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Kadyrov says Putin saved Chechnya


MOSCOW, April 7 (RIA Novosti) - Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has said that the North Caucasus republic owes its very existence to the efforts of Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin.

"If it were not for Putin, Chechnya would not exist," the 32-year-old Chechen leader said in an interview published on Tuesday in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government daily.

"He saved our people with his strong-willed decisions," Kadyrov said. "I know this history - I personally participated in it. If it were not for Putin, we would not be here."

Both Kadyrov and his late father, the republic's first president, sided with separatist forces in the first Chechen War before supporting Moscow in the second conflict.

However, when asked by the paper what their vision of Chechnya had been before they switched to Moscow's side, he denied there had been any change in their position.

"We did not cross over. Don't you mix things up. I was never for the federal forces or against the federal forces, I was always with the people. I am no traitor. We were with the people in the first campaign and with the people in the second campaign," he said.

When asked to conform that he was maintaining the people were against Moscow in the first Chechen War and for Moscow in the second war, and he was simply following the will of the people in both, the former boxer said, "Yes. That's it."

The second Chechen War began in 1999 while Putin was acting president after an incursion into the republic of Daghestan by Chechen and foreign fighters and a series of apartment bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities that left some 300 people dead.

The campaign eventually led to Ramzan Kadyrov's father, Ahmad, becoming president of the republic in 2003. He was later killed by a terrorist bomb at Grozny's Dynamo stadium in May 2004.

"The man [Putin] who sat in the Kremlin trusted us completely. Without [Ahmad] Kadyrov he could not have done this. But without Putin, Kadyrov wouldn't have been able to do anything," Kadyrov went on.

"I owe Putin my life," he said. "If I forget that, I am no longer a man. When I have had terribly difficult times in my life, he has helped me. He is for me the most saintly person - wherever he is, whatever he is, be it a locksmith or a combine harvester driver..."

Kadyrov and his personal security service have been accused of abductions by human rights groups. His critics have also accused him of perpetuating a "cult of personality" in Chechnya.

The Chechen president said on Monday that a man arrested in connection with the assassination of former Chechen military commander Sulim Yamadayev in Dubai on March 28 was employed in his stables.

He also said that Yamadayev, a Hero of Russia who commanded the elite Vostok battalion in Chechnya, was involved in the murder of his father. He has denied any link to Yamadayev's death.

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