Russia Ukraine war: Who is Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov?

Russia Ukraine war: Who is Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov?

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has claimed the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is set fall to Vladimir Putin’s troops on Thursday, as the seige continues.

Hundreds of civilians and the last remaining Ukrainian troops are sheltering at a steel plant in the port city as Kremlin forces continue to bombard it.

“Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal [steel plant] will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,” Mr Kadyrov said in an audio message posted online earlier this morning.

But who is he and what is his role in the war?

Mr Kadyrov, 43, is the head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya and his troops are flying in Mariupol.

He was installed as Chechnya’s leader by the Kremlin after Chechnya came under Russian control following a decade of bloody fighting for independence.

He is a key ally of the Russian president and one of the most powerful and feared men in Moscow.

Human rights groups have accused him of a string of abuses including the forced disappearance of opponents, torture and the persecution of homosexuals.

He has also been linked to several assassinations, some of them in Europe, but he denies any involvement.

Mr Kadyrov has been vocal in his support for pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine and for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Chechen forces have been fighting in Ukraine as part of what Russia claims is a “special military operation”.

In 2021, Mr Kadyrov, who has run Chechnya like a personal fiefdom, was sanctioned by the US for his alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s troops are flying in Mariupol

(AP)

Rights defenders also hold the Chechen authorities responsible for a sweeping crackdown on gay people over the past few years that has seen more than 100 people arrested, subjected to torture and some killed.

Chechen authorities have denied those charges, and federal authorities said a probe found nothing to support the charges.

The Kremlin has relied on Mr Kadyrov to stabilize Chechnya after two separatist wars, providing generous federal subsidies and dismissing international criticism of his rule.

It also stood by him amid Russian opposition claims of his involvement in the 2015 killing of prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, which the Chechen leader has rejected.

An officer in Chechnya’s security forces was convicted of shooting Nemtsov on a bridge adjacent to the Kremlin and received a 20-year prison term.

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