Russia’s Interior Ministry has denounced Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's comment encouraging law-enforcement officers to "shoot to kill" security forces from other parts of Russia that conduct operations in Chechnya without its consent.
The ministry said in an April 23 statement that it considers the comment "unacceptable for the leader of the Chechen Republic."
Kadyrov made the remark at an April 21 meeting with law-enforcement officers in Chechnya's capital, Grozny.
Footage from local channel Grozny TV shows Kadyrov saying: "I am officially stating, if any [security officer], whether from Moscow or Stavropol, appears on your territory without your knowledge, shoot to kill. They have to take us into account."
The video has since been removed from the channel’s website.
The independent Dozhd TV said it was contacted by a Grozny TV representative who threatened to sue the Moscow-based channel if it did not remove footage of Kadyrov's comments from the Dozhd website.
Kadyrov’s remark comes amid mounting evidence of tension between Kadyrov and some Russian law-enforcement authorities and appears certain to deepen concerns that it is becoming increasingly risky for President Vladimir Putin to rely on the Chechen leader to maintain control over Chechnya.
The trigger for Kadyrov's outburst was the April 19 killing in Grozny of a Chechen man, Dzhambulat Dadayev, by police from the neighboring Stavropol region along with a joint unit from the Russian Interior Ministry.
Putin has long depended on Kadyrov to maintain control over Chechnya, which the Kremlin has rebuilt at great expense following two devastating post-Soviet separatist wars.
The region is still plagued by an Islamist insurgency.
Rights activists accuse Kadyrov of condoning abuses, imposing his own idiosyncratic version of Islam, ignoring Russia's constitution, and creating a climate of fear to keep the Islamist insurgency and separatism in check.
Kadyrov himself has been accused of sending security forces under his control beyond the borders of the region to conduct operations in Moscow and elsewhere.
Tension between the Chechen leader and Russian security agencies has increased in the wake of the slaying of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, a critic of both Putin and Kadyrov who was gunned down steps from the Kremlin on February 27.
With reporting by Slon.ru and Interfax