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Powerful Chechen strongman lavished with praise on birthday

Powerful Chechen strongman lavished with praise on birthday

Authorities in war-ravaged Chechnya on Thursday celebrated the 30th birthday of the Russian region's powerful prime minister with events choreographed to lavish praise on the Moscow-backed strongman.
The celebrations took place as Chechen premier Ramzan Kadyrov stepped back from suggestions he could seek to take the place of the current regional president before his term ends in 2008 _ a move that would further bolster his grip on power.
Kadyrov has been hailed for recent efforts to rebuild and has been at the heart of a Kremlin strategy to crush continued rebel resistance and establish order after 12 years of nearly constant separatist conflict in the largely Muslim region in southern Russia.
But he is tainted by widespread accusations of abuse by security forces under his control _ which include former rebels he has persuaded or coerced into switching sides _ and his growing power raises questions about Chechnya's future.
Despite signs of a gradual return to normality as authorities pour hundreds of millions of dollars into reconstruction of infrastructure and buildings devastated by war, civilians remain in fear of kidnappings and other abuses often blamed on Kadyrov's forces.
Ceremonies began with the opening of a massive arch marking the entrance to the capital, Grozny, on a road leading from Kadyrov's strongholds in eastern Chechnya, and were to continue with the opening of Grozny's airport _ out of service since 1999.
"Triumphal arches are built when one is victorious, and today this means the end of years of disorder in the republic," said Aslanbek Aslakhanov, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin on Chechnya.
"Today, on his birthday, Ramzan Kadyrov has made a gift to himself and his people," Aslakhanov said. He said Kadyrov "has been able to do what many could not _ shift the republic from military components to a peaceful track."
The minimum age to hold the top post in Chechnya is 30, and there has been widespread speculation that Kadyrov could take over soon from the current president, Alu Alkhanov, who is seen as less popular and less powerful.
Some observers say the Kremlin, fearing a loss of control, is unlikely to further boost Kadyrov's clout by maneuvering him into the top job, and Kadyrov reportedly said Thursday he would not seek the presidency before Alkhanov's term ends.
"I have already decided that that it is too early for me to become president. We have an elected president of the republic, and until his term comes to an end, I think it is too early to speak of me as a candidate for the post," ITAR-Tass quoted Kadyrov as saying.
Last week, Kadyrov had left the door open for an early presidential bid, telling journalists that he would take stock of the situation at year's end and follow the will of the people.
Russian forces entered Chechnya in 1994 to crush its separatist leadership, but withdrew after a devastating 20-month war that left rebels in charge of the mostly Muslim region. Russian forces returned in 1999 and drove the separatists from power.
Kadyrov is the son of Chechnya's first pro-Moscow president, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was elected in October 2003 and assassinated seven months later. The term of his successor, Alkhanov, expires in 2008, but he could be replaced if he resigned or were disabled.
Under new federal legislation that abolished direct elections of regional leaders, Chechnya's next president would be nominated by the Russian president and approved by the regional legislature.


Updated : 2021-07-25 09:08 GMT+08:00