Chechen leader ‘in hospital with suspected Covid-19’

Ramzan Kadyrov, the authoritarian leader of Russia’s southern region of Chechnya, has been taken to a Moscow hospital with suspected Covid-19 symptoms, according to Russian state news agencies.

“Ramzan Kadyrov has been flown to Moscow with suspected coronavirus. He is currently being monitored by doctors,” an unidentified source in the Moscow medical community told the Tass agency, adding that Mr Kadyrov’s condition is stable.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Ramzan Kadyrov (Musa Sadulayev/AP)</figcaption>
Ramzan Kadyrov (Musa Sadulayev/AP)

His illness has not been officially confirmed. In comments to Tass on Thursday, his aide Akhmed Dudayev neither confirmed nor denied the reports, saying only that Mr Kadyrov “is personally controlling the situation (with the coronavirus in the region) and taking all necessary measures”.

The 43-year-old 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 his 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.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

Chechnya has reported more than 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 apologise on TV, which critics of Chechnya’s regime often end up doing. Mr Kadyrov last week demanded that they be fired.

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

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