Chechnya’s strongman has insisted he is a “perfectly healthy person” in a strange public appearance to address rumors of illness promoting the next generation of his dynasty.
Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules the small, war-torn Russian region with an iron fist, complained of enemies spreading lies after he met President Vladimir Putin for the first time on Monday since invading Ukraine last year.
The 46-year-old is personally loyal to the legion of Chechen fighters who led some of the initial attacks on Ukraine, but he emerged last fall as one of the most prominent critics of Russia’s military leadership.
Kadyrov on Wednesday addressed the intrigue surrounding a pulse oximeter-like device that was found on his finger during a Kremlin meeting. He said it was actually a digital Muslim prayer counter. “Sorry to disappoint those hoping I’m terminally ill,” he said, brandishing the device.
Kadyrov went on to address other questions raised in recent weeks, including his puffy appearance, awkward speech and the extra-large font used on a series of notecards he read during a Kremlin meeting with Putin.
Kadyrov’s eldest son Akhmat, 17, visited the Kremlin earlier this month for a highly unusual one-on-one meeting with Putin, whose press office did not publicize the meeting, fueling speculation about his future.
Pictures of Putin posing awkwardly with Kadyrov’s teenage son drew comparisons to his own emergence as a Chechen strongman in 2004.
At the time Kadyrov, dressed in a light blue tracksuit, stood silently as Putin gave a short statement praising his father, Akhmat-Khadji, who led the region with Kremlin support until he was assassinated in a stadium that year.
In a recent meeting with Kadyrov’s son, the Chechen ruler said in a Telegram post that Putin had most likely told the 17-year-old about his relationship with Akhmat-Khadji, a fighter who switched sides during Chechnya’s fight for independence and emerged as a Kremlin figure. The most trusted companion there is. He also suggested that the meeting could be a gift before Akhmat’s wedding.
The Kremlin meetings come amid a series of nepotistic appointments designed to strengthen Kadyrov’s grip on Chechnya and promote the next generation of his dynasty.
Kadyrov on Tuesday appointed his daughter Khutamat, 20, to run Chechnya’s health services — his older sisters, 24, who is Chechnya’s culture minister, and Khadjiat, 23, who is married to Chechnya’s prime minister and runs a kindergarten system in Grozny. joined together. its capital.
Last month, Kadyrov made his nephew Khamzat, 26, deputy prime minister after three years running Chechnya’s sports ministry, an appointment for which his main qualification, Kadyrov said in 2020, was Akhmat-Khadji’s grandson.
Kadyrov is part of a group of hardliners commanding irregular forces in Ukraine, centered around Yevgeny Prigozhin, commander of the Wagner paramilitary group, who has blamed Russia’s losses on the incompetence of his general staff and urged Putin to raise the stakes in Ukraine.
He was the most prominent Russian political figure to express support for Prigozhin last month when the Defense Ministry appeared to gain the upper hand in the struggle against Wagner. Prigogine has since publicly begged for ammunition and complained that his forces were being left for slaughter.
After meeting Putin, however, Kadyrov praised Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the military’s “sensible strategy” in Ukraine, suggesting the sides had reached an entente. Kadyrov said that “the situation in our combat units and in the whole country is many times better than a year ago”.