Warlord Watch: Is Putin about to get another Chechen problem?
What's new in the world of barbarians?
According to the New York Post, citing reports, a top Chechen warlord has been having some health problems:
Days before ruthless Chechnyan warlord and Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov was reportedly hospitalized in a coma, he was accused of burying his personal doctor alive in retaliation for trying to poison him.
The Russian Telegram channel VChK-OGPU, which claims to have inside information on Russian security forces, said on Sept. 10 that sources alleged Elkhan Suleymanov, former deputy prime minister of Chechnya and Kadyrov's personal physician, had been targeted by the man called "Putin's attack dog."
"There is talk that [Suleymanov] was killed and buried alive in the ground," the channel, which was cited by Ukrainian media and Ukraine's internal affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko, Newsweek reported.
Suleymanov's death has not been confirmed, but the reports said he has not been since October 2022, when he was dismissed from his post as deputy prime minister.
This has a whiff of Stalin's anti-Semitic "doctor's plot" shortly before his death, where, wild with paranoia, the vozhd accused his own doctors of trying to kill him and his lieutenants from 1948 to 1953.
Bad things happen to doctors when the boss comes from the Caucasus.
It's weird stuff, though, given that Kadyrov is or was only 49 and, like any self-respecting oligarch of the Russian empire, had an estimated worth of $100 million. Kadyrov came to power as the top Chechen warlord in the wake of Russia's second Chechen war around 2002. He let Putin co-opt him, became a very rich and powerful man in those parts, was able to spend billions to rebuild the destroyed Chechen homeland, and not surprisingly was Putin's fiercest loyalist as well as his "attack dog."
He also had an army. Like the late Wagner Group mercenary chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose plane was blown out of the sky last month, Kadyrov has been a linchpin for czar of czars Vladimir Putin in his war on Ukraine, supplying tens of thousands of brutal troops from the Chechen front to maul the Ukrainians. Prigozhin ran the convict side of the war, dispatching an army of thugs from the post-Soviet remnants of the GULag Archipelago, to do Putin's dirty work in Ukraine, often going where Russian troops couldn't. They've taken tremendous casualties. Prigozhin challenged Putin's military leaders in June, humiliating Putin, and got rubbed out for it after he was supposedly forgiven for calling it all off. There's no forgiveness with a mafiya boss, or an angry czar, so what happened happened.
Kadyrov ran the Chechen side of the equation, hitting the Ukrainians, from the south side, also taking tremendous casualties to keep the Russians themselves from losing too much of their population.
Could Kadyrov have fallen out with Putin, too, over some kind of challenge to the power of one of them, some demand for more money, with the inevitable lethal results for Kadyrov? Was it boyar-on-boyar backstabbing? Or was it really just kidney problems, as some of the press has reported?
One cautionary factor, as the New York Post notes, is that Chechen dissident groups say they can't confirm it's true, but the Ukrainian press, which wants that guy out of there and benefits from a Putin-Kadyrov falling out, says it is true.
Whatever it is, some kind of falling out appears to be possible. Putin tolerates no challenges to his power, and he takes care of problem people the mafiya way.
Now Prigozhin is gone, and who knows what has become of his convict army? They are said to be demoralized. If Kadyrov is gone, too, it looks a little symmetrical.
But what becomes of his army may be a little different. The Chechens are a nationalist force, and they identify more with the global Muslim jihad movement than they do with Putin and his quest for Ukraine. Fiercely loyal to Kadyrov as their tribal chieftain, if they get the idea that Putin did him in, true or not, they may become restive again. If that happens, that could create quite a problem for Putin, who could find himself fighting a two-front war against both battle-tested Chechens and the U.S.-financed Ukrainians.
It's too soon to see if that is emerging now, given the muddiness of the details on Kadyrov, but it seems a possibility, given the recent past. We know that it would make the CIA happy to see (or engineer) such a development.
If any of this is true and possible, Putin may find himself in a world of trouble. This is one of those black swan events that could change the course of the Ukraine war, quite possibly ending it in Ukraine's favor.