Chechen official denies report leader has COVID-19 symptoms

MOSCOW (AP) — A top official of Chechnya on Friday denied reports in state media that the region’s authoritarian president, Ramzan Kadyrov, was hospitalized with suspected COVID-19 symptoms.

The reports Thursday cited an unidentified medical source as saying Kadyrov had been flown to Moscow and was being monitored by doctors.

But Chechen parliament speaker Magomed Daudov, who also heads the republic’s coronavirus task force, said on Instagram: “I declare that our head of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, is healthy (and ) what they write and say about him is all untrue,” according to state news agency RIA-Novosti.

Earlier, Akhmed Aydamirov, CEO of Chechnya’s football team, of which Kadyrov is an honorary president, also rejected the reports. Speaking to the RBC news outlet Friday, Aydamirov said that Kadyrov was in Chechnya and in good health.

Kadyrov, 43, has run predominantly Muslim Chechnya with an iron fist since 2007. The Kremlin has relied on him to keep the North Caucasus region stable after two devastating separatist wars.

International rights groups have accused Kadyrov’s feared security forces of extrajudicial killings, torture and abductions of dissenters. The region remains shrouded in secrecy, with people afraid to speak publicly about any controversial developments.

Chechnya has so far reported over 1,000 confirmed virus cases and 11 deaths among its 1.4 million population.

Medical workers in the region complained about shortages of personal protective equipment, but later had to retract their statements as a “mistake” and apologize on TV, which critics of Chechnya’s regime often end up doing. Kadyrov last week demanded that they be fired.

“We have enough of everything — equipment, (hazmat) suits, masks, enough of everything,” the Chechen leader said.

On Wednesday, local health officials said that more than 90 medical workers in the region had contracted the virus.


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