March 5, 2011 / 1:12 PM / 8 years ago

Factbox: Five facts on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Russia’s volatile Chechnya region approved Ramzan Kadyrov ruling the Muslim republic for a second term on Saturday.

The following are five facts about Kadyrov.

* Born in October 1976, former rebel and amateur boxer Ramzan Kadyrov became prime minister of Chechnya in 2005 but most analysts said he was the region’s de facto leader. He was installed as president in April 2007.

Kadyrov was previously head of security for his father Akhmad Kadyrov, a pro-Moscow president of Chechnya elected in 2003. Akhmad was later assassinated in a 2004 bomb attack. The Kremlin-backed firebrand is known for his colorful lifestyle. He keeps big cats in a personal zoo near his mansion, owns a gold-plated handgun and often performs traditional Chechen dances in public.

* Kadyrov has amassed a large personal militia, which numbers in the thousands. Rights groups and locals say they use heavy-handedness to execute Kadyrov’s personal decrees and permeate society with fear.

The head of the Russian human rights group Memorial, Oleg Orlov, has accused Kadyrov of running a totalitarian regime.

Kadyrov’s spokesman Alvi Karimov says rights groups are misinterpreting the situation and Kadyrov himself has consistently denied any involvement in abductions or torture.

Kadyrov says his forces have brought security to a region wracked by two separatist wars since 1994. He has been largely credited by the Kremlin for rebuilding the small Muslim republic and its capital Grozny, and for providing street security through his own fighters.

He is credited by the Kremlin for keeping insurgents in check in Chechnya amid a growing Islamist insurgency across the North Caucasus, though rights groups say he has done so through violence.

* A Sufi Muslim who favors polygamy and veils for women, some analysts say that in return for quelling rebel attacks, the Kremlin has let Kadyrov usher in his radical vision of Islam, which often contradicts Russia’s secular constitution. A 2007 edict that bans bareheaded women from entering state buildings is strictly observed today, as are periodic alcohol bans.

Kadyrov has said he wants to install Islamic Sharia law in Chechnya, but has also said he abides by Russian law. This confusion has led some analysts to say Chechnya could be heading toward autonomy again.

* The leader made international headlines in April 2010 when Austrian investigators said they believed Kadyrov ordered the kidnapping of a Chechen exile in Vienna, who subsequently died.

The revelation followed accusations from police in Dubai, who had accused a close adviser to Kadyrov, Adam Delimkhanov, of masterminding the killing in the Emirates of another Chechen rival. Delimkhanov has denied involvement.

* Kadyrov won a civil libel suit in 2009 against Memorial head Orlov, who was ordered to retract a statement that the Chechen leader was responsible for the murder of prominent rights activist Natalia Estemirova in July 2009.

Orlov is now undergoing a criminal libel trial and could face up to three years in prison.

Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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