Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov shows off workout amid health rumours

Chechnya’s strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has published a workout video in an apparent move to scotch rumours of illness after a media report claimed that his health was rapidly deteriorating.

Novaya Gazeta Europe, an independent Russian outlet, published a report on Monday that said Kadyrov was diagnosed with pancreatic necrosis in 2019, a severe condition characterised by the death of pancreatic tissue.

The outlet, which operates from exile in Europe, alleged that Kadyrov’s recently worsened condition has prompted the Kremlin to look for a successor to maintain stability in the restive Chechnya region.

Hours after the report came out, Kadyrov published a video on his social media channels that showed him doing bench-pressing exercises, lifting weights and wrestling with a sparring partner.

“A busy day ended with exercise and positivity,” a message accompanying the video said, without addressing his reported illness. “Remember that taking care of your health is an investment in your future.”

Persistent rumours have swirled for months that the 47-year-old head of Chechnya, who is accused by rights groups of running a “totalitarian regime”, may be ill.

Despite his insistence on being in perfect health, Kadyrov has been frequently seen in public over the past year with a noticeably swollen face, occasionally slurring his speech and barely keeping his eyes open.

Last September, Kadyrov was put into a medically induced coma after overdosing on sedatives, Novaya Gazeta said, citing anonymous sources at the exclusive Moscow presidential hospital where he was allegedly treated.

Kadyrov gets physical. ‘Taking care of your health is an investment in your future,’ he says. Photograph: VK

At the time, several senior members of the Chechen elite were photographed visiting the hospital, raising speculation that Kadyrov could be on his deathbed.

Putin has long propped up the authoritarian Chechen leader’s rule to preserve the region’s stability. Kadyrov in return has sent thousands of Chechen paramilitaries to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The warlord has sought to stress his loyalty to Putin after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group who launched a brief armed mutiny against Russia’s leadership. A day after Prigozhin’s funeral, Kadyrov described himself as Putin’s foot soldier and stressed he was ready to die for the Russian president.

Against the backdrop of his health rumours, he has also launched a campaign to solidify his control over the region and groom the next generation of his dynasty.

Kadyrov has levied a bevvy of awards and promotions to his children to elevate their status: Adam, at 15 years old, was appointed the head of his father’s security detail, while Kadyrov’s eldest son Akhmat, 17, visited the Kremlin last year for a highly unusual one-on-one meeting with Putin.

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