Chechen parliament attack a threat to Kremlin strongman
A major militant attack on the Chechen parliament is raising doubts about Kremlin-backed Ramzan Kadyrov's boasts that he's pacified Chechnya.
A violent daylight assault on Chechnya's parliament has not only left at least seven people dead. It has shattered the Kremlin narrative that peace and order are being restored to the tiny war-torn republic under the efficient leadership of pro-Moscow strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.Skip to next paragraph
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Russian news agencies said that between three and six armed militants infiltrated the parliament in Grozny on Tuesday morning by mixing their car among those of lawmakers arriving for work. One of the assailants blew himself up outside the building and the others headed inside, where they killed at least two Chechen security officers and a parliamentary aide. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assault.
The official Russian RIA-Novosti news agency reported that some of the attackers made their way as far as the parliament's fourth floor before being "eliminated" by security officers. The assault occurred amid an official visit by Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, who addressed the legislature shortly afterward.
"We will not allow anyone to come to us with a sword," Mr. Nurgaliyev told shaken Chechen lawmakers. "They should know that they will die by the sword."
Just two months ago a suicide squad struck Mr. Kadyrov's home village of Tsentroi, killing 10 people. The attacks are a grim reminder to Kadyrov that his frequently repeated claims that Chechnya's Islamist and separatist insurgencies are premature.
"This shows the resistance continues, and is growing," says Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Center in Moscow, who has written a book about Kadyrov. "Kadyrov insists that he controls the situation, that he has restored stability and security, and these events make those claims sound ridiculous."
From nationalism to jihad
For the Kremlin, which put all its stakes on Kadyrov and appears to have no Plan B for bringing peace to Chechnya, the dilemma is intense. Russia has fought two brutal wars in the past two decades to quell Chechen secessionists at an estimated cost of 200,000 lives.
Though Russian security forces have been largely successful in destroying the old generation of Chechen separatist fighters, their ranks have been replenished by a new breed of youthful rebels who are no longer motivated by Chechen nationalism but by a pan-Islamist vision. The insurgency has spilled beyond Chechnya's borders to engulf several neighboring, mainly Muslim, republics.