Kadyrov, 45, has ruled Chechnya with an iron fist since 2007. “I think the time has come for me to step down from power,” Kadyrov said in a pre-recorded video. The Chechen leader is one of the most powerful people in Russia and has close relations with President Vladimir Putin. The last time the two men met was on August 5 in Sochi.
“I’m skeptical about that. He has said similar things in the past,” said Ivan Klyszcz, an expert on the Caucasus from the Institute of Political Studies in Estonia. “Such statements usually come when he wants something from Putin, even the smallest expression of support,” added Klyszcz.
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Analysts say the timing of the announcement, at a time of Europe’s biggest war since 1945, is somewhat unusual. Kadyrov has played an important role in promoting Russian war crimes in Ukraine, including recruiting troops to fight alongside the Russian military in the neighboring country.
“If Kadyrov is telling the truth and is indeed stepping down voluntarily, it would be unprecedented. The message of the entire Russian system because of the war in Ukraine is now ‘stay alert in places,'” said Anton Barbashin, director of the Riddle Russia analytical platform.
Kadyrov’s regime in Chechnya has been accused many times of widespread human rights abuses or of ordering political assassinations of its opponents elsewhere in Europe.