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Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, the czar’s madman

On the video, a procession of black cars parks in front of the driveway leading to the home of Ramzan Kadyrov. Armed Chechens descend from it, as well as bent silhouettes, their hands tied behind their backs. Automatic rifles in their hands, evil smiles under their sunglasses, the three teenage sons of the Chechen president escort the Ukrainian prisoners of war to their tender father, wrapped in a wine-colored parka. “Podarok! », launches Akhmat, the eldest – 16 years old, and a head to torture frogs. ” Present ! »

Like many others, the laws of war have not crossed the borders of Chechnya, a small Caucasian republic in the Russian Federation over which Ramzan Kadyrov, 46, has reigned supreme since 2007. The staging is worthy of a Mexican cartel, and looks like the last episode of a series of twists and turns. At the beginning of October, the Chechen president announced that his sons would soon be leaving to fight in Ukraine. Two weeks later, here they are already back, dressed in khaki and new “glory”.

The Kadyrov show

Welcome to the Kadyrov show. Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, not a week has gone by without the satrap of Chechnya being talked about. Addicted to social networks, he multiplies the videos showing his men in combat, and the declarations promising fire and hell to the Ukrainians, or castigating with an extraordinary freedom of tone the Russian military command.

Monday, October 24 again, it was in a pasty voice that he lamented on the Telegram application the answer ” weak ” of the Russian army to the Ukrainian strikes on the “Russian territory”, enlarged since September 30 by the annexation of four Ukrainian regions. To wash away the affront, he recommends“Erase Ukrainian cities from the face of the Earth”.

A fit of rage ? This message comes only a few hours after the announcement of a Ukrainian artillery strike that killed dozens of Chechens in the Kherson region. Rumors persist that their base was targeted following a brash video that the Chechens recklessly uploaded.

Because, since the start of the invasion, the propaganda no longer only features the Kadyrov clan, but the thousands of Chechen fighters sent there. Whether voluntary, mobilized or “kadyrovtsy” – “Kadyrov’s men”, members of Chechnya’s internal security forces known for the ferocity of their methods – they must embody Ramzan Kadyrov’s loyalty to Vladimir Putin, and his zeal to support the war that the Russian president has undertaken .

A “TikTok army”

Hundreds of videos posted on social media show them with arms in hand, unfurling banners and waving their fingers while declaiming “Allah u akbar, Akhmat sila” : “God is great, strength to Akhmat” – first name of the father of Ramzan Kadyrov, and his predecessor at the head of Chechnya, killed in an attack in 2004. Unimpressed, the Ukrainians nicknamed them “the TikTok army”, and mock their propensity to film themselves emptying magazines into the air.

Showing off as Vladimir Putin’s most loyal lieutenant has long been Ramzan Kadyrov’s specialty. “The constant affirmation of his loyalty is the fundamental element of Kadyrov’s positioning in the system”, explains researcher Marie Dumoulin. A strategy that intensified over the years, as his brutal methods attracted him enemies in Moscow, in particular within the Russian Ministry of the Interior and the FSB (the federal security services), gradually ousted from Chechnya.

Conscious of all duty to the master of the Kremlin, Ramzan Kadyrov sanctuarized his regional hold by carving out a national costume: that of a “patriot of Russia”, an “infantryman of Vladimir Putin”, ready to take all the blows to his overlord. And with a smile. Last October 5, during the celebration of his birthday, the Chechen president was awarded the title of man targeted by the greatest number of Western sanctions by the Russian book of records, to the applause of the room. The same day, Vladimir Putin raised him to the rank of colonel-general – his second promotion since February 24.

A unique position in Russia

But Ramzan Kadyrov’s activism also attracts enemies. Since the beginning of the war, the animosity worsens with Sergueï Choigou, the Russian Minister of Defense. Kadyrov indeed regularly criticizes the Russian military command, which he considers too soft, while taking care never to scratch Vladimir Putin. In early October, he recommended the use of “low volume” nuclear weapons to subdue the Ukrainians. A few days later, he applauded the appointment as head of military operations in Ukraine of General Sergei Surovikin, renowned for his brutality.

This outspokenness reflects his unique position in the state apparatus. He is in fact the only head of the Russian region to exercise such total control there. The result of a tacit pact with the Kremlin, according to which Kadyrov would have carte blanche – and blank checks – to ensure the stability of this tumultuous region where Russia has fought two wars since the fall of the Soviet Union. The result also of ruthless methods to remove any real or supposed opponent.

This stronghold held in an iron fist, Kadyrov threw it into the war as an instrument of his own promotion. To the point that some wonder if he has other ambitions. “He has gained status since February 24, he is more resolutely committed at the federal levelcomments Harold Chambers, specialist in the Caucasus. But despite the speculation, I don’t see him coming out of Chechnya and taking responsibility at a higher level. »

“A very gifted politician”

Too hated in Moscow, Ramzan Kadyrov must continue to “maintain order” in Chechnya and the Caucasus for Vladimir Putin. Especially since the war violently shakes this society. Extremely rare, protests took place following the announcement, in September, of the mobilization. Ramzan Kadyrov responded by announcing that it would not take place in Chechnya. However, it would continue in a “hidden” way. “Many reports show that young men from rural areas are being forced to enlist in kadyrovtsy », says Harold Chambers.

Through money or threats, the Chechen authorities are trying to replenish the ranks of a Russian army in bad shape in Ukraine, where hundreds of Chechen volunteers hostile to the Russian regime and to Ramzan Kadyrov. This one shows signs of impatience. “We are almost 1.6 million (in Chechnya), he said in his audio message broadcast on Telegram on October 24. From 300 to 400,000 at least (could volunteer). No matter the age, you have to go enlist! » And to call the next day for the war of religion against the “satanicism” western: “Wallah, it’s jihad!” »

Who knows if this umpteenth excess will be followed by effect? Ramzan Kadyrov must play on several tables, maintaining the stability of his region, and preserving his image as the best soldier in the Kremlin, at a time when the war is moving the lines in the Russian elite. Two objectives difficult to reconcile, given the dissatisfaction caused by the mobilization. “I think the war makes him more vulnerable, but there is nothing dramatic for himwarns researcher Ivan Klyszcz. Ramzan Kadyrov is a very gifted politician. Firstly because he is very aware of his strength. » And his main life insurance: his loyalty to Vladimir Putin.


The Kadyrov clan, twenty years of power

A former separatist leader who rallied to Moscow during the second Chechen war, Akhmat Kadyrov led the region from the year 2000 until his assassination in 2004. His son Ramzan Kadyrov then began his rise, with the support of Vladimir Putin. He first became prime minister of the small Caucasian republic in 2005, then became president in 2007.

At the head of the Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov establishes a corrupt and brutal regime, repressing any protest by means of his security forces. Over the years, Chechnya has become a kind of “state within the Russian state”, with a legal system evolving more and more openly towards Sharia.

Self-proclaimed “foot soldier” of Vladimir Putin, Ramzan Kadyrov is suspected of being responsible for numerous assassinations of Russian opponents, such as journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 and politician Boris Nemtsov in 2015, as well as Chechen dissidents in exile in Europe or in the Middle East.

Source : BBN NEWS

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