GROZNY -- Facebook has again blocked the Instagram account of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed authoritarian leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, as well as several other accounts that he used, saying it was following sanctions imposed by the United States against many Russian officials.
Facebook, the company that owns Instagram, said the May 13 move was taken to delete "an account of a person who is under sanctions.”
It reportedly also blocked the Instagram accounts of Kadyrov's close associates: Russian lawmaker Adam Delimkhanov, Chechen parliament speaker Magomed Daudov, and the region's deputy prime minister, Abuzaid Vismuradov.
Those trying to view Kadyrov's purported account receive a message from Instagram saying the page is not available as "the link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed."
Akhmed Dudayev, the director of Chechnya's state television company, said that Kadyrov had never owned the blocked accounts, adding that they were opened by the TV company and a foundation named after Kadyrov's father, Akhmat Kadyrov.
It is not the first time the social-media giant, which has been criticized at times for its limited and seemingly uneven response to such cases, has blocked Kadyrov's accounts, which at one point had a combined total of 4 million followers.
In 2017, when the Chechen leader's accounts on Facebook and Instagram were blocked for the first time, Facebook said the move was taken to follow sanctions brought under the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that aims to punish Russian officials alleged to be involved in human rights violations.
Kadyrov, who was added to the United States' sanctions list in 2017, opened new accounts that were also blocked in 2018 and 2019.
Rights groups say Kadyrov uses repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the region.
Kremlin critics say Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned a blind eye to the alleged abuses and violations of the country's constitution by Kadyrov because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in Chechnya, the site of two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency that spread to other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.
The U.S. sanctions law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested after blowing the whistle on what he said was the theft of $230 million from Russian state coffers through tax fraud.
He died in jail in December 2009. Relatives and rights activists said he had been tortured and denied medical care.
A Council of Europe investigation concluded that the conditions leading up to his death amounted to torture.