Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on Thursday was in hospital in Moscow and being treated for a suspected case of COVID-19, news agencies reported.
“Ramzan Kadyrov was taken by plane to Moscow with a suspected case of coronavirus. Now [he] is under medical supervision,” state news agency TASS reported, citing a medical source, who said that Kadyrov was in a stable condition.
News agency RIA Novosti also quoted a medical source as saying that Kadyrov, 43, was in hospital in Moscow, while Interfax quoted a Moscow medical source as saying that he was being treated and was “suspected of having coronavirus.”
If confirmed, Kadyrov would be the latest senior official to contract the coronavirus after Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and several ministers.
There was no immediate comment from officials in Chechnya or Moscow on the reports.
RIA Novosti quoted an aide to Kadyrov, Akhmed Dudayev, director of Chechnya’s state television company, as saying the Chechen leader “is in personal control of the work of the coronavirus headquarters,” without commenting on reports of his hospitalization.
A crucial ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kadyrov took power in Chechnya after his father, Akhmat Kadyrov, was killed in a 2004 bomb attack.
Both father and son had fought against Moscow in the first bloody separatist conflict in Chechnya from 1994 to 1996, but switched sides to support the Kremlin when it launched a second war in 1999 under the watch of then-Russian prime minister Putin.
Kadyrov calls himself a “foot soldier,” and Moscow turns a blind eye to his heavy-handed tactics in the north Caucasus fiefdom in exchange for loyalty.
He has taken a characteristically high-handed approach to the pandemic, calling doctors who complained of a lack of personal protective equipment “provocateurs” who should be fired.
Kadyrov said that people who broke coronavirus quarantine should be “killed,” and compared Chechens who did not self-isolate and infected others to “terrorists” who should be buried in pits.
He also threatened a Russian journalist who reported that Chechens were battling the coronavirus in their homes instead of seeking support from ill-equipped hospitals because they feared punitive reprisals from overbearing law enforcement.
Russia yesterday had recorded 3,099 deaths from COVID-19 and 317,554 infections, the second-highest number of cases in the world after the US.
Mainly Muslim Chechnya had recorded 1,026 cases and 11 deaths.
Despite the high number of infections, the Russian government says the situation is stabilizing and the mortality rate is low, and it has begun easing lockdown measures in many parts of the nation.
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