Wed, 24 Jul 2019

Ramzan Kadyrov, the coarse-mouthed leader of Russia's North Caucasus Republic of Chechnya, is at it again.

In a video posted on Instagram, Kadyrov threatened anyone who insults him or 'his people' in online commentaries with grisly punishments.

'We won't let anyone insult personalities [online],' Kadyrov, wearing his trademark red-and-white tracksuit, said. 'Remove your comments. We are reading them all. There is a whole group working on this. We have traditions, and no one has suspended our customs. That's why I don't care if someone kills me. But if you insult my blood, my clan, my family, my people -- for me, that is the most important thing.

We won't ignore a single comment or video.''So watch your tongues,' he continued. 'Watch your fingers. Because we will break your fingers and rip out your tongues. We won't ignore a single comment or video.'

The Chechen strongman's comments come in response to a recent border incident with neighboring Daghestan, in which a new sign demarking Chechen territory was torn down after a virulent online campaign. Chechnya has been harshly criticized in the region in recent months for its seemingly aggressive efforts to resolve border disputes with Ingushetia and Daghestan.

In September, Kadyrov and Ingushetian leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov signed a border agreement following secret negotiations, prompting activists in Ingushetia to claim the pact invalid because it represented an illegal transfer of territory to Chechnya.

Then in February, Chechnya laid claim to a plot of land near the village of Mekhelta in Daghestan, and that land was reportedly transferred to Chechnya in March. Several other plots of land are currently under dispute and some in Daghestan believe Chechnya is taking control of them without waiting for the completion of talks.

Threats of physical violence are a standard part of Kadyrov's diplomatic repertoire. In 2016, international rights groups urged the Kremlin to discipline Kadyrov for his public threats against prominent journalists and opposition political figures.

Kadyrov said they 'should be treated as enemies of the people, as traitors.'

'The federal Russian authorities must respond to a string of thinly veiled threats against several prominent human rights defenders, media workers, and political activists, which originated from the political leadership of Chechnya,' Amnesty International wrote in a statement. 'Such threats should not be taken lightly.'

'Our research shows that menacing rhetoric against government critics has often been followed by violence,' the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote.

Investigative journalist Anna Politikovskaya, who wrote extensively about rights abuses in Chechnya, was shot dead in 2007. Although the murder has never been fully solved, three Chechens were convicted of carrying out the killing.

Human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was abducted in Chechnya in 2009 and her body found a short time later in Ingushetia. Her killing was never solved and Kadyrov claimed she was killed by unknown people trying to frame him.

In 2015, former Deputy Prime Minister and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov -- an energetic critic of both Putin and Kadyrov -- was gunned down in Moscow. Although the case remains open, five Chechens -- including at least one former officer of Kadyrov's security force -- were convicted of carrying out the killing.

Kadrov's security forces have been accused many times of carrying out abductions, torture, and extrajudicial disappearances.

In May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report documenting a campaign of intimidation and torture aimed at gay and bisexual men that included beatings, electric shocks, and rapes with foreign objects. Russian gay-rights activists say the campaign has been going on since January and that at least two men have been killed.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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