Ramzan Kadyrov can pretty much do anything he wants.
He can get away with orchestrating the assassinations of journalists, human rights activists, and opposition leaders.
He can extort funds from the Russian federal budget.
He can advocate honor killings, burn down the homes of suspected militants, and threaten to open fire on Russian law-enforcement officers.
And, as we learned in recent weeks, he can also round up, imprison, torture, and kill gay Chechen men for no other reason than their sexual orientation.
And he can implicitly threaten the lives of journalists who report on this.
He can do all these things, and more, and there isn't a damn thing the all-powerful Vladimir Putin can do about it.
On one hand, Kadyrov is Putin's creature.
Putin made him what he is. He appointed him. And he's protected him.
And in this sense, Putin owns Kadyrov.
He owns his words and he owns his deeds.
But in another sense, Kadyrov owns Putin.
Because, rightly or wrongly, Putin fears that removing Kadyrov would lead to instability in Chechnya.
This gives Kadyrov impunity. He pretty much has a free hand to act as he pleases. And he knows it.
Kadyrov is a living, breathing, walking testament to Putin's weakness.
And that's actually the charitable view.
Because the alternative is that Putin actually approves of everything Kadyrov is doing.
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