Asia Crisis

Chechnya leader: foes made fake election claim site

GROZNY, Russia, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The leader of Russia's volatile Muslim Chechnya region, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denounced a website's claims he will run in the 2012 Russian presidential elections as false and a ploy to discredit him.

The home page of writes: "Kadyrov is a worthy candidate for the 2012 Russian presidential elections ... His nomination is a real step forward for our homeland!"

A spokesman for the Kadyrov administration, Viskhan Abukhazhiev, said on Sunday that authorities "will be investigating this phoney site very seriously".

Kadyrov, 33, who fought for Chechen independence in the first of the two separatist wars since the mid-1990s but then switched sides, has not made any public statements of intent to run for Russian president.

Incumbent Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and former Kremlin chief and current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, have not ruled out taking part in the 2012 presidential election.

On discovering the site on Saturday, Kadyrov said in a statement that he had no intention to run for president of Russia "neither in dreams nor in reality". uses an identical picture from Kadyrov's official site,, depicting the bearded leader clenching a fist in front of snow-topped mountains.

The website also features a poll where the public can say whether or not they would vote for Kadyrov as president, a section where viewers can donate to his supposed campaign, and words of praise from Putin.

It includes hundreds of visitors' comments, from pledges of support to criticism of Kadyrov's efforts to fight an Islamist insurgency across the North Caucasus, mainly in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Responding to the site, Kadyrov said: "I am absolutely sure that the most hardened enemies of the Chechen people and Russia are behind this ... They try to blacken the authorities."

In Saturday's statement, the Chechen government said an initial examination showed that was registered in a Western country. Kadyrov has in the past accused the West of financing the Islamist insurgency, as well as plotting to seize the entire Caucasus region. (Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)