A man whose public complaint about corrupt officials in his tiny village in Chechnya brought him fame across Russia has disappeared, prompting new worries about his safety.
It’s the second time Ramazan Dzhalaldinov has disappeared since his April video complaint, in what has turned into an increasingly ugly fight with local authorities.
Relatives of Dzhalaldinov said he was last seen as he left his home in a mountainous southern district of Chechnya on the morning of November 6. His cell phone has also been switched off.
Dzhalaldinov, who is Avar, an ethnic group distinct from Chechens, recorded a video appeal in April in which he complained about how villagers were not receiving compensation for damages their homes suffered during the second Chechen war 16 years ago. He said local officials were taking a cut of the payments.
He also complained that qualified teachers at the village’s schools were quitting because officials were withholding their salaries.
The video sparked angry denials from local and regional officials, including Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. Days after the video was published online, villagers were ordered to attend a public meeting to deny the allegations, a meeting that was shown on regional TV.
Dzhalaldinov then disappeared from the village, later turning up in neighboring Daghestan, along with other family members, where they fled for safety.
A month later, his home was burned down and his daughter said in a video published on a Daghestani news site that law enforcement officials were responsible.
Dzhalaldinov and his family ultimately returned to their village and he apologized in a video that was posted to Kadyrov’s own Instagram account.
Kadryrov was tapped to lead Chechnya shortly after his father was assassinated in the capital, Grozny. Since then, he has consolidated authority over the once-devastated region -- eliminating political rivals, squeezing civil society groups, and overseeing the lavish rebuilding of the capital.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service