GROZNY, Russia – Tens of thousands of people have rallied in the capital of Russia's Chechnya republic in support of strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kadyrov in recent weeks has been speaking out against independent journalists and opposition activists, calling for them to be sent to psychiatric hospitals or prosecuted as traitors who serve a hostile West.
His comments have an ominous ring to them. In the past, Russian journalists or opposition leaders have been killed after challenging Putin or Kadyrov, who describes himself as the president's loyal "foot soldier."
Participants at Friday's rally in Grozny praised Kadyrov for bringing stability to the predominantly Muslim region after two separatist wars, punctuating their speeches with cries of "God is great!" and "Kadyrov is a Russian patriot."