Thursday, 7 April 2011

North Caucasus Journal- Day 6- Grozny

Kadyrov's brats. Why not let the poor old ladies hold
 the guns and you do some work for a change?

Today we went to the stadium of Chechnya’s biggest football team Terek Grozny to interview Chechnya's sports minister, who's also happens to be the club's vice president, conflict of interest anyone?

The experience was one of the more frustrating instances of gaining an interview. We were sent right round the stadium from entrance to entrance, each time waved on by one of the gun toting jobsworths I call Kadyrov's brats (the security/militia/all-round hooligans Kadyrov armed and uses to keep his iron grip on the power).

Stopped by one of Kadyrov's brats.
Our previous permission to film meant nothing to him.
Outside Kadyrov's chosen objects of investment (mosques and palaces mostly) Grozny is still a shell. Many streets, even outside the centre have a reasonably smart facade but they are still ruined underneath. For example our hotel (stuffed in above a furniture shop, only had running water for an hour or two a day. The cafe across the road advertised that it was ‘open for breakfast' but served just tea or coffee’. In another telling indication we were here to interview the vice president of a football team who don't even train here, they train 400km away in Kislavodsk, a much safer town. Good to see the team has the same confidence in Chechnya's safety everyone else is told to have.

However it hardly seems the team need to be worried. For once inside the Terek stadium we entered plush, modern European surroundings. Some British clubs would give their front teeth for facilities like this! And this is the old stadium. A new one is due to be completed in May to hold 35,000 fans (pics). The reason behind this? Well perhaps it’s somewhere to put the piles of cash being thrown to Kadyrov by the Kremlin. But it’s also a way, reason the authorities, to distract the large, young male population of Chechnya from shooting and blowing up people.

Terek's new stadium under construction.
Maybe they'll feel safe enough in it to actually train in Grozny.

The sports minister was late, really late. Apparently he had a government meeting, but I don't know what the sports minister of Chechnya could have been talking about for so long. After a couple of minutes of typical bland ministerial platitudes (worth a dramatic delay of 4 hours, no), we finally set off, delayed, for Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

They yellow sign in the stadium says,
"We are against Facism, Extremism and Nationalism."

The journey was, as we had become used to, cramped and uncomfortable, but we were stopped only twice and had no bribes taken. We arrived late at night to a hotel that was a lot more comfortable than the Grozny dump, and went promptly to sleep. I noticed again how many mosques were built or being built, mostly in Chechnya but also in Dagestan. There almost seemed no room for houses to fit in around them. I wondered, is this a sign of these republics’ semi-autonomy, granted them by Moscow, or perhaps a plan for an Islamic emirate by the long, subtle route. Either way, they should get their watches fixed first.

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