Ramzan Kadyrov, a proxy of Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Kadyrov recently attracted international criticism when reports revealed that gay Chechens are being rounded up, tortured, and killed by authorities. At a safehouse in Moscow, a Chechen survivor described the brutal interrogations. After the news broke, Kayrov's spokesperson, Alvi Kadirov, denied the reports, claiming that "There are no homosexuals in chechnya. You can not detain and persecute those who do not exist." Given the severity of the allegations against him, it's hard to reconcile the main aim of Kadyrov's leadership.
Chechnya is of 21 republics in Russia, where regional ethnicities are allowed semi-autonomous system of governance. It is a mountainous republic in a mostly Muslim region of Russia known as The North Caucasus.
In the 1990s, Chechenya suffered two devastated wars. The first was fought by separatist who tried and failed to free Chechenya from Russian control following the collapse of the Soviet Union. A few years later, Russia initiated a second war to eliminate islamist radicals who they blamed for bombings that killed hundreds of Russian civilians. The war was brutal and Putin's forces destroyed Grozny, the capital of chechenya. Putin later placed Akhmad Kadyrov, Ramzan's father, in charge of rebuilding the republic. Akhmad became the President of Chechnya in October 2003, but insurgency continued and in 2004 Kadyrov was killed when Islamist separatists bombed a parade he was washing in Grozny. After the bombing, Ramzan was swiftly ushered to Moscow when he met Putin that same day. At the time, he was leading Chechen security forces and had been blamed for several kidnappings. But, despite the allegations, Putin positioned him for leadership and he has been ruling the republic ever since 2007. In that time, putin has given Kadyrov ample funding in exchange for keeping the Chechen conflict under control.
The Kremlin funds at least 80% of Chechnya's annual budget and Ramzan Kadyrov spends that money lavishly. Not only on himself but on construction projects he constantly promotes. He often features Akmad Kadyrov Mosque, an opulent building named after his father that symbolizes both Chechen renewal and Ramzan's self proclaimed commitment to islam. He has also use the money to fund an army of loyalists called the "Kadyrovsty: a militia that has roots in the security forces he ran for his father." On instagram, he touts their strength and discipline, he offering a clear threat to possible insurgents. So far, his methods have delivered results.
Kadyrov has brought down Islamist violence in Chechnya, which has solidified his authority and served as a major political victory for Putin. Part of his strategy has been promoting a strict interpretation of Islam. Online, he maintains a steady stream of overtly religious post and in public statements, he insist that women wear headscarves and has supported honor killings as part of what he calls a "vitae campaign". He is also endorsed men shooting women on the street with paintball guns when they are not fully covered. In addition to shaping his Islamic agenda, Kadyrov uses social media to craft a warrior persona that is based in historical notions of Chechen identity. It's ans identity that can be traced back to the early 20th century, when Leo Tolstoy wrote about the Chechen rebellion in his book "Hadji Murad". Ever since then, ethnic Russians have perceived Chechens as fierce warriors. Now, copies of Tolstoy's novel come with a photo of a modern soldier on the cover. The tough guy stereotype has also traveled beyond Russia. It is telling them that mobster in "The Dark Knight" is known simply as "The Chechen".
But kadyrov also poses as the benevolent leader of Chechenya, who enjoys quit moment with animals, bike ride and playing with his friends. He also poses as Chechenya's biggest advocate, and has paid for several Western celebrities to visit Grozny. Past visitors have included the boxer Floyd Mayweather, the actor Steven Seagal, and the actress Hilary Swank, who visited for Kadyrov's birthday in 2011. Apart from hosting celebrities, Kadyrov constantly leverages his relationship with Putin to bolster his authority. On Instagram, he regularly demonstrate his allegiance to the Russian president. But at times, his enthusiasm backfires. He once framed a photo of a Putin critic between the corsairs of a rifle scope, a reckless provocation that led some people to wonder if Putin might be loosing control of Kadyrov. These missteps do not go unnoticed.
Now, revelations about Kadyrov's persecution of gays have caused global protests and created fresh tensions. At the recent meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Putin to discipline his Chechen subordinate.
By then, Putin had already summoned Kadyrov to the Kremlin for a meeting, but whether this did anything to change Kadyrov's behavior remains to be seen. For the time being, Kadyrov continues to be Putin's man in Chechenya and as long as he can keep the region stable, things are likely to stay that way.