Chechen leader hospitalised with suspected coronavirus

Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov speaks to journalists as he presents new ambulance vehicles

The strongman leader of Russia's southern Chechnya region, Ramzan Kadyrov, was receiving treatment for a suspected coronavirus infection, news agencies reported Thursday citing sources, though his aides did not confirm it. Kadyrov has become a singular figure in his native Chechnya, where he was installed by Vladimir Putin in 2007 in order to quell a simmering insurgency.

After being appointed by Putin in 2017, Kadyrov has since turned the region into a personal fiefdom, developing a powerful national guard and a cult of personality. He has no clear follower. The Tass news agency said Kadyrov has "suspected coronavirus" and is "currently under medical observation". According to the publication's source, the head of the Chechen Republic is now under medical supervision.

In what will no doubt be a fortunate twist of fate for the region's remaining LGBT+ population, Kadyrov now appears to have earned the title of the first Russian official to fall seriously ill in the coronavirus pandemic.

The 43-year-old was flown to Moscow on Wednesday for therapy after creating flu-like signs, mentioned Interfax information company quoting a supply. Baza reported there had been damage to his lungs.

Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov speaks to journalists as he presens new ambulance vehicles
Coronavirus: Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov 'flown to Moscow hospital'

Russian health officials say one of the reasons the count is lower than in the United States and parts of western Europe is that only deaths directly caused by the virus are being included.

Earlier, the head of Grozny TV, which is controlled by Chechen regional authorities, insisted that Kadyrov was still in control, though he did not explicitly deny the reports on the Chechen leader's hospitalization. Kadyrov last week demanded that they be fired.

"This is nonsense", he previously said when asked about the allegations. "I recommend that all shave their heads as beauty salons are closed and households do not have barbers", Kadyrov claimed in a video clip launched onInstagram Other Chechen authorities promptly started uploading photos online with cut heads. Don't be in a rush, you'll die anyway.

In March, he soft-pedaled problems regarding the infection, stating: "People are losing sleep because a disease appeared in China ... they are afraid they'll get it and they'll die".

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