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More Putin than Putin

Ramzan Kadyrov Tries to Take Center Stage

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov smiles during a government organized event marking Chechen language day in central Grozny, April 25, 2013. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Ramzan Kadyrov, Russia's most controversial and outspoken politician, could no longer be quiet. In a series of statements just days into the New Year, Kadyrov and members of his inner circle viciously denounced members of Russia’s pro-Western opposition. In language reminiscent of the Stalin era—they called their adversaries “lackeys,” “traitors,” and “enemies of the people”—they said things that even Russian President Vladimir Putin has been reluctant to mention out loud. For doing so, Kadyrov won applause around the country.

Kadyrov is an outsized personality and has courted controversy since he became leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic in 2007 at the age of 30, succeeding his assassinated father. He is famous for his lavish lifestyle, his menagerie of tigers and ostriches, and his boastful and violent threats against his enemies, who range from human rights activists to Islamist rebels to the editors of Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Kadyrov’s years

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