Friday, October 31, 2014


North Caucasus

Chechen Leader Furious At Parodies Of Skyscraper Fire

A monitor grab of a "Moscow Times" collection of collages based on the Grozny skyscraper fire.
A monitor grab of a "Moscow Times" collection of collages based on the Grozny skyscraper fire.
By Claire Bigg
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is angry at the barrage of parodies unleashed after a fire that ravaged Grozny’s tallest skyscraper last week.

He had been particularly proud of the newly constructed building, a 45-floor steel-and-glass structure in the center of Grozny meant to showcase the city’s resurgence after years of conflict.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which broke out on April 3.

A wrathful Kadyrov appeared on local television on April 8 upbraiding two young men believed to have authored a spoof video of the fire.

'Lick It Clean'

The public scolding, which lasted a full four minutes, unfolded outside the charred building.

"Only a person who does not love his people, his homeland, and his faith can say such things," Kadyrov excoriated. "People from all over the world, heads of state, Russian women, called me to express their sadness. One woman called and said she had visited Grozny, she was crying. And these men say, 'Inshallah everything will burn.' How can you speak like this? If this had happened in another country, and even if I hated it, I swear I could not say such things. A building is on fire!"

Kadyrov then ordered the two men, who stood shamefacedly with their heads bent, to lend a hand in the cleanup.
No one was injured in the blaze in downtown Grozny, which began in the early evening on April 3.
No one was injured in the blaze in downtown Grozny, which began in the early evening on April 3.

"Take them upstairs and force them to clean up until everything is reconstructed," Kadyrov said. "Let them sweep and mop. Force them to lick the whole area around the building clean."

The television report ended with footage of the culprits clearing debris.

Driving His Point Home

For those who missed the television report, Kadyrov recounted the episode on his official Instagram photo-sharing account, which he has been using with increasing frequency.

"Two residents of our republic who posted a video on the Internet of the burning building with malicious slogans will actively participate in the skyscraper’s reconstruction," he wrote. "They understood their mistake and promised to work hard."

The contents of the allegedly incriminating video are still unclear.

But Kadyrov has voiced displeasure at the numerous spoofs that have been making the rounds on the Internet since the blaze, which officials say was sparked by an electrical short circuit, calling them "rubbish."

One photo collage showed him performing the "lezginka," a traditional Caucasian dance, on the backdrop of the smoldering tower.

Another caption read: "Allah gives, Allah takes."

Taking It Personally

French actor Gerard Depardieu, who was granted Russian citizenship earlier this year following a tax row with French authorities, also features in several parodies suggesting that he could have caused the fire by forgetting to switch off his iron or falling asleep with a lit cigarette.

Kadyrov in February handed Depardieu keys to an apartment in the same complex of high-rise buildings, dubbed Grozny City.

Over the past week, Kadyrov has sought to play down the fire at Grozny City, which he regards as a symbol of peace and of his personal achievements as Chechen leader.

He took to Instagram again on April 7 with pledges that the damaged tower would be swiftly rebuilt and renamed "Phoenix."

He even held an instant online competition to choose the best design.

The winning proposal can be viewed here.

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