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Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

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    Ramzan Kadyrov posts Instagram footage of his three sons at mixed martial arts tournament involving boys aged eight

    Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Russian republic of Chechnya, has been criticised for putting his three young sons into the ring to fight in a mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament on the eve of his birthday.

    Kadyrov’s son Akhmad, 10, knocked out another boy on Tuesday in front of his father and a packed arena in Chechnya to win the “youth division” of the Grand Prix Akhmat 2016 international tournament.

    Related: Putin’s closest ally – and his biggest liability | Oliver Bullough

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    Not making the president angry is the main goal of Chechnya’s local media, an anonymous reporter explains

    I changed my mind about helping foreign journalists report inside Chechnya when I witnessed a reporter’s abduction in the centre of the capital, Grozny.

    It was the beginning of 2016 and a group of journalists with cameras, obviously not local, were going into a cafe just as I was leaving it. Suddenly, several men in civilian clothing began to attack them.

    Related: Public humiliation: Chechen leader's simple strategy to control social media

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    Ramzan Kadyrov is punishing ordinary people who criticise his rule with televised shamings, as well as detentions and abuse

    Aishat Inaeva, a social worker from a small town in Chechnya, did not speak out against the region’s notorious leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. She wouldn’t have dared.

    Instead, she made a WhatsApp recording, imploring him to look into the plight of ordinary people “pushed below the poverty line” by local officials, a message that went viral among Chechen users of the messaging app.

    Related: Chechen journalists, international journalists – Ramzan Kadyrov has silenced us all

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    Russian broadcaster staged eight-episode contest called The Team to find a head of development for Ramzan Kadyrov

    The reality television format was borrowed from the US president-elect’s show The Apprentice: an ever-shrinking group of contestants, competing against each other to be picked by the boss for a job at the end of it all.

    But the prize at stake in the Russian series The Team was rather unusual – a top government position as an aide to Ramzan Kadyrov, the controversial leader of Chechnya.

    Related: Russia's intervention in Syria could have been stopped 20 years ago

    Related: Traditional Chechen wedding – in pictures

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    Ramzan Kadyrov offers vocal support for close ally Vladimir Putin amid reports of Chechen battalions being readied for transit

    Chechnya’s strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that troops in the Russian province would be happy to fight the “scum” in Syria if they receive the Kremlin order.

    Related: Murder in Istanbul: Kremlin's hand suspected in shooting of Chechen

    Related: Chechnya picks leader's aide with an Apprentice-style reality show

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    Defence minister says model will allow re-enactment of Red Army’s capture of Berlin in 1945 – a patriotic rallying point for Putin

    The Russian defence ministry is constructing a replica of the Reichstag at a military theme park on the outskirts of Moscow, to allow patriotic Russian children to recreate the storming of the building during the Soviet capture of Berlin in 1945.

    Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, announced the plan for the replica during a speech to the Duma, Russia’s parliament, on Wednesday.

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    Putin officials pursue claims of homosexual men jailed and tortured in republic ruled by Kremlin-backed Ramzan Kadyrov

    Russian officials are actively investigating claims of a purge of gay men in Chechnya, a process that could lead to a showdown between Moscow and the local Kremlin-backed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov.

    Dozens of men in the southern republic are reported to have been held in extrajudicial detention and tortured as part of a campaign against gay males in Chechnya that began several months ago. Many have fled and are in hiding in other regions of Russia or have gone abroad.

    Related: Chechens tell of prison beatings and electric shocks in anti-gay purge: ‘They called us animals’

    Related: In macho Chechnya, being gay is an act of intolerable rebellion

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    Maxim Lapunov alleges he was held captive for 12 days and beaten by security forces who demanded names of gay men

    A Russian man who alleges that he was kidnapped and tortured in Chechnya’s ‘gay purge’ has appealed to the government in Moscow to properly investigate the actions of Chechen authorities.

    Maxim Lapunov is the first person to go public with torture allegations without hiding his identity. At a press conference in Moscow on Monday, he said he was held in a basement for 12 days in March and beaten by Chechen security forces, who demanded to know whether he was gay and for him to give the names of his sexual partners.

    Related: Chechens tell of prison beatings and electric shocks in anti-gay purge: ‘They called us animals’

    Related: In macho Chechnya, being gay is an act of intolerable rebellion

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    Russia to choose successor to former Islamist rebel who has been accused by human rights bodies of arbitrary arrests and torture of opponents

    Ramzan Kadyrov, the outspoken leader of Russia’s Chechnya republic, said he was ready to step down, leaving it for the Kremlin to choose his successor.

    Kadyrov, a 41-year-old father of 12 whose interests vary from thoroughbred horses to wrestling and boxing, has been accused by human rights bodies of arbitrary arrests and torture of opponents, zero tolerance of sexual minorities and tough political declarations that have embarrassed the Kremlin.

    Related: Victim of Chechnya’s 'gay purge' calls on Russia to investigate

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    Internet watchdog demands explanation after Ramzan Kadyrov claimed Facebook also suspended him without explanation

    The Russian internet watchdog has demanded an explanation from Facebook and Instagram over the blocking of social media accounts belonging to the controversial Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

    Kadyrov has accused the US government of pressuring the social networks to disable his accounts, which he said were blocked on Saturday without explanation. The US imposed travel and financial sanctions on Kadyrov last week over numerous allegations of human rights abuses.

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    Civil liberties groups raise concerns company is ‘picking and choosing’ politicians to censor at US government request after Chechen leader’s accounts deleted

    Facebook is declining to say why it appears to be picking and choosing political leaders to censor at the request of the US government after it deleted the social media accounts of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

    The Silicon Valley technology company deleted Kadyrov’s Instagram and Facebook profiles after the United States imposed travel and economic sanctions on him over allegations of human rights abuses. Facebook told the New York Times that it had a “legal obligation” to disable his accounts once they confirmed they were run by someone on a US sanctions list.

    Related: Russia calls for answers after Chechen leader's Instagram is blocked

    It seems as though Facebook is picking and choosing compliance, which suggests there is government involvement

    Related: The top US tech stories of 2017: the utopian dream comes to an end

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    Memorial says Ramzan Kadyrov blames them for US sanctions that led to account deactivation

    The Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s anger over the loss of his Instagram account due to US sanctions probably led to ongoing attacks against Russia’s oldest human rights organisation, members of the group have said.

    Memorial – the only human rights organisation with a presence in Chechnya – last week had its offices in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia torched by masked men. The attack came days after Oyub Titiev, the head of Memorial’s office in Grozny, the Chechen capital, was arrested for possession of six ounces of cannabis, charges that could bring a 10-year prison sentence.

    Related: Gulag grave hunter unearths uncomfortable truths in Russia

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    State-sponsored violence in Chechnya against men perceived to be homosexual will not be forgotten, writes Matt Beard of All Out, and those responsible will be held to account

    One year ago this week, news broke of a wave of terrifying, state-sponsored violence in Chechnya against men perceived to be gay or bisexual. In scenes that would not have been out of place in Nazi Germany, innocent men were rounded up and removed to illegal detention centres. Men like Maxim Lapunov, who spent 12 days in a blood-soaked cell just because he is gay, but who today is bravely speaking out for justice. Men like the pop singer Zelim Bakaev, who disappeared last August during the round-ups and has not been seen since.

    Prisoners were held in appalling conditions: starved, humiliated, beaten and subjected to extreme torture. Some who were rounded up did not get out alive. The authorities also outed many of the men to their families, directly inciting relatives to carry out honour killings against their sons, brothers and fathers. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, has both denied the existence of LGBT people in his country and said that gay people should move to Canada “to purify our blood”. But it is Vladimir Putin and the Russian government who have the final say on what happens in Chechnya. Russia has failed to conduct any meaningful investigations into the appalling abuses that took place. Nobody has been brought to justice. This is unacceptable.

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    Chechen leader is step closer to political goal of being Putin’s link to Middle East with arrival of Egyptian team

    The Tunisians were first to visit, followed by the Iranians, and then the Saudis. But it was the Egyptians, led by the Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, who snatched up the dubious grand prize: a World Cup training base in Chechnya.

    Once devastated by civil war, Chechnya is now the focus of intense international scrutiny over its crackdown on political opponents and gay people in this region in Russia’s North Caucasus.

    Related: The darker side of Grozny's push to be the Dubai of the North Caucasus

    Related: We must get justice for gay and bisexual men murdered in Chechnya | Letters

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    The Russian prazdnik– celebration – must not be ruined at any price as hosts prepare to give enemies five-star treatment

    On a riverboat between the World Cup cities of Kazan and Samara last month, a Russian couple in their 50s asked earnestly whether “all these rumours” about Moscow’s poisoning of Sergei Skripal could lead the west to boycott or cancel the tournament.

    “Russians don’t surrender to pressure like that, we push back hard,” said Yevgeny Prigov, a hefty businessman who trades in machine parts, echoing a popular Russian cliche.

    Related: 'Much nicer than expected': World Cup fans size up modern Moscow

    Related: Gay rights abuses, war crimes and World Cup fever – it’s an ugly mix | Peter Tatchell

    Related: Robbie Williams to perform at World Cup opening ceremony

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    Liverpool star says celebrities among many disturbances at team’s Chechen training base

    The Liverpool and Egypt footballer Mohamed Salah has accused the Egyptian Football Association of hampering the country’s World Cup preparations in Russia earlier this summer by flying in celebrities to the team’s hotel.

    In two videos that escalated a months-long row with the EFA, Salah defended a letter sent by his lawyer Ramy Abass that listed seven demands, including increased personal security and regulation of his public appearances and photo opportunities during international competitions.

    Related: How Mohamed Salah managed the impossible: to unite Egypt

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    The presence of Ramzan Kadyrov in the front row of the UFC’s first show in Moscow highlights a troubling link between the Chechen strongman and the world’s largest MMA promotion

    On Saturday 15 September, Ramzan Kadyrov walked into Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to watch the evening’s fights. Dressed in beige jeans and a white t-shirt with a matching jacket, the notorious Chechen strongman was surrounded by three of his most loyal henchmen– one of whom has been accused of torture and another of plotting an assassination– as he made his way to the front row of the 35,000-capacity arena. Seated just a few feet away from the cage, Kadyrov and his cronies watched the evening’s fights in an entirely new setting. Though used to attending mixed martial arts events on a near-weekly basis in his native Chechnya, this was the first time that Kadyrov was present at a Ultimate Fighting Championship show.

    Given Kadyrov’s well-documented human rights abuses – the most recent of which includes a deadly crackdown on LGBTQ+ people within Chechnya resulting in torture and summary executions– his presence in the front row of a UFC event highlights a concerning link between the dictator and the world’s largest MMA promotion.

    Related: Why the UFC is a perfect platform for Donald Trump’s political ideology

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