Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s emissaries are trying to promote his image in the Balkans, but the war in Ukraine spoils all plans.
According to Kadyrov, the Muslims of Serbia asked him to build a school for hafiz in Novi Pazar, which is considered one of the main spiritual Muslim centers in the Balkans. It was announced that the school and the street where it will be located will be named after Kadyrov Sr. However, the Islamic Community of Serbia claims that the initiative to build the school did not come from them, but from a delegation of the European Muslim Forum, a little-known organization created a few years ago.
The representatives of the forum visited almost the entire territory of the Balkans last summer, sharing generous financial resources. They traveled to Greece, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Croatia. Among the interlocutors there were numerous well-known Muslim politicians in the region. The results of the meetings were connected exclusively with the perpetuation of the names of the two Chechen leaders – Akhmat and Ramzan Kadyrov.
Kadyrov earlier created a group of Balkan journalists who are loyal to him, but it seems that it is increasingly difficult to promote a positive image against the background of his radical statements and international sanctions. In BiH, where Muslims make up half of the population, almost all of Kadyrov’s projects were stopped after the start of the war in Ukraine. Last year, guests from the European Muslim Forum promised to repair one of the streets in the town of Zavidovici with 500.000 euros, and immediately presented a sign with the name of Kadirov Sr. In the same place, but in honor of Ramzan Kadyrov, it was proposed to build a bridge with money from Chechnya.
Mayor of Zavidovici even invited Kadyrov to visit, calling him “our president”. But Mujanovic recently said that the forum missed the agreed deadline for financing a project worth almost one million euros. And he called last year’s signed protocol invalid.
“In a human and moral sense, I support the Ukrainian people, so there is no more cooperation,” Mujanovic said.
A year ago, plans were announced that three cities in BiH; Sarajevo, Zavidovici and Gorazde will become twin cities withGrozny, Shali and Gudermes. However, judging by official statements, nothing further is being done in this matter. The involvement of Chechen security officials in the war in Ukraine also seems to have left former reis Mustafa Ceric, who attended his inauguration last October, disappointed.
Some experts believe that the use of the capabilities of the president of Chechnya is an integral part of the Kremlin’s propaganda aimed at increasing Russia’s influence. But in the Balkans, it seems that not much is expected of Kadyrov. As historian Husnija Kamberovic explained in an interview with DW, the Chechen leader does not have a significant influence on Muslims in the region, and his contacts here are ineffective, adding that Ceric himself is a marginal figure in BiH.
“Kadyrov can’t count on either politically or religiously. If Moscow is really planning to win the support of Muslims through the Chechen leader, then this is a wrong assessment. Sympathy for Russia can only be affected by a change in the Kremlin’s course in the region,” Kamberovic believes.
Russian policy in the Balkans is often described as pro-Serbian, and many associate it with indifference to the interests of Muslim communities. For example, in 2015, in the United Nations (UN) Security Council, Moscow blocked a draft resolution condemning the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, Klix.ba reports.