Chechnya leader Kadyrov calls for war on Putin’s critics
Moscow (AFP) - The strongman leader of Russia’s Chechnya region Ramzan Kadyrov on Tuesday threatened to eradicate the “enemy” opposition in Russia, raising more concerns about the fate of Kremlin critics and independent media in the country.
Kadyrov, who rules with an iron grip the North Caucasus region that was the scene of two separatist wars, penned a lengthy diatribe in pro-Kremlin daily Izvestiya against the critics of President Vladimir Putin, calling them a “gang of jackals” who “dream of destroying our state.”
“We will save Russia if we don’t spare the enemy,” Kadyrov wrote, calling himself “Putin’s foot soldier” and offering to put the opposition in a Chechen asylum where “there won’t be a shortage of injections.”
The latest broadside by former rebel Kadyrov – accused by human rights groups of overseeing torture, extrajudicial executions and corruption – came after he last week called the country’s liberal independent media “enemies of Russia” that seek to sow “chaos” in the Caucasus and beyond.
The remarks caused a furore and several people publically criticised Kadyrov, with one local lawmaker in Siberia Konstantin Senchenko calling the Chechen strongman “the shame of Russia” for amassing vast personal wealth and abusing his political post.
Senchenko later apologised, writing that he “talked to some Chechen people and became convinced in the authority of the leader of Chechnya,” in comments that were interpreted by many as a thinly-veiled announcement that he had received threats on his life.
Several people who have challenged Kadyrov’s grip on power have been killed in the past, including investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya and rights activist Natalia Estemirova.
Chechens are also thought to be behind the murder of opposition critic Boris Nemtsov who was gunned down last February next to the Kremlin, and two suspects are reportedly linked to an armed squad answerable to Kadyrov.
Editor of liberal Echo of Moscow radio, which has been targeted by Kadyrov’s recent rhetoric, said he is seeking to beef up security at the station.
With its threatening and vulgar language, the post was seen by critics of Kadyrov as the latest evidence that he and his lieutenants are increasingly out of control and must be reined in by Putin, who has relied on the former separatist fighter for years to keep a lid on restive Chechnya. It came days after a lawmaker in Siberia was forced to apologize after calling Kadyrov a “disgrace” to Russia.
In the post, Daudov singled out prominent Russian liberal opposition politicians, activists, and journalists by giving them nicknames inspired by dog breeds. Those targeted included Igor Kalypin, head of the Committee to Prevent Torture; Aleksei Veneditkov, editor in chief of radio station Ekho Moskvy; human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov; and opposition activist Ilya Yashin.