Chechnya picks leader Ramzan Kadyrov's aide with Apprentice-style reality show, only with more boxing and horse riding

As well as selling ice cream, contestants had to take part in gruelling physical challenges

Will Worley
Saturday 26 November 2016 20:05 GMT
Ramzan Kadyrov picked the winner of a Chechen reality TV show in which contestants vied for a role in local government
Ramzan Kadyrov picked the winner of a Chechen reality TV show in which contestants vied for a role in local government (Getty)

An assistant for the ruler of Chechnya has been chosen through a reality TV programme styled on The Apprentice.

After seeing off 17 other contestants and enduring numerous challenges, Filip Varichenko, 24, will now work as head of the Chechen government’s strategic development.

But the real star of the show was Ramzan Kadyrov, the eccentric strongman leader of Chechnya, for which it served as a useful PR platform, broadcasting his image across Russia in a positive light.

To win the chance to work for Mr Kadyrov, Mr Varichenko had to undergo a number of challenges and outperform his rivals, just like contestants on The Apprentice broadcast in the US, which saw a resurgence in the popularity of Donald Trump.

Some scenes of the programme, named Komanda (The Team), would be familiar to Western viewers. Contestants had to sell ice cream in the capital, Grozny and had to set out their visions for developing Chechnya and attracting investment.

Others tasks were more challenging, such as arranging for a man’s heart operation, according to Newsweek.

However, unlike the original versions of the programme, the challenges also included harsh physical activities such as archery, horse riding, jogging and boxing with Mr Kadyrov and completing a police assault course.

The ruler said “weak spirited” contestants were useless to him and he was looking for someone with “fighting character”.

Komanda was apparently largely aimed at softening the image of the Putin-backed ruler. Mr Kadyrov – who fought as a Chechen rebel in the region’s war before switching sides - has a reputation for violence and human rights abuses.

“People believe my image that was created by the liberals, that I am frightening, that I will kill whoever says anything about me, that I will put them in a dungeon and stab them,” Mr Kadyrov said on Komanda. “That was invented by enemies of the people.”

During his frequent airtime on the show, he was portrayed as a tough but fair leader, who enjoyed hobbies like horse taming and picking flowers. Local celebrities and politicians made cameo roles and piled praise on him.

It has been speculated that Mr Kadyrov’s prominence in the show could be preparing him for a more senior political role.

The show also paid strong tributes to the natural scenery and achievements of Chechnya – at a time Russia at large is suffering from poor finances, which will affect subsidies given to the region.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in