MOSCOW – No one likes losing their cell phone. And Ramzan Kadyrov is no exception.
After misplacing his telephone at a museum opening over the weekend, the Chechen leader had over a thousand people summoned at night and questioned until dawn to help him locate it, the human rights organization Memorial reported.
"Local residents report that on Saturday night [August 16] police officers and employees of the regional administration summoned and questioned over a thousand people, including children," Memorial said in a statement released on August 18. "The majority of them were able to return home only in the morning."
Kadyrov's office denies that the Chechen leader lost his phone and that the detentions took place.
RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service spoke to several officials who were present at the ceremony and appeared to confirm Memorial’s account, saying they had been frisked by Kadyrov's security detail. The officials declined to be named or to comment further.
The fateful telephone loss occurred at the opening ceremony of the new "Shira-Yurt" museum on the outskirts of Germenchuk, a village in central Chechnya about 30 kilometers south of Grozny.
Thousands of people attended the museum launch. Security was tight. Cars were allowed to park no nearer than one kilometer away. People were frisked and cars searched.
But Kadyrov appeared pleased.
"This is a grandiose celebration in Chechnya," he wrote on his popular Instagram account.
"Thousands of residents of the republic have gathered at Shira-Yurt, which has been built in the suburbs of Germenchuk… It’s a copy of a Medieval Chechen settlement. Every day tourists from Russia and other countries visit the museum village," he added.
The focus of the celebration was a traditional Chechen wedding during which Kadyrov gave the newlyweds one million rubles, Memorial reported. Each Chechen region was required to present a dancing couple to perform at the event.
However, the mood soured when at the end of proceedings, it was announced over the loudspeakers that Kadyrov had lost his phone. Police questioned people at the scene, but failed to locate it.
After revelers headed home, senior regional officials telephoned organizers to find out the names of all the participants and guests at the event.
They then immediately summoned them for questioning. "They asked people whether they were at the event, where they were standing and whether they had found a telephone or other ownerless item," Memorial writes.
Memorial is one of the few organizations that provides in-depth coverage of the troubled and dangerous North Caucasus region.
The organization has had a tense relationship with Kadyrov. In July 2008, Memorial head Oleg Orlov accused Kadyrov of involvement in the killing of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova.
Kadyrov sued Orlov for defamation. But he was cleared in 2011 after a Moscow court found he had only expressed an opinion.
It is unclear whether Kadyrov ever found his mobile phone.