The Economist reports that Vladimir Putin and his Chechen military strongman Ramzan Kadyrov have earned the ire of human rights watchers due to their brutal approach to governance and law enforcement in Chechnya and beyond.
Putin’s man Kadyrov has raised alarm bells by publicly threatening opposition politicians and questioning the sanity of people who oppose Vladimir Putin.
“Last month he called liberals ‘vile jackals’ who should be treated as enemies of the people.’ In an article in the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, Mr Kadyrov offered psychiatric treatment to opponents of President Vladimir Putin.”
Critics say Putin’s approach to violence and thuggery is very different to the oppressive tactics used by the government during the Soviet era.
While Soviet violence against enemies or civilians was organized centrally and therefore relatively easy to trace and monitor, Putin has “outsourced” his thuggery to a network of men like Kadyrov, who impose his will in the far corners of Russia, and to even shadier figures, such as the assassin sent to Britain to assassinate Putin’s enemy Litvinenko, as reported by the BBC.
“Russian repression is unlike that of the Soviet regime, which had a monopoly on violence. Mr Putin outsources his terror to thugs like Mr Kadyrov, who ensures that Mr Putin routinely draws over 99 percent of the vote in elections in Chechnya.”
Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya of the think tank International Crisis Group spoke to reporters, saying “Kadyrov can do the dirty work for [the Kremlin] and say things which they cannot yet afford to utter.”
Chechnya has been a source of irritation and contention since the collapse of the Soviet Union. International commentators and Western governments came down hard on Russia for the brutal war the government launched against Chechen separatists.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) February 7, 2016
The Chechen leader is not the only Putin commander raising Western eyebrows.
The Guardian is reporting that Putin’s real strategy in Syria has become clear, and it’s not good news for the West — it seems Putin is more concerned with propping up his ally, hated leader Assad, than in joining the U.S. and other Western powers in the fight against ISIS/Daesh.
Ever since the beginning of the bloody Syrian war, the U.S. and Russia have clashed over their approach, with Barack Obama insisting that ISIS must be destroyed, Assad taken from power, and a moderate government established. Putin claimed to wish to join the U.S. in fighting ISIS but critics believed he would secretly just target anyone who was fighting against his ally Assad — including U.S.-backed moderates.
The new report claims that people were right to be suspicious — as the battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo draws on, it looks like the only forces left on the ground could soon be ISIS fighters and pro-Assad fighters.
“The defeat of anti-Assad rebels who have partially controlled the city since 2012 would leave nothing on the ground in Syria but Assad’s regime and Islamic State.”
The moderate rebels supported by the U.S. look to have been all-but-obliterated. This suggests that Putin was targeting them over the ISIS fighters — the latter were less likely to go straight for his ally Assad.
“Russia has all along claimed it was fighting Isis – but in Aleppo it is helping to destroy those Syrian groups that have in the past proved to be efficient against Isis.”
The fall of the city will probably embolden ISIS, which will draw strength from “the myth that it is the sole defender of Sunni Muslims – as it terrorizes the population under its control.”
Analysts argue that the Aleppo development proves yet again that Vladimir Putin is not a friend of the West, and that Putin cannot be trusted.
“The [fall of Aleppo] aftershocks will be felt far and wide. If there is one thing Europeans have learned in 2015, it is that they cannot be shielded from the effects of conflict in the Middle East. And if there is one thing they learned from the Ukraine conflict in 2014, it is that Russia can hardly be considered Europe’s friend. It is a revisionist power capable of military aggression.”
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) February 6, 2016
[Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]