Kadyrovtsy is the name used to describe the elite, paramilitary security forces of the Kadyrov administration in Chechnya. As a military force in Chechnya, they have been described as “the best-trained, best armed, and most battle-ready irregular forces at Russia’s disposal in the North Caucasus”, referencing the patron relationship between Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov (Jamestown Foundation).
During the First Chechen War (1994-1996), leaders across the region united against Russia for independence. Despite massive efforts from Russia to retain control of Chechnya (through manpower, advanced weaponry and extensive air raids), unified Chechen forces gained de facto independence in 1996. After a brief period of Chechen independence, Russia launched another campaign, starting the Second Chechen War. At the outbreak of violence, Akhmad Kadyrov, who had been the Chief Mufti of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, switched loyalties to support Moscow. Akhmad Kadyrov’s support for the Russia proved invaluable; when Russian troops regained control of Chechnya, Putin installed a pro-Russian government — led by Kadyrov until his assassination in 2004.
The Kadyrovtsy were originally created as a personal security force for Akhmad Kadyrov following his rise to the presidency. He placed his son Ramzan Kadyrov at the helm of the organization, which quickly became associated with corruption and violence. The group functioned outside the established laws of the military, and directly answered to the president.
The international community heavily criticized the Kadyrovtsy for flagrant human rights abuses. Through the security force, Kadyrov has eliminated political and social threats to his control using a variety of methods, including kidnappings, torture and even murder. His many victims include political activists, journalists, and competing figures of power in Chechnya. Before her death in 2006, Anna Politkovskaya extensively covered the brutality of the group.
“In Chechnya the Kadyrovtsy [forces loyal to Kadyrov] beat men and women whenever they think it’s necessary. They cut off the heads of their enemies in the same way as the Wahabis [Islamic militants] did. And all this is allowed by the appropriate authorities and is even called officially ‘specifics of raising national awareness as a result of the final choice of the Chechen people in favour of Russia’” (Politkovskaya).
She personally experienced abuse at the hands of the Kadyrovtsy; in 2001, she was detained, interrogated and beaten in Khatuni, a southern town in Chechnya. While in captivity, she spent days being tortured, as was even subjected to an elaborate mock execution. The Kadyrovtsy did not restrict harassment to well-known political figures and reporters; many in Chechnya live in constant fear of state-sponsored kidnapping and murder.
In 2006, in the wake of heavy international criticism, Ramzan Kadyrov formally disbanded the Kadyrovtsy. In a highly public speech, he denounced members of the force, the Kadyrovites as imposters, who “must be punished in accordance with the law…and from now on have nothing to do with Kadyrov” (Wikipedia).
However, the members of the Kadyrovtsy have since been reassigned to Kadyrov’s new personal security force. Though the group was formally disbanded in 2006, many former members continue to play prominent roles in the military and government of Chechnya. Kadyrov’s power in Chechnya is certainly strengthened from support from leading officials within the military structure, many of who once belonged to the Kadyrovtsy. His current security force is comprised of active militants. In addition to small arms, these paramilitary soldiers are equipped with rocket launchers and armored personnel carriers. These new Kadyrovtsy forces have similarly been accused of perpetrating economic and political crimes, as well as human rights violations against the people of Chechnya.
Wikipedia, “Kадыровцы” Accessed April 20 2012. (http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/кадыровцы)
“A Thug in Charge: Chechnya Gets a New Prime Minister”, The Econonomist, (May 9 2012). http://www.economist.com/node/5611334
Michael Scott, “Chechen President Says the West Wants to Destroy Russia”, The Telegraph (December 21 2009). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6858882/Chechen-president-says-the-West-wants-to-destroy-Russia.html
Lawrence Uzzell, “Kadyrov Implicated In Kidnappings Upsurge; Said To Be Behind Election Postponement”, The Jamestown Foundation: North Caucasus Analysis (Vol. 5, Issue 7) http://www.jamestown.org/programs/nca/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=1844&tx_ttnews[backPid]=186&no_cache=1
Pavel Felgenhauer, “The Kadyrovtsy: Moscow’s New Pawns in the South Caucasus?” The Jamestown Foundation: North Caucasus Analysis (Vol. 7, Issue 24) http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=3269