Ramzan Kadyrov, the newly appointed prime minister of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, is continuing to introduce Islamic ethics to government practices (see Chechnya Weekly, March 6). After criticizing the local media for broadcasting “immoral programs” and implementing censorship, Kadyrov has now declared that lessons in the Koran and Sharia law should be obligatory at Chechen schools. Yet new details about his personal life threaten to undermine this campaign.
The prime minister has expressed his desire to revive an earlier law requiring women to wear headscarves (see Chechnya Weekly, March 9). The Regnum news agency reported on March 14 that female employees of the Ministries of Education, Culture, Finance, and Economic Development, as well as non-governmental employees and television reporters, have been ordered to wear the hijab. Kadyrov particularly emphasized that female TV reporters should appear on air only if wearing a headscarf.
This order is only one manifestation of Kadyrov’s recent focus on the morality of Chechen women. In February he advocated controlling all voice and text messages from cell phones in the region to prevent, as he said, young married women from contacting their ex-boyfriends. Kadyrov’s men from the Chechen Anti-Terrorist Center immediately followed the order and began to check women and their cell phones.
In addition to portraying himself as a true Muslim, Kadyrov is also working to strengthen his image as a strong leader. On March 6, when he officially became prime minister, he promised to improve the situation in Chechnya within three months (Itar-Tass, March 6). Kadyrov also harshly criticized Chechen officials who frequently travel to Russia to visit their families—and who try to spend as little time as possible in war-torn region. “Either put effort into your work and bring your families back to Chechnya or resign from your posts,” he warned (RIA-Novosti, March 10). Kadyrov added that he would fight corruption by not allowing anyone to embezzle funds that had been previously allocated for reviving the Chechen economy (RIA-Novosti, March 10).
He also boasted that all militant groups had been eliminated from the republic and noted that the 3,000 local policemen were continuing to search for Shamil Basaev and Doku Umarov, the insurgency’s top field commanders, in the mountainous regions of the republic. “The core of these [search] units consists of pardoned militants who have great experience, know the tactics of illegal armed groups, and are familiar with the local terrain” (RIA-Novosti, March 10).
All these declarations have one aim: to convince the world that the 29-year-old son of former president Akhmad Kadyrov is a strong leader in full control of the region. His Islam-oriented policy should also make him popular among ordinary Chechens. Nevertheless, reality sharply contrasts with Kadyrov’s claims.
While the prime minister claims that the resistance movement is dying out, there are rumors that some of the local policemen sent to search for Basaev have instead joined the rebel ranks: according to various media, some 100 kadyrovtsy escaped to the mountains in Vedeno district to joint the insurgency (see above).
Yet, desertion is not Kadyrov’s most pressing problem at the moment. On March 12, Daymohk, a Chechen separatist website, posted a short video of a party with two Chechen prostitutes and several men. The video clearly shows one drunken man who looks exactly like Ramzan Kadyrov and speaks in an identical voice dancing with a half-naked young Chechen woman and trying to rip her bra off. The film was probably taken using a cell phone equipped with a camera.
After two days of silence, some independent Russian Internet media sources began to broadcast the video, and soon Kadyrov was caught in a major sex scandal. The Chechen government dismissed the video as a “provocation” (see above). “The video of the orgy has been circulating in Chechnya for months,” a source in Kadyrov’s entourage told Jamestown. “The people around him know that Kadyrov is a psycho who likes, for example, having sex while being observed by prisoners from his private jail, located in the village of Tsentoroi; the onlookers are forced to masturbate.” Chechen political observer Murad Esenov told gazeta.ru: “If the authenticity of the video film is proved it might have extremely negative consequences in Chechnya,” (gazeta.ru, March 15).
Indeed, this scandal could ruin the Kremlin’s efforts to portray Ramzan Kadyrov as a true Muslim who respects Chechen traditions. The sex scandal, compounded by the frequent desertions by Chechen policemen, proves again that Kadyrov is a hypocrite recruited by the Russian authorities to pacify the rebellious region. The video scandal could make him even more despised by the majority of his own people.