[Marxism] Menacing Video Posted by Chechen Leader Alarms Critics of Putin in Russia

Louis Proyect 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 
harassment.

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 
a patriot.

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 
government critics.

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 
consideration.

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 
business daily.

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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