The mystery surrounding Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s deteriorating health took another unexpected turn this weekend, with two videos of the man known as Vladimir Putin’s “attack dog” released just days after he was reported to be in critical condition.
On Friday, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence arm allegedly told Obozrevatel that Kadyrov “is in a serious condition” following reports that the 46-year-old strongman had slipped into a coma last week. “The information is confirmed by various sources in the medical and political circles,” the spokesperson said. “He has been ill for a long time, and we are talking about systemic health problems.”
But just two days later, two clips appearing to show Kadyrov alive and well were uploaded to the Chechen leader’s Telegram channel. (The Daily Beast could not independently verify when the videos, which were taken in an unknown location, were filmed.)
In the first video, Kadyrov is seen donning a trench coat while out for a walk, and smiles at the camera from an unknown location. In the second clip, the Chechen leader advises his viewers to stay active and play sports.
The second video post is accompanied by a caption that says: “I strongly recommend that everyone who cannot distinguish the truth from lies on the internet go for a walk, get some fresh air and put their thoughts in order. The rain can be wonderfully invigorating.”
The Friday remarks unleashed a flurry of speculation about whether Kadyrov had already died by the time the videos were posted on Sunday. The Chechen leader has often dismissed reports about his health issues, which date back to early this year.
Kadyrov—long known as an ardent Kremlin loyalist and a key ally to Vladimir Putin—has played a significant role in the war on Ukraine, sending Chechen troops to fight alongside Russian troops on the frontlines of the invasion. His alliance with Vladimir Putin is also viewed by many experts as crucial to the Russian president’s grip on Chechnya, a republic within the Russian federation.
“Prolonged concern about Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s health in the Russian information space highlights Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dependence on Kadyrov for continued stability in Chechnya,” an assessment from the Russian Institute of War said Sunday. “The destabilization of Kadyrov’s rule in Chechnya would be a major blow to Putin’s regime… Kadyrov and other Russian officials may be concerned that continued rumors about his health will affect the long-term stability of his, and by extension Putin’s, control of Chechnya.”
Moscow, for its part, appears to be taking a hush-hush approach to the mystery. When asked about the Kadyrov reports on Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov answered flatly: “We have no information on this.”