Mystery over fate of Chechen leader as Russia says they know nothing

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says ‘do sports’

The Kremlin has said it has “nothing” to say about the rumours surrounding the ill-health and possible death of pro-Russian Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

The political tyrant was endorsed by Vladimir Putin in 2007 as leader of Chechnya, a Russian republic bordering Georgia, following years of violent tension between Chechen groups and the Kremlin. Kadyrov’s father, Akhmad, was the first Putin-endorsed head of the republic in 2003.

On Friday (September 15), a Ukrainian outlet, citing a security service spokesperson, said Kadyrov had suffered a failed kidney transplant and was in “serious condition”. This followed months of speculation about his health.

The story developed further when a Chechen human rights activist Abubakar Yangulbaev, citing sources, said definitively later that day: “Kadyrov died.”

As the rumours swirled of his death, a Russian investigative source on Telegram posted photos of cars with Chechen licence plates arriving at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, further fuelling the speculation.

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On Sunday (September 17), two videos were released on Kadyrov’s Telegram channel showing him walking through a park. In the first, he was seen smiling while on a stroll. In the second, he recommended people play sports.

The caption to the videos read: “I strongly recommend that everyone who cannot distinguish the truth from lies on the internet go for a walk, get some fresh air and put their thoughts in order. The rain can be wonderfully invigorating.”

The footage was not timestamped nor could it be geolocated, leaving onlookers unconvinced of its usefulness as counterevidence to the claims that the leader was ill or deceased.

And when asked to refute the claims on Monday (September 18), the Kremlin declined.

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Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “We have no information on this. In any case, the presidential administration can hardly give out health certificates, so we have nothing to tell you here.”

Kadyrov was elected president of Chechnya in 2007. He has ruled majority-Muslim Chechnya since, though one local source who wished to remain anonymous to protect their safety told that many in the country resent the Russian-backed dynasty ruling over them.

In the last 16 years, Kadyrov has governed Chechnya with a heavy hand. He has been accused of ordering extrajudicial killings and torturing his opponents, while referring to himself as Putin’s “foot soldier”.

His forces, including his personal army, have fought in Ukraine and were even enlisted to help stop the Wagner Group mutiny on June 24.

They failed to carry out this task after getting stuck in traffic south of Rostov-on-Don, from where the mutiny was taking place, according to footage published at the time.

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