Chechen leader makes first appearance since presumed coronavirus diagnosis
Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya, has reappeared on the air of local television companies after an 11-day absence since he supposedly contracted coronavirus.
On May 26, he held a meeting of the operational headquarters for combatting coronavirus. Independent Russian media sources speculated that the head of Chechnya had returned home the day before, as the plane he usually flies on took off from Moscow and landed in Grozny on May 25.
- Coronavirus in the North Caucasus: infection has spread to all regions and killed mufti of Ingushetia
Rumors that Kadyrov fell ill with the coronavirus have been spreading around the republic since May 21, after a source in the healthcare system reported that the head of the republic was under medical supervision because of suspicions that he had contracted coronavirus. There was no official acknowledgement of this diagnosis.
Local authorities either claimed that Kadyrov was healthy or reported that they were praying for his quick recovery. On the evening of May 23, residents finally became convinced that something was wrong when a video appeared in which a voice similar to that of Ramzan Kadyrov wished muslims a happy Eid al-Fitr, the day celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast, and Kadyrov himself did not appear in the frame.
Kadyrov’s video, in which he appears in his residence in Grozny, was published on his new Instagram account, which the head of Chechnya has been using since Facebook blocked several of his pages.
In the video, what appears to be an IV is partially visible in his right hand. It is more clearly visible in the report published by the local television station Grozny. Novaya Gazeta reports that the channel uploaded this report to their site, but removed it a few hours later. However, they managed to keep a copy of the video.
Social media users also noticed the IV in Kadyrov’s arm
“In the video, the head of the republic looks like a man suffering from a severe illness – he is pale, thin, has a puffy face, is short of breath, and showing obvious physical weakness,” writes Novaya Gazeta, reminding that violating quarantine for anyone carrying COVID-19 in Russia “is subject to administrative and even criminal liability if their actions lead to other people becoming infected.”
It is worth noting that everyone who participated in the meeting, as well as the TV channel operators filming the meeting, were wearing masks. Only Kadyrov is maskless, although he himself introduced strict mask-wearing rules in the republic, and recently publicly equated quarantine violators with terrorists.
Kadyrov is not the only Chechen official who is likely concealing a coronavirus diagnosis. Recently, the Chechen Minister of Health, Elkhan Suleymanov, justs as inexplicably went off the media’s radar. When the Chechen citizens’ questions about his sudden disappearance became increasingly insistent, Suleymanov published a video of himself in a protective suit and glasses, in which he says:
“I haven’t been in touch because there is a lot of work to be done. I myself am in the ‘red zone,’ as I decided to personally start treating patients infected with coronavirus and do my duty as a doctor, not shying away in the fight against our shared affliction.”