged a failed war for independence against Moscow in the mid-1990s. But it's also clear that the situation is aggravated by the fact that many Chechens refuse to go to war in Ukraine.

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On the evening of Dec. 11, military special forces in one of the districts of Chechnya raided the homes of people who had witnessed the clash between the two law enforcement officers the day before, which led to the stabbing death of the traffic officer.

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Chechen Pride Or Kremlin Ambitions? Tracking Kadyrov's Long Game

Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Chechnya, is one of the most recognizable (and hawkish) figures in the orbit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But beyond his online bluster, he is keeping his options open as Moscow loses ground in the war in Ukraine.

-Analysis-

In a war where most Russian military commanders choose to remain in the shadows, and regular soldiers are prohibited from using their phones, one man stands out from the rest: Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya.

The day Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his "special military operation," it’s hard to forget the 12,000 "volunteer" soldiers amassed in the central square in the regional capital, Grozny, as Kadyrov hailed the start of the invasion and pledged to send a wave of Chechen volunteers into Ukraine.

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Eight months ago, at the moment of the highest stakes for Putin, it was a clear sign that the once rebellious Muslim-majority republic could be counted on in Moscow.

Ukraine's military intelligence tracks the origins of the Russian forces who've invaded their country — those from the Chechen Republic are referred to as "Kadyrovtsy."

But while the 46-year-old leader's flexing continue, the last two months of Ukrainian gains on the battlefield — and Moscow's increasingly brutal response and ominous threats — have altered the equation.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

An Old, Ugly Russian Habit: Hiding Its War Dead

Dating back to Afghanistan and Chechnya, the Kremlin prefers not to offer an accurate public toll of its military lost on the battlefield. And now in Ukraine, victory at all costs continues to be the approach from Moscow.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported casualties of its soldiers only twice: On March 2, 498 servicemen were reported dead, 1,597 wounded. On March 25, 1,351 soldiers were reported dead, 3,825 wounded.

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Western intelligence had estimated in mid-March that 7,000 Russian soldiers had been killed, while Ukraine has recently cited a figure of more than 17,000 dead.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Could Ramzan Kadyrov Be Putin's Successor?

The Chechen strongman is reaching outside his native territory to affirm his power, and test his ambitions. At 69, Vladimir Putin shows no signs of settling down, but he won’t live forever.

-Analysis-

Among Vladimir Putin’s infamous neighborhood friends, Ramzan Kadyrov holds a special place.

Some compare the Chechen strongman to Alexander Lukashenko, who has led an authoritarian regime in Belarus for more than 25 years. Though on occasion the 67-year-old Lukashenko has challenged the Kremlin on certain domestic and regional questions, his role — and limits to his power — are ultimately set by Putin. Nobody was surprised, in fact, when Lukashenko quickly fell into line to join forces with Russian troops at the Belarus border with Ukraine, as part of what may be an imminent invasion.

All is not so simple with Kadyrov. The 45-year-old is the unchallenged and ever-unpredictable ruler of the Republic of Chechnya. Though Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, and was the source of two bloody separatist wars since the end of the Soviet Union, Kadyrov today enjoys near absolute latitude to run his territory as he sees fit, which is increasingly more brutal and utterly intolerant of opposition voices.

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Geopolitics
Isabelle Mandraud

After Terror Attack, France Asks If It Has A 'Chechen Problem'

A wave of immigrants arrived in France from Chechnya during the early 2000s after the wars with Russia. A minority of this Muslim community has been radicalized, including an 18-year-old who beheaded a French schoolteacher in October.

Along the Seine, halfway between the Brie and Gâtinais rivers, Djamboulat Souleimanov tries to squeeze his large frame into a seat at a picnic table, his right leg a little stretched out to the side to spare a stiff knee. It's an old injury that this former Chechen military commander is still dealing with. It's a physical memento of a past that he now evokes in broad strokes. It starts with Souleimanov as a history student at the University of Grozny, his studies completed on the eve of the first war that pitted this small Caucasian territory with a Muslim majority against the great might of Russia. December 1994, he served at the head of a battalion of 280 fighters, before he had a brief appointment — barely six months— as ambassador to Malaysia for an equally short-lived independent Chechnya. Because then came the second war, even more deadly, that began in 1999 when he had only just begun to work as a teacher. And finally, he left.

At the time, Djambulat Souleimanov couldn't find anywhere safe. Neither in Qatar, which he left after the assassination of a fellow countryman, nor in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he had to change apartment every day. He finally decided on France, where he arrived with his wife and five children in 2006, taking advantage of a stopover at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport.

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Russia

Watch: OneShot — Fairest Of Them All

OneShot — Fairest of them all, 1996 (©Stanley Greene/NOOR)

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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Russia

Watch: OneShot — Portrait Of Zalina

OneShot — Portrait of Zalina, 2001 (©Stanley Greene/NOOR)

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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Russia
Nicolai Sergeyev and Alexei Sokovnin

After Russia Enters Syria War, A Spike In Terror Threats At Home

MOSCOW Russian intelligence services are pursuing a network of Islamic State (ISIS) militants operating in Russia as the country faces an increase in terrorist activity, in response to Moscow's recent air campaign in Syria.

Kommersant has learned that a group of terror suspects, said to be trained in Syria, were detained after a raid this week on an apartment in western Moscow where officers seized and deactivated a homemade explosive, with a yield of about five kilograms of TNT equivalent.

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Russia
Benoît Vitkine

Putin's Nemesis Speaks: The Alexei Navalny Interview

The anti-corruption activist, under house arrest in Moscow, says that Putin is pursuing war in Ukraine to consolidate his power and fulfill his ambition to be Russia's "president for life."

Alexei Navalny, a lawyer and blogger in the fight against corruption, is Russian President Vladimir Putin's principal opponent. On Dec. 30, 2014, a Moscow court sentenced him to a three-and-a-half-year suspended prison sentence on charges of swindling the French company Yves Rocher. His brother Oleg received the same sentence, only it was not suspended, and he is now in jail. While he appeals, Navalny is under house arrest, a measure he consistently violates. On Jan. 15, he granted his first interview since the verdict, by phone, to a foreign media.

LE MONDE: What is your current situation?
ALEXEI NAVALNY: I’m in a rather strange situation, under house arrest but not really. The arrest is illegal, and I too have acted illegally by cutting my electronic bracelet. Policemen and plain clothes officers follow and watch me on a permanent basis, but I can leave my home. I’ve been living this kind of situation, of more or less intense police persecution, for three years now. This time it’s more difficult because my brother is in prison. But I’ve gotten used to it.

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Ukraine
Lucia Sgueglia

In Donetsk, The Chechens Have Arrived

From a once-contested region in the Russian Federation, anti-Kiev forces are spotted in the battleground eastern region of Ukraine. They are "more Russian than the Russians," says one.

DONETSK — The pro-Russian residents of Donetsk woke up this morning to the sound of rumbling engines rolling into the center of the city. And they began to get nervous.

As the death count rises, rage has spread toward the newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the "Willie Wonka who launches rockets from Mi-8 helicopters."

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