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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kadyrov Approved as President

APRamzan Kadyrov
GROZNY -- Chechnya's parliament approved Ramzan Kadyrov as the republic's new president Friday in a near-unanimous vote one day after President Vladimir Putin made the nomination.

Human rights groups allege that security forces under Kadyrov's control abduct and torture civilians suspected of ties to Chechnya's separatist rebels. Some observers suggest he was tied to last year's murder of Anna Politkovskaya, who had reported extensively on Chechnya's wars and sufferings. Kadyrov has denied any involvement.

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

Kadyrov became acting president after Putin's dismissal of Alu Alkhanov last month. Alkhanov had become increasingly critical of Kadyrov.

Kadyrov's nomination was approved by 56 votes in the 58-member regional legislature. Two ballots were ruled invalid.

The reconstruction program has been at the heart of a Kremlin strategy to crush rebels, but critics say the alleged abuses by his security forces and by federal and regional police and soldiers severely undermine attempts to bring order to Chechnya.

Kadyrov, 30, is the son of Chechnya's first pro-Moscow president, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004.

Two wars over the past dozen years between federal forces and separatist rebels who increasingly voiced militant Islamic ideology left much of the republic in ruins and its people gripped by fear and resentment. Major offensives died down early this decade, but small clashes continue and rebels attack government forces with booby-traps and remote-controlled explosives.

Prominent Russian and international rights groups boycotted a human rights conference in Grozny on Thursday, saying their presence would lend Kadyrov legitimacy.

Council of Europe human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg, who attended the conference, told reporters Friday that Chechnya continued to be plagued by allegations of torture and by officials' failure to respond to families seeking information about missing relatives.

Hammarberg declined to comment when asked for his opinion on Kadyrov becoming president and he did not point to Kadyrov's forces as responsible for abuses.

Of the detainees interviewed by Hammarberg in Chechnya who complained of torture, "several of them pointed at the activities of the federal police," he said in Moscow.

Hammarberg recommended that Chechnya set up a "truth commission" similar to those established in Latin American countries to try to bring to light those responsible for abuses.

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.

But his growing clout is also seen as a risk for the Kremlin, particularly after Putin steps down at the end of his second term next year, because some see his loyalty to Moscow as being closely tied to his relationship with Putin.

Kadyrov has repeatedly praised Putin, including a call for him to stay on as president despite the two-term limit contained in the Constitution, but has harshly criticized the federal government and state-run oil company Rosneft, calling for greater economic freedom for Chechnya and for a larger share of its oil revenues.