Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 1

On December 29, President Vladimir Putin conferred Russia’s highest award, the Hero of the Russian Federation, on Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow Chechen government’s first deputy prime minister and son of the late Chechen president. According to the corresponding presidential decree, the younger Kadyrov was awarded “for courage and heroism displayed during the discharge of official duties,” Newsru.com reported on December 29. Ramzan’s father, Akhmad Kadyrov, was awarded a “Hero of the Russian Federation” on May 11, two days after he was killed by a bomb detonated beneath the VIP stands in Grozny’s Dinamo Stadium. Ramzan said that the award “above all recognizes as heroes the whole long-suffering Chechen people. And we will continue…an uncompromising struggle against terrorism, extremism and banditry, and thereby protect the interests of the whole Russian people.”

Not surprisingly, Russian human rights activists were less than happy that the award had been conferred on the founder of a several-thousand-man security force that has been accused of widespread abuses. Tatyana Lokshina of the Moscow Helsinki Group said conferring the Hero of the Russian Federation on Kadyrov “discredits” the award. “If Russia has such heroes, it is hard to say what our state has sunk to,” Reuters on December 29 quoted her as saying. “There is information that Ramzan Kadyrov does not just order kidnappings and abductions, but actually takes part in them himself. I have worked a lot in Chechnya, and it is hard to shock me. But I did not expect this.”

The Prava Cheloveka v Rossii (Human Rights in Russia) website commented on December 29: “Many in Chechnya speak of Ramzan Kadyrov and his ‘army’ (special unit, guards service, punitive detachment?) with terror. Observers are inclined to consider this armed group, which enjoys the full patronage of the FSB and Russian MVD, guilty of many murders, kidnappings and torture of people in Chechnya. The press has repeatedly reported about secret prisons to which the kadyrovtsy may be directly connected. And here Mr. President awards the younger Kadyrov on the occasion of New Year’s. With the Hero of Russia. That’s the kind of government we have today. The kind of president. The kind of heroes.”

Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya said that awarding Ramzan Kadyrov the Hero of Russia was a disgrace. “It is simply a monstrous New Year’s ‘present’,” she told Ekho Moskvy radio on December 29. “Because of the fact that the younger Kadyrov has distinguished himself in murders, he was awarded today with the title of Hero of the Russian Federation.”