Who is Ramzan Kadyrov? Chechen Strongman Fighting For Putin Pt.2
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine turned into a bloody, stalemate, the Russians are turning to proxies, from the Middle East and from Chechnya to aid in the upcoming urban warfare as they take on Ukrainians in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other cities.
In Part 1 of this story, we looked at the rise of the Chechen authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman who rose to become the president with the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But for many Americans, Kadyrov is a relatively unknown player in the war.
After rising to power in Chechnya where he and his father first fought against Russian forces in the First Chechen War and then switched sides during the second one, Kadyrov took the reins of power after his father was assassinated.
His means of holding onto that power included putting members of his own family in positions of authority as well as utilizing brutal methods of suppressing any challenges to his regime. Moscow and Putin have largely turned a blind eye to his abuses, so long as he keeps any separatist sentiments down and protects Russia’s southern border.
His methods included the kidnapping, torture, and murder of LGBT Chechens, during the coronavirus, Kadyrov claimed that Chechnya doesn’t have gays. During an interview with HBO’s Real Sports in 2017, Kadyrov said, “We don’t have those kind of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”
When pressed about the accusations of systematic kidnapping, torture, and murder Kadyrov said, “They made it up. They are devils. They are for sale. They are subhuman. God damn them for slandering us.”
Kadyrov also threatened journalists who have reported on his regime’s attempts to intimidate citizens from avoiding tests for the coronavirus, calling those reporters “enemies of the state.” This resulted in the United States placing sanctions on him.
Death Threats And Deeds Carried Out, Inside and Outside of Chechnya:
Kadyrov doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s willing to murder anyone who crosses him. After the assassination of his father, he was asked how he would avenge his father’s death. He minced no words in his response as well as his admiration for Putin.
“I’ve already killed him, whom I ought to kill. And those, who stay behind him, I will be killing them, to the very last of them, until I am myself killed or jailed. I will be killing [them] for as long as I live… Putin is gorgeous. He thinks more about Chechnya than about any other republic [of the Russian Federation]. When my father was murdered, he [Putin] came and went to the cemetery in person. Putin has stopped the war. Putin should be made president for life. Strong rule is needed. Democracy is all but an American fabrication.”
Kadyrov compiled a 300 name “Murder List” that consisted of anyone who he believed was either a threat to his regime or reported on his human rights abuses. He has sent Chechen hit teams to kill those on the list in Moscow, Istanbul, Dubai, Lille and Vienna, where his former bodyguard, Umar Israilov was assassinated in 2009. Israilov cooperated with The New York Times, extensively detailing abuses committed by Kadyrov and his associates.
Later in 2009, Natalia Estemirova, a member of Memorial society, who investigated the alleged abuses by Kadyrov’s militias in Chechnya, was abducted and shot to death. Kadyrov had reportedly openly threatened her by saying: “Yes, my arms are up to the elbows in blood. And I am not ashamed of that. I have killed and will kill bad people”.
His blind loyalty to Putin led to reports of Chechen assassins killing a prominent politician and political opponent of Putin in Moscow in 2015. Kadyrov was reportedly behind the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, who was shot eight times after leaving a restaurant with his girlfriend.
Parallels Between Ukraine and Chechnya:
With Kadyrov’s militias getting involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there are some similarities into what is happening in Ukraine today and the Russian’s two forays into Chechnya.
In both cases, Russia wanted the targeted areas to once again fall under Russian influence and control. And in both cases, once the targeted population resisted, their answer was to bring massive amounts of firepower, using indiscriminate artillery and airstrikes against the civilian populace.
As some political analysts point out, for Putin, there is no “Plan B”, Ukrainians will either submit to Russian rule or be obliterated. And Kadyrov is the perfect attack dog to do his bidding, albeit in a smaller role as the numbers of Chechens appear to be small for the time being.
In Part 3 of our story, we’ll look at Chechen involvement in the fighting and what that will entail as the fighting continues.