Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday confirmed that Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov will continue as interim leader and backed him in elections despite mounting criticism of his rule.
In a televised meeting at the Kremlin, Putin told Kadyrov that "today I signed a decree naming you acting Chechen leader, followed I hope by your standing in September elections."
Putin said that "Chechnya has transformed" under Kadyrov, who took control of the region in 2007 and whose current term runs out on April 5.
"For me it was even unexpected that you, a person who had such different aims in life, suddenly turned into a good manager," Putin told the 39-year-old former rebel fighter.
While praising Kadyrov for making Chechnya "safe," Putin warned him to act in "closer coordination with federal organs of power" and "observe Russian law in all spheres of life."
Kadyrov thanked Putin and said, "We will try to justify (your trust) and serve you faithfully and truly. I hope we manage not to let you down, Vladimir Vladimirovich."
Kadyrov is the son of Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004, and Putin specifically referred to this.
"This is what Akhmat-Khadzhi dreamt of," Putin said, using a respectful term for Kadyrov\’s father. "This is what he gave his life for."
Russia\’s opposition has intensified criticism of Kadyrov\’s iron-fisted rule in the North Caucasus region following a series of recent threats and attacks on rights activists and opposition politicians.
This month masked men in Grozny threw eggs, flour and disinfectant at Igor Kalyapin, the head of the rights group Committee to Prevent Torture, which oversees activists in Chechnya.
The Kremlin rights council, an advisory body to Putin, condemned the attack on Kalyapin as "a disgrace."
Earlier this month a group of journalists on a tour of Chechnya organised by Kalyapin was attacked by masked men speaking Chechen with their minibus burned and two reporters hospitalised.
In February, Kadyrov posted a video on his popular Instagram account of former prime minister and opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov targeted in the sights of a sniper rifle.
Russia has arrested and charged five Chechens over the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov who was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin last year.
Nemtsov\’s family and allies say the authorities have failed to bring the masterminds to justice and point the finger of blame at Kadyrov as well as the Kremlin itself.
In a February report, opposition politician Ilya Yashin called Kadyrov a "national security threat."