Chechen leader Kadyrov meets Putin after storm over prisoner beating

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in Moscow, Russia, September 28, 2023. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) -Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he discussed his region's contribution to Russia's war effort in Ukraine at talks with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that came at a sensitive moment in relations between the two sides.

Kadyrov enjoys wide leeway from Putin to run Chechnya ruthlessly as his personal fiefdom, but he angered even pro-Kremlin hardliners this week by praising his 15-year-old son for beating up an ethnic Russian prisoner in Chechen custody.

Kadyrov posted on Telegram that he and Putin had talked about a range of topics including the role of Chechen fighters in Ukraine. He added teasingly that "other issues" were raised, and promised "more on this later."

It was not clear if he was referring to the beating incident last month in which his son Adam kicked and punched a prisoner called Nikita Zhuravel who is accused of burning the Koran.

Kadyrov posted a video of the attack on Monday and said he was proud of his son for defending his Muslim religion.

The alleged Koran-burning did not take place in Chechnya but Russian investigators said they transferred Zhuravel to Chechen custody because Muslims there saw themselves as victims of the incident.

The beating opened up Putin to accusations that he had handed over an ethnic Russian "to be devoured by the Chechens", former Kremlin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov, now a harsh Putin critic, said this week. Even pro-Kremlin war commentators described the episode as an outrage.

Rumours swirled this month that Kadyrov, 46, was seriously ill in hospital, but he laughed and flexed his biceps when asked about his health by a Russian TV reporter.

Kadyrov has mused publicly about handing over power at some point and has raised the profile of his three teenaged sons, the eldest of whom was photographed with Putin in the Kremlin in March.

Ensuring stability in Chechnya is vital to Moscow, which has fought two brutal and costly wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union to prevent it from breaking away.

(Reporting by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Alexandra Hudson)

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