Chechnya’s autocratic leader Ramzan Kadyrov has reappeared in public for the first time in nearly a fortnight after unconfirmed reports that he had been flown to Moscow for treatment for coronavirus.
Kadyrov was filmed on Tuesday in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, holding a government meeting on the region’s response to the pandemic and delivering 10 ambulances to local hospitals. Russian journalists noted what appeared to be a cannula on his right arm.
In remarks on Instagram on Wednesday, Kadyrov did not confirm that he had contracted coronavirus but offered a vigorous defence of his right to fall ill.
“Even if I was ill, there are millions of people infected with coronavirus, tens of thousands have died. Am I not a person? I don’t have the right to fall ill? I don’t have the right to be put on a drip and to raise my immunity? I am an absolutely healthy person,” he said.
The remark referred to reports about what appeared to be a tube protruding from Kadyrov’s shirtsleeve on a local broadcast of the government meeting. The video, posted by Chechnya’s state television channel, was later deleted.
The newspaper Novaya Gazeta also reported another video which showed Kadyrov sporting what appeared to be a cannula on his right arm.
Russian state media citing anonymous sources reported last week that he had been flown to an elite Moscow hospital for treatment. The news was first reported by the online news outlet Baza, which had previously broken news that the prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, had contracted the disease. A private jet believed to be used by Kadyrov was also tracked flying between Grozny and Moscow.
Chechen officials have not confirmed whether Kadyrov fell ill, although he did disappear from television news and social media for more than 10 days. He was last seen in public chairing a government meeting on 15 May.
In a note posted to his Telegram channel on Wednesday, Kadyrov wrote: “Above all everyone was interested in one question. I answer: I am healthy.” He did not wear a mask during his meeting with top government officials in Chechnya. He appeared subdued although not particularly unwell during his public appearances.
Kadyrov was installed as Chechnya’s leader by Vladimir Putin in 2007 and has come to dominate politics in the region. He has undergone medical procedures several times in the last year, each time publicly temporarily passing power to a political ally. He did not sign a similar order this month.