Chechnya's Kremlin-Backed President Accuses Authorities of Torturing Detainees

Chechnya's Kremlin-backed president accused the federal authorities of torturing detainees, echoing claims that have long been made by international rights groups.

Ramzan Kadyrov said on Friday that inmates at a detention facility known as ORB-2 in the town of Urus-Martan were "systematically subjected to torture." He added that regional prosecutors had opened an investigation into the situation at the facility, which is controlled by the Russian Interior Ministry's branch for southern Russia.

"We must solve the problem, because the torture and humiliation there are a blatant violation of human rights," Kadyrov was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office.

Kadyrov himself has faced allegations of massive abductions, torture and other abuse of civilians by security forces under his control, and his statement could be an attempt to deflect blame. His criticism of the federal authorities could also help boost his popularity in Chechnya.

Russian President Vladimir Putin nominated Kadyrov as president after last month's dismissal of Alu Alkhanov, who had increasingly criticized Kadyrov. The nomination was quickly approved by the regional legislature earlier this month.

Kadyrov, 30 is credited with a reconstruction boom that he administered as the region's prime minister. The capital, Grozny, is being transformed from a moonscape of rubble and shattered buildings.

The reconstruction program has been at the heart of a Kremlin strategy to crush rebels, but critics say the alleged abuses by Kadyrov's widely feared security forces and by Russian and Chechen police and soldiers severely undermine attempts to bring order to Chechnya.

Analysts say Putin has entrusted Kadyrov with power in part because he is seen as the only person who can keep large numbers of former rebels under control. Many former rebels now serve in the police and security forces.

Kadyrov is the son of Chechnya's first pro-Moscow president, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004.

Two wars in Chechnya over the past dozen years between Russian forces and separatist rebels who increasingly voiced militant Islamic ideology left much of the republic in ruins. Major offensives died several years ago, but small clashes continue and rebels attack Russian forces with booby-traps and remote-detonated explosives.

Council of Europe human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg, who visited Chechnya earlier this month, said that the region continues to be plagued by allegations of torture and by officials' failure to respond to families seeking information about missing relatives.