Ahmad Kadyrov won a landslide victory on Sunday in the war-torn Russian breakaway republic’s presidential poll, though the election was denounced as a sham by rights groups and greeted with serious international scepticism.
“If I am head of the republic, that means my people must be everywhere,” Kadyrov said in an interview published in the Kommersant daily, adding that the towns and districts of the mountainous territory must not be ruled by different clans.
“From now on I am going to be even harsher. It can’t be otherwise. They have to submit to the president,” the 52-year-old said.
According to preliminary results announced on Monday, Kadyrov won 81.1% of the vote cast in Sunday’s poll on a turnout of 83.46%.
Criticism of election
The US criticised the vote as undemocratic, although it stopped short of saying it would not recognise the results. At the same time, the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) slammed the lack of choice in the poll.
Kadyrov, who was appointed as Russia’s top official in Chechnya three years ago, was accused of abusing his office and orchestrating withdrawal or disqualification of his main rivals.
But the head of the Chechen electoral commission, Abd al-Karim Arsakhanov, denied any irregularities. “The election was democratic. The voters had ample choice, no matter what anyone says,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Refusal to hold talks
After the vote, Kadyrov reaffirmed his refusal to hold talks with leader of the Chechen fighters, Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected president of Chechnya in January 1997.
Kadyrov predicted that the fighters would “switch sides in two or three weeks or a month”.
Russia has about 80,000 troops
Denounced as a traitor by pro-independence Chechen fighters, he has escaped several assassination attempts.
Kadyrov is of the view that the Chechen interior ministry forces were “not capable today” of resolving the conflict in Chechnya alone and that the presence of Russian troops was still required.
“When I judge that we can control the situation, I will ask the president of the Russian Federation to withdraw troops” from the Caucasus republic, he added.
Russia poured 80,000 soldiers into the territory in October 1999 on a self-proclaimed strike which has since degenerated into a brutal guerrilla conflict.
Maskhadov has vowed to “… rid our country of the occupiers and put an end to relations between Russia and the Chechen state, no matter how difficult the task.”