Drive-by paintballers attack women in Grozny over 'non-Islamic' clothes

Chechnya's kremlin-backed President, Ramzan Kadyrov, has endorsed the growing practice of shooting at women in the street with paintball guns if they are not wearing traditional Muslim clothing.

Over the past month, human rights activists have reported paintball guns being fired from inside cars with tinted windows that have been driving around the region's capital, Grozny.

A video posted on YouTube, shot from inside one car, appears to show the paintball teams in action, with men shouting abuse at confused and shocked women after they have been hit.

Rumours circulated in the republic that the cars were in fact being driven by policemen, under orders from the government, which in recent years has promoted Islamic values. When asked in a television interview whether he was responsible for the attacks, Mr Kadyrov said that he didn't know who had carried them out. "But when I find them, I will express my gratitude," said the former rebel leader, who now enjoys the support of the Kremlin.

"It turns out that these girls have been warned several times," he said. "After this, the girl should just disappear from the earth, hide herself at home and never go out, because she has behaved so badly that this happened. How can she look her brother in the eye? 'I was half-naked, my stomach was visible, my skirt was incredibly short, and I had a see-through T-shirt'..." In the YouTube video, the four women who are attacked with the paintball guns are all wearing skirts or dresses that come below the knee, and none is showing her stomach. None of them is wearing a headscarf, however, and after firing, the men in the car shout: "Cover your head!"

Wary of a rumbling Islamic insurgency in Chechnya and its neighbouring regions of the North Caucasus, the authorities in Moscow have often turned a blind eye to alleged corruption and abuses in the region, as well as to incidences of Russian law being trumped by Islamic tenets and local customs.

Earlier this week, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the leader of neighbouring Ingushetia, told the surprised-looking Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, that the kalym – the price paid by a groom to the family of the woman he decides to marry – has risen more than threefold to about £850. The price was set by a local conference of scholars and Islamic leaders. Officials in the region have also encouraged polygamy, which is illegal under Russian law.