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Kadyrov's Snow Job: Chechnya Plows Ahead On Big-Ticket Ski Resort

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (right) and Chechen construction magnate Ruslan Baisarov during the unveiling of the Veduchi project in February 2013.

Faced with the prospect of barren slopes, organizers of Chechnya's first ski resort were hauling in tons of snow this week to avoid embarrassment at the grand opening of a project that already faces its share of obstacles.

More than 800 truckloads of snow were reported to have been brought in over three days to the nascent luxury resort at Veduchi, in the southern Russian republic's Itum-Kale region, just 15 kilometers from the Georgian border.

The multimillion-dollar project is due to open to great local fanfare on January 26 -- an unveiling that was postponed from January 20 for lack of snow.

A member of Chechnya's Tourism Committee told the Caucasian Knot that thousands of cubic meters of snow had been hauled in to Veduchi beginning on January 20 by dozens of dump trucks.

"I don't understand what the point is of opening a ski resort where there is a deficit of snow -- billions of rubles spent [to build it] and more money needed [to bring snow here] just to open it," Zalina, an economist, was quoted as telling the Caucasian Knot.

In 2012, Russian state-controlled development bank Vneshekonombank (VEB) pledged to extend or back loans of up to $345 million in the expansive resort.

Chechen construction magnate and businessman Ruslan Baisarov -- who was reportedly born in a stone house in the village of Veduchi -- was also said to have been an investor in the project, which was originally slated to open in 2015.

More than 800 truckloads of snow have been brought to Veduchi in three days.
More than 800 truckloads of snow have been brought to Veduchi in three days.

Snow or no snow, it’s unclear how many of the republic's 1.4 million people -- with among the lowest of Russia's regions in GDP per capita -- will be able to afford to ski on Veduchi’s slopes.

At a public presentation of the project in 2013, Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov called Veduchi a "grandiose economic and political event" in the life of the republic, which is better known internationally for bloodshed during two wars against Russian central authorities in the 1990s and alleged rights and other abuses under the iron grip of Kadyrov.

Kadyrov has staged a handful of outsize construction projects as part of his Moscow-backed efforts to rebuild and reinvigorate Chechnya after years of war, including the massive Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque in Grozny, named after Kadyrov's father and predecessor.

PHOTO GALLERY (2012): Dangerous Downhills: Ski Resorts You'll Never Visit (CLICK TO VIEW)

Russia's central authorities have reportedly spent the equivalent of billions of dollars on Chechen reconstruction, and Moscow's commitment of funds has remained surprisingly strong as Russian belts have tightened under a flagging economy and stumbling ruble.

First established as part of a larger tourist-recreation area designated in 2013, the construction of the ski lifts, slopes, and other infrastructure at Veduchi only began in earnest in July.

When completely developed by 2025, organizers envisage multiple hotels and chalets, a skating rink, a spa complex, and a helipad, with a total investment of hundreds of millions of dollars:

Work was also commissioned to expand a highway from the Chechen capital, Grozny, to nearby Shatoi.

The Veduchi resort, which is 80 kilometers south of the capital, is supposed to offer 19 trails when completed, including a run of around 12 kilometers, which would be among the longest in Europe.

Written by Pete Baumgartner based on reporting by Caucasian Knot and RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service