Washington has added the head of the Russian southern republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to its sanctions blacklist, accusing him of “numerous” human rights violations. Restrictions were also imposed against his family.
The US State Department put Kadyrov on a list barring him from entering US territory, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Monday. The US official said his agency has “extensive credible information” that the Chechen leader was supposedly behind “numerous gross violations of human rights” committed over more than a decade, including “extrajudicial killings.”
The statement did not delve further into these accusations but mentioned what it called “horrific reports of abuses against LGBTI persons” in the southern Russian republic – something that the Chechen authorities have repeatedly denied.
“We are concerned that Mr Kadyrov is now using the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic to inflict further human rights abuses on the people of the Chechen Republic,” the statement added.
The US authorities did not limit themselves to imposing sanctions against Kadyrov, and introduced similar restrictions against his wife, Medni, and his two eldest daughters – Aishat and Karina (aka Khadizhat).
“Today’s action serves to notify Mr Kadyrov that his involvement in gross violations of human rights has consequences, both for him and his family,” the State Department warned, adding that Washington would use “all tools” to “ensure accountability” of all those it considers involved in human rights violations.
The news prompted a swift response from the Chechen leader, who posted a photo of himself holding what looks like two machine guns while standing in an armory. “Pompeo, we accept the fight! This will get interesting,” he wrote.
The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, also reacted to the US move by saying that “it would be difficult to provide a mirror response, but we will come up with something.”