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After Photo Scandal, No More Instagram For Kadyrov? (UPDATED)

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (right) with Bekkhan Ibragimov in a photo posted to Kadyrov's Instagram account

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (right) with Bekkhan Ibragimov in a photo posted to Kadyrov's Instagram account

Ramzan Kadyrov is threatening to close his Instagram account after a colorful three months using the photo-sharing site.

The Chechen leader issued the warning after he posted a photo earlier this week of himself standing with an ethnic Chechen man who was widely believed to still be in jail for participating in the killing of an ethnic Russian soccer fan in 2010.

Bekkhan Ibragimov, pictured with Kadyrov on Instagram on May 14, was convicted of hooliganism and causing bodily harm for his part in the fatal knifing of Yuri Volkov, a fan of the Moscow-based soccer team Spartak FC.

Volkov’s killing stoked nationalist protests in the Russian capital and heightened animosity toward the North Caucasus. The picture has rekindled some of that tension.

In a caption that went with the controversial photo, Kadyrov explained he was helping Ibragimov deal with corruption at the local Federal Migration Services so that he could receive identity documents. Kadyrov reportedly fired an official.

But as soon as the identity of Ibragimov was established on the Instagram account, Kadyrov’s feed was flooded with angry comments.

“I'm tired. Fed up,” Kadyrov wrote on his blog on May 17.

“I no longer understand my subscribers at all. One minute you say we need to fight corruption and punish bribe-takers, but when you see real action in this direction you start discussing and condemning the person that exposed illegal action by a bureaucrat,” Kadyrov said in earlier comments cited by Russian media. “Your comments are worth absolutely nothing. It is just empty chatter. That’s why I think it’s probably better for me to delete [my] Instagram [account] and work without taking an interest in your opinions on this or that issue.”

Ibragimov received a sentence of five years and three months in connection with Volkov’s killing, while an accomplice was given 17 years in prison. Ibragimov was reportedly released on parole after a ruling from the Chechen Supreme Court in early May.

The daily “Moskovsky komsomolets” on May 17 criticized the Federal Penitentiary Service and suggested there were violations in the “miraculous way” Ibragimov “was freed” after serving less than half his sentence.

Registered in February this year, Kadyrov’s Instagram account has garnered more than 130,000 subscribers.

After Kadyrov’s threat to stop using Instagram, Twitter was inundated with sarcastic tweets directed at the Chechen leader. One user tweeted: “Allah gives and Allah takes.” Another wrote: “What a shame, I’m literally sobbing!” And another: “Hoorah, Kadyrov’s deleting instagram!”

Kadyrov has used the photo-sharing service to post photographs of himself petting a tiger cub and a wolf, as well as hanging out with French actor Gerard Depardieu.

UPDATE: According to the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti, Kadyrov on May 17 reversed himself, saying he would "continue to be on Instagram, Twitter, and LiveJournal."

-- Tom Balmforth

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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