Over the weekend, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov reportedly lost his iPhone, which he uses prolifically to soften his strongman image, particularly on Instagram.
A leading Russian human rights group has claimed local police took the matter extremely seriously, saying they interrogated more than 1,000 people throughout Saturday night in an attempt to recover the phone.
Kadyrov attended the opening of a reconstructed medieval Chechen village on Saturday, complete with an 80-foot stone tower, blacksmiths, and traditional houses. It was here that his phone was reportedly lost.
Kadyrov posted footage from the opening, attended by "thousands of people" from all over Chechnya, to Instagram, where his frequent and often bizarre postings have acquired a cult following and allowed him to play down his brutal image.
Towards the end of the evening, however, a loudspeaker informed departing guests that Kadyrov had lost his phone, according to the Memorial group, which cited local residents. None of the guests had seen it, and Kadyrov's security services then let them go home.
Later that night, however, Kadyrov's senior aides demanded local authorities provide the names of everyone from all over Chechnya who had attended the event and demanded they search for Kadyrov's phone. "People were asked if they were at the event, where they were standing and if had they found a telephone or 'another unattended item,'" the group wrote in a statement. Police did not let the majority of them go until the next morning.
Kadyrov has ruled the war-torn province of Chechnya with absolute dictatorial power since he succeeded his warlord father in 2005, during the second of two brutal separatist wars. Memorial is one of several respected human rights groups that have provided credible evidence of complicity in torture, kidnapping, and murder — including the unsolved abduction and shooting of its senior Chechnya researcher, Natalia Estemirova, in 2009. The Kremlin is happy to turn a blind eye in exchange for guarantees of security against a simmering Islamist insurgency.
The whereabouts of Kadyrov's iPhone remain unclear, though he has continued to post images on his Instagram account, such as this one, in which he is chairing a government meeting.
Kadyrov's spokesman denied the claims in a phone call to BuzzFeed. Speaking of the Memorial group, Alvi Karimov said: "They're nuts. Only a crazy person could say things like that... Kadyrov's phone is in his pocket."
Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71
Contact Max Seddon at email@example.com.
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