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The joke’s on me – Chechen leader is double the trouble in online hoax


As if one Ramzan Kadyrov were not trouble enough, for a while this week it appeared that the world might have to deal with two of them. Chechnya's controversial president posted a number of photographs on his Instagram account laughing and joking with a body double. Both men were dressed in the same outfits and bore such a close resemblance to each other that it was impossible to tell which was which.

“It's so useful to have a body double,” wrote Mr Kadyrov on the social network. “While one of us is opening a kindergarten, the other is meeting Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley. Guess which one of us is the real one!”

Depardieu, who recently acquired Russian citizenship, and British model and actress  Hurley are in Grozny to film Turquoise, a film about a French man who travels to Russia to find the person who killed his son. Depardieu this week thanked Mr Kadyrov, whom he counts as a friend, for supporting the film. He and Hurley were shown around Grozny by Mr Kadyrov on Tuesday afternoon, as documented by a series of photographs the leader posted to his Instagram account in which the trio were smiling and joking.

Mr Kadyrov, who in recent months has started using Instagram to post family photographs and make government announcements, as well as display his impressive exotic pet collection, also posted a photograph allegedly featuring his body double alongside one where Hurley was cradling his cat. He joked that they “both” liked the cat. “Now I can't decide whom to give him to as a present - Elizabeth, or my double.”

Later in the evening, he admitted that the photographs had been photoshopped. “This is the way that rumours start,” said Mr Kadyrov. “All the absurd made-up stories that people say about me start in the same way.” He said that the gossip and lies about him were distracting him from helping the Chechen people. “I wanted to show with this joke that some of you will believe even the worst stories about me, that are alien to me as a Muslim, a Chechen and a citizen of Russia.”

Under Mr Kadyrov's rule and with Moscow's money, Grozny has been rebuilt from the ruins of war and is now a shining city of neat boulevards and new buildings. However, he has been accused of complicity in human rights abuses and torture, as well as in a number of extrajudicial killings of his enemies in cities around the globe. He denies all the allegations, but continues to be a controversial figure. When the actress Hilary Swank appeared at his birthday party in 2011, she subsequently fired her manager and donated her fee to charity, saying she did not have full information about the event and context.

Hurley appears to have fewer qualms about appearing with Mr Kadyrov. When asked by The Independent on Tuesday whether she had struck up a friendship with Mr Kadyrov, she declined to comment. “I'm only here to talk about the movie,” the actress said.