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THE MONSTER OF CHECHNYA

NEWS FEATURE

Ramzan Kadyrov was once a Chechen rebel who fought against Russia for independence. Now, installed as Chechen president by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, he’s a Moscow puppet and runs Chechnya as his personal fiefdom. Like Trump and Putin, he carefully cultivates a “strong-man” image and is almost a comic figure: he created a reality TV show with himself as the star after becoming president. But he is also terrifying – he’s the first European leader to set up concentration camps for gay men since World War II. Feature by Andrew M Potts.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in December of 1991, Ramzan Kadyrov was just 15. His homeland, Chechnya, is a speck of a country on Russia’s southern border. It had been one of the first to attempt to strike out on its own in the dying days of the USSR. Members of its independence movement invaded a local session of the Supreme Soviet and installed Dzhokhar Dudayev, a former air force general, as the first independent leader of the short-lived Chechen Republic Of Ichkeria.

In 2016, he was, supposedly, re-elected by 98 per cent of voters… he celebrated by donning a medieval suit of armour.

Ramzan’s father Akhmad was an Islamic scholar and Dudayev loyalist, and was appointed Chief Mufti of the new republic. But Russia was having none of this. Unlike other Soviet territories gained under Communism, Russia had had close ties to Chechnya since the time of Peter The Great. If Chechnya had been allowed to leave, large parts of what now make up the Russian Federation would have followed.

Faced with the prospect of Russia being carved up, President Boris Yeltsin reasserted control in 1994. In response, Akhmad Kadyrov declared a jihad against Moscow, and the First Chechen War began, with Ramzan fighting by his father’s side.

Akhmad’s declaration of jihad was a magnet to Islamic extremists from all over the globe and around 5,000 foreign volunteers flocked to join the fight. The Russians lost more tanks in the storming of Grozny than during the entire Battle Of Berlin. By 1997, Russia had lost the appetite for the war, Yeltsin signed a peace treaty, and withdrew his troops from Chechnya.

But Chechnya was left a bombed-out shell of a country. Nearly half the population lived in refugee camps. In the interwar period, banditry and kidnapping for ransom by corrupt officials and armed groups became the chief economic activity.

When Yeltsin’s deputy, Vladimir Putin redeployed troops to Chechnya in 1999 following a jihadist invasion of neighbouring Dagestan and a series of apartment block bombings across Russia, it was Akhmad who’d lost the appetite for conflict. He reached out to Putin, turned on the rebels with his own forces, and help end the Second Chechen War. In exchange, Putin, by now president, appointed him leader of a loyalist Chechen Republic inside the Russian Federation.

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About DNA Magazine

The brief, jockstrap, trunk and even the leather harness and codpiece all come under the spotlight this month in DNA’s Fashion Issue. How are designers reinventing the basics? How how does our cover model Lucas Escarcello make them all look so hot in our sizzling 16-page shoot? Find out. Bros are back! Yes, ’80s super-spunk pop twins, Matt and Luke, are touring – even to Australia, and national treasure Tina Arena talks career and her relationship with the Minogue sisters. Our News Feature reports on the horrors of Europe’s concentration camps in Chechnya and we find out more about Ramzan Kadyrov, the dictator leading the push against the LGBT population. We chat with the star of The Wrong Girl and Cleverman, Rob Collins, and legendary adult film star Brent Corrigan about what makes him cry. Dr Zac investigates some of the unexpected health risks of our fashion choices while Josh our roving Style Guy looks at the move to environmentally friendly clothing. In The Back Passage we look at the often unspoken rules of men’s underwear and how they should be worn. This month's DNA Pin-Up is the delicious Jacob Cox. All that and more in DNA #209. Enjoy!