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Chechnya’s kitten-hugging, Putin-loving dictator, explained in 19 bizarre Instagrams


Meet Ramzan Kadyrov

Animal enthusiast, swole bro, and despotic President of Chechnya since 2007, when he was installed in office by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kadyrov is famous for his bizarre and enthusiastic embrace of Instagram.

He posts to it multiple times a day.

He would like to welcome you to Grozny, Chechnya's capital.

Isn't the mosque beautiful?

Giant "I Heart Grozny" signs don't come cheap though.

Luckily Putin's government funds approximately 90 percent of Chechnya's budget. That money is part of the implicit agreement between Kadyrov and Putin: Putin supports Chechnya economically and Kadyrov politically. In exchange, Kadyrov keeps Chechnya's separatist militants under control and the region loyal to Russia.

Kadyrov's loyalty to Putin is very powerful and very personal.

His Instagram notes to the Russian president would not be out of place in a Nicholas Sparks movie.

The caption for the above photo celebrates the news that Forbes named Putin the "most powerful man in the world," and President Obama only second-most powerful. Also pictured: Kadyrov and one of his horses, because why not?

The caption for this photo of Putin speaking at a conference says that Kadyrov read the President's 33-page speech "several times," with "a sense of pride for Russia and our President." Exclamation point count: six.

Kadyrov imposed his own "sanctions" on Western leaders in order to support Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The caption for the above photo announces that "today I decided to create a sanctions list to include the US President Barack Obama, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, European Parliament President Martin Schulz."

The multi-colored balloon border really gives it a little something extra.

Love makes all of us do crazy things sometimes.

Like how Kadyrov's love for Putin appears to have made him interpret "keep separatism under control" to mean "ruthlessly crush all semblance of dissent."

In 2006, he instructed his pet tiger to eat a Russian journalist "because he writes incorrectly about me."

The tiger declined and the journalist lived to tell the tale. But others who have been critical of Kadyrov have not been so lucky. Later that year, Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who had been publicly critical of both Kadyrov and Putin, was shot dead.

Kadyrov's kitten-and-celebrity-filled Instagrams hide a much darker truth.

Memorial, a Russian human rights organization, has accused Kadyrov's paramilitary forces of kidnapping, rape, and murder on a massive scale. In 2009, Memorial human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was murdered.

Pictured: Elizabeth Hurley, who visited Kadyrov in 2013 for a kitten playdate. Not pictured: Natalia Estemirova, who is dead because of her work as an advocate for human rights.

Above: Gerard Depardieu joined the playdate too.

How do Kadyrov's celebrity pals feel about the ongoing persecution of Chechen human rights activists?

In a 2012 press conference, Kadyrov accused a human rights organization, the Joint Mobile Group of Human Rights Defenders in Chechnya, of supporting terrorists. Kadyrov detained several Mobile Group activists. In late 2014, the organization's office was set on fire.

This cat has concerns regarding the treatment of the Joint Mobile Group in particular, but also about what the repeated attacks on human rights activists indicate about the political climate in Chechnya more generally.

A key element of Kadyrov's governing strategy has been to be "more Islamic than the Islamists"

The theory is that this will serve as an end run around the power of Islamist organizations in largely-Muslim Chechnya, including some separatist militants.

He has instituted a "virtue campaign" that requires women to wear headscarves and modest clothing in schools, government buildings, and other public places.

"Virtue" = women wear headscarves, dudes wear whatever?

In 2008, Kadyrov opened the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque, which he claims is the largest mosque in Russia.

Kadyrov really likes posting Vines of it.

There have still been Islamist attacks under Kadyrov's rule, however, including a bombing in Grozny last month.

But never let it be said that Kadyrov's life has been free from hardship.

For instance, one time his horse won a race in Germany but sanctions led to his winnings being frozen.

The caption for the above photo accuses Germany of unfairly blaming the horse for all the world's ills: "As it turns out, Zazu is to blame for everything that is happening in this world. It was he who made ​​the decision to go to war in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and the bombing of Belgrade." Warning that the restrictions on the horses' prize money would become "one of the new shameful pages in Germany's history," Kadyrov demanded that the country apologize not just to his horses, Zazu and Dashing Home, but to "all horse herds in the world."

There was better news the next month, however, when Kadyrov announced that the sanctions on the horses had been lifted.

"Dear friends! Horse solidarity planet was successful!"

And of course, we should not forget the most difficult burden of all: posting to Instagram.

Kadyrov complained in 2013 that he was struggling with the stress of posting to Instagram twice a day. "If, for people, Instagram is just entertainment, for me it's an additional burden."

I think we can all agree that's the real tragedy here.

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