Chechnya: No blood on my hands, says Kadyrov

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The Independent Online

Chechnya's kremlin-backed leader flippantly dismissed suggestions of involvement in killings in the restive Russian region, telling a court yesterday that his hands were clean following a recent manicure.

Ramzan Kadyrov is a former rebel who Russia relies on to suppress insurgent violence in Muslim-majority Chechnya after two separatist wars. He made the comments while testifying by video-link in the Moscow trial of a prominent human rights activist whom he sued for libel in 2009.

Mr Kadyrov took Oleg Orlov, head of human rights organisation Memorial, to court over Mr Orlov's claims that Mr Kadyrov was responsible for the 2009 abduction and killing of the activist Natalya Estemirova.

Ms Estemirova's murder outraged foreign governments and increased scrutiny of Mr Kadyrov. Critics say he rules the region as a personal fiefdom and directs a campaign of violence against opponents – claims he has denied. Mr Orlov did not accuse Mr Kadyrov of having Ms Estemirova killed, but said he was responsible because he had created an atmosphere of impunity and lawlessness.

In court, Mr Orlov's lawyer asked Mr Kadyrov about a meeting he had with Ms Estemirova, during which, she claimed, he threatened her and told her he was up to his elbows in blood. "My hands are very clean and white, I had a manicure the day before yesterday," Mr Kadyrov responded. "I am not fool enough to have threatened her."