A few weeks after Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov infiltrated the web
with his private photo albums and dozens of endearing animal snapshots, many speculated whether the account under the name @alihan777 was run by Kadyrov himself or someone from his press office.
Then, on February 19, the account, which had more than 12,000 followers and 300 photos, appeared to be deactivated and Kadyrov began tweeting links to a new account, @kadyrov_95.
Just like the old one, that account dates back to November 2012; but the bulk of its visitors (about 13,000 of them) came as a result of the spotlight the account received during the previous week.
Eventually, on February 22, the Moscow-backed leader decided to reveal his social media strategy in an interview with the Rossia 24 television station.
After claiming ownership of both accounts and telling the story of how it all came into being (click on the links to read the transcript
the interview), Kadyrov explained that he uses Instagram for the public good.
Much like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who says he addresses people’s most pressing needs
thanks to Twitter, Kadyrov also claims he uses Instagram to “solve people’s problems."
“The citizens of Chechnya address me with their problems -- even through Instagram," he told the TV station. "If people trust me and call me I have to help them. Although we have a 'hot line' only for businessmen, they still prefer to contact me through Twitter and Instagram," he told Rossia 24.
While Chechnya's leader has pointed out that he is no fan of social networks, he is certainly exploiting these platforms for all they're worth. Although his second Instagram account has a less extensive collection of photos (more than 100 at this point), there are a few gems in there, such as Kadyrov mid-surgery in a dentist's chair (see above), cozying up to a deer
, and what looks like a visit to the sauna in the company of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, with both men draped in towels.
His latest celebrity star on Instagram was one of Russia’s most recent citizens, French actor Gerard Depardieu. After receiving his residency in Russia’s republic of Mordovia, Depardieu arrived in Grozny on February 24 and was warmly greeted by Kadyrov and his entire family.
In the video below, Depardieu and Kadyrov are seen dancing to traditional Chechen music at Kadyrov's residence in Grozny. While at the airport waiting for Depardieu, Kadyrov boasted to Rossia 24 about his famous guest, who also visited Grozny in October for the leader's 36th birthday party.
"If such great people come to Russia, it means Russia has all the necessary conditions for them," said Kadyrov. "We are very happy that [Depardieu] has found the time to visit us."
Kadyrov also announced on Instagram that he had made Depardieu an honorary citizen of Chechnya and awarded him a five-room apartment in the capital, Grozny.
Depardieu, who praised Grozny’s revival over the past five years, also told journalists that he is planning to make a film about Kadyrov’s role in the city’s postwar renovation.
The town suffered significant damage during the first and second Chechen wars in the 1990s but is now home to skyscrapers and extravagant boulevards thanks to billions of dollars of aid from Moscow.
In the past, Depardieu has also been seen fraternizing with Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov (see their music video
), as well as with Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
-- Deana Kjuka