Out On a Limb

There was one piece of political news in Russia today, not two.

The one piece of political news was that somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 Muscovites turned out to mark the murder of Boris Nemtsov. If you missed the pictures – and they are striking – take a look. We can have a debate about whether or not this is going to lead to anything, but these are not pictures of apathy. These are pictures of a slow but steady burn.

All of that is just a long way of saying that Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement that he wants to step down as President of Chechnya is not news. I may be taking an analytical risk here, but I am absolutely convinced that Kadyrov is, quite simply, taking the piss.

To see why, all you need is a simple thought experiment. If you’re reading this, chances are you know quite a bit about Russia. Gather up all your knowledge, all your insight, and try to answer this question: Who could replace Kadyrov in Grozny? Any ideas?

No, I didn’t think so.

The uncomfortable truth is that it’s easier to imagine someone replacing Putin than it is to imagine someone replacing Kadyrov. And that’s the point Kadyrov is trying to make. It doesn’t matter if Yashin thinks Kadyrov’s done, or if Bortnikov thinks Kadyrov’s done, or even if Kadyrov thinks he’s done. The overwhelming likelihood is that he’s not going anywhere.

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