[Marxism] Menacing Video Posted by Chechen Leader Alarms Critics of Putin in Russia
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 2 08:07:00 MST 2016
NY Times, Feb. 2 2016
Menacing Video Posted by Chechen Leader Alarms Critics of Putin in Russia
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
MOSCOW — Members of Russia’s political opposition reacted with fear and
outrage on Monday after one of President Vladimir V. Putin’s most loyal
and aggressive allies posted a menacing video online that appeared to
show a Kremlin critic in the cross hairs of a sniper’s rifle.
The video, posted to the Instagram account of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader
of Chechnya, shows Mikhail M. Kasyanov, a former prime minister of
Russia turned Putin critic, on a visit to Strasbourg, France, with
another opposition politician, Vladimir Kara-Murza.
Mr. Kadyrov, a former Islamist rebel, has repeatedly criticized
opposition figures as traitors trying to undermine Russia for the
benefit of their Western masters, and has called for the use of
Soviet-era tactics against “enemies of the people,” who he has said
should be put on trial or committed to psychiatric wards.
In the Instagram post, Mr. Kadyrov wrote that the men were in France
seeking money for the opposition, and he included four emojis
representing bags of cash.
The video, posted on Sunday, received more than 17,500 likes in 24 hours
before it was removed on Monday. Mr. Kadyrov seemed to accuse Instagram
of censoring him because of his anti-American views. “As soon as I said
a few words about the U.S. hellhounds, they have deleted my post on
Instagram,” he wrote, referring to Mr. Kasyanov and Mr. Kara-Murza.
“Here you have it, the celebrated American freedom of speech!”
A spokeswoman for the social network said in an email that the post was
removed because it violated Instagram’s guidelines against threats or
The video was posted just weeks before the anniversary of the
assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition figure gunned
down last February in Moscow.
Five Chechen men were charged with Mr. Nemtsov’s murder, including a
former member of Chechnya’s security forces whom Mr. Kadyrov praised as
Mr. Kasyanov, who served as prime minister of Russia under Mr. Putin
from May 2000 to February 2004, called the video “incitement to murder”
and asked Mr. Putin to condemn it.
It is unclear why Mr. Kadyrov recently intensified his online attacks on
the small, largely ineffective opposition to Mr. Putin.
In an interview in January, Mr. Kadyrov likened some politicians,
activists and journalists in Russia to enemies of the state who should
be tried for treason. And he wrote in an online editorial in Izvestia, a
Russian newspaper, that a psychiatric hospital in Chechnya could admit
Those “who dream about the destruction of our state may never wash off
the stink of the cowardly dog,” he wrote, adding that the Chechen
hospital would be liberal with the needle. “Wherever one injection is
prescribed, we can make two,” he wrote.
A top aide to Mr. Kadyrov then posted a picture of the Chechen leader
handling an aggressive Circassian shepherd named Tarzan, whose “fangs
were itching” to bite important opposition figures. “We can barely
restrain him,” the aide wrote in an online posting. “Just imagine what
would happen if it weren’t for democracy.”
A few opposition figures mocked the threat, posting pictures online of
their own pets.
Social media in Russia erupted on Monday with discussion of the violent
tenor of the online political commentary.
“In Russia a party of those who like to throw people in jail is
competing with a party of those who prefer to kill them,” wrote one wry
critic of Mr. Kadyrov on Vkontakte, a Russian social media network. “And
you say there is no political competition!”
An online supporter of Mr. Kadyrov praised the Chechen leader’s
resolution: “I respect him! Well done, that’s what you call a real man.”
Mr. Kadyrov has been an outspoken defender of Mr. Putin and his
policies, especially amid the increasingly bleak economic conditions
caused by the collapse of global oil prices.
Moscow is slashing regional subsidies, and some political observers have
said Mr. Kadyrov fears losing money from Moscow, which accounts for
about 83 percent of Chechnya’s budget.
By picking fights with the opposition, Mr. Kadyrov may be trying to
further ingratiate himself with Mr. Putin and remind him that Chechnya,
once torn by war and now cowed into submission, deserves special
Other political observers have wondered if Mr. Putin and his public
relations agents, feeling insecure because of the economic downturn and
an increasingly sullen public mood, are encouraging Mr. Kadyrov as a way
to dissuade any sort of public demonstration against the Kremlin before
parliamentary elections scheduled for September.
“This is one way that Putin is responding and just scaring everyone,”
said Max Trudolyubov, an editor at large for Vedomosti, Russia’s main
Dmitry S. Peskov, the president’s spokesman, told Russian reporters that
he might comment about the video later, after he studied the Instagram post.
In the past, Mr. Putin has backed Mr. Kadyrov after controversial
statements. Last month he called Mr. Kadyrov an effective leader and
gave him control of a local oil company.
But for many Russian observers, Mr. Kadyrov comes off as a bully who now
finds Chechnya too small for his ambitions, and has turned to social
media — he has 1.6 million followers on Instagram — to project his
bravado. On Chechen television, he recently forced a young Chechen man
who had criticized Mr. Putin on Instagram to recant while jogging in his
underwear. Mr. Kadyrov also harshly berated a Chechen woman who had used
social media to criticize high utility prices and called him a show-off.
“I think it is because Kadyrov has no borders,” said Elena Milashina,
who covers Chechnya for the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
“Chechnya will come to us and Russia will soon be like Chechnya.”
The political opposition in Moscow, repulsed by the barely muted
violence of Mr. Kadyrov and the repression he pursues in Chechnya, has
recognized that the pugnacious leader has served an important role for
Mr. Putin in pacifying the once-rebellious republic where Russia has
fought two recent wars.
For Mr. Putin, criticizing Mr. Kadyrov now would be considered a sign of
weakness. “It would be a very big step, like confessing that the whole
model of putting down Chechnya was wrong,” Ms. Milashina said.
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