Kremlin refuses to comment on footage of Chechen leader’s son beating prisoner

<span>Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters</span>
Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters

The Kremlin has refused to comment on footage showing the teenage son of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, beating up a prisoner.

Kadyrov posted a graphic video on the Telegram messaging app on Monday that showed his 15-year-old son Adam punching and kicking a Russian prisoner accused of burning the Qur’an.

Kadyrov accompanied the clip with a message saying he was “without exaggeration, proud of Adam’s action”.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said: “I will say from the start, I will not comment on the story about Kadyrov’s son … I don’t want to.”

The prisoner, Nikita Zhuravel, had previously complained about the attack to Russia’s human rights ombudswoman, who said last month she had referred the issue to her counterpart in Chechnya.

The shocking video of the beating led to a rare rebuke from some officials in Moscow.

Yevgeny Popov, a pro-Putin MP, described the attack by Kadyrov’s son as “illegal”.

“You can’t beat up people. That is illegal. Punishment is determined by the court, and only the court.”

Commenting on the video, Vladislav Davankov, the deputy chairman of the state duma, said the law in Russia “should be applied the same to everyone”.

The beating of Zhuravel is the latest in a string of human rights abuses in Chechnya, a small, mountain Russian region which Kadyrov has run with an iron fist. Similar attacks in the region have gone unpunished for years.

Moscow’s rare acknowledgment of this instance of human rights abuse in Chechnya highlights the complexity of the Kremlin’s fragile relationship with Kadyrov.

Putin has long propped up the authoritarian Chechen leader’s rule to preserve stability in the restive region. Kadyrov has described himself as Putin’s foot soldier and has sent thousands of Chechen paramilitaries to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, some ultra-nationalist factions in Putin’s alliance have expressed frustration that the Kremlin has lost its control over Chechnya and Kadyrov’s personal army.

The footage also comes amid persistent rumours on social media over the health of the 46-year-old Chechen leader.

Last week, Kadyrov attempted to dismiss the speculations, writing on the Telegram messaging app that he was “healthy and living”.

Speculation over Kadyrov’s future first emerged after his eldest son Akhmat, 17, met Putin in a highly unusual one-on-one meeting, fuelling rumours he was being groomed as Kadyrov’s successor.