Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen warlord who is one of the biggest supporters of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, has said that he wants to quit.
In a video on his Telegram channel, Mr Kadyrov said that he had been president of Chechnya in Russia’s North Caucasus for 15 years and didn’t want to “outstay” his welcome.
“We have a proverb among Caucasians, Chechens. No matter how respected and long-awaited a guest is, if he leaves on time, then it is even more pleasant,” he said in the video shot in his luxurious palace in Grozny.
“I think that my time has also come.” Mr Kadyrov is a keen social media user and in typical fashion laughed and grinned throughout the short video.
Vocal Putin supporter
He was promoted as Chechnya’s leader by Mr Putin in 2007 and has been a vocal supporter of the Russian president ever since, backing the initial invasion of Ukraine in February with his fighters.
Mr Kadyrov’s father, Akhmat, had fought Russian forces in the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s but switched sides for the second war a few years later.
He was made leader of Chechnya by Mr Putin in 2000 but was killed by a bomb in 2004.
Mr Kadyrov’s video suggesting that he may quit as Chechnya’s leader comes as the Kremlin’s six-month war in Ukraine stalls.
Western analysts were surprised by Mr Kadyrov’s video.
‘Drastic shift of tone’
Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, said that it would be a massive blow to Mr Putin if Mr Kadyrov did actually follow through on his threat to resign.
“This is a drastic shift in tone, as just days ago, Kadyrov stated that his Chechen Kadyrovtsy units would be prepared to advance all the way to Europe,” he said.
Other analysts were more sceptical. “He has said things like this in the past,” said Ivan Klyszcz, a North Caucasus analyst, who is based at the University of Tartu in Estonia.
“These typically arrive when he wants to get something out of Putin, at the very least a public expression of support.”
Despite their feared reputation, Chechen fighters have generally underperformed in Ukraine.
They have been mocked as the “TikTok battalion”, a reference to their interest in filming themselves messing around with weapons and captured motorbikes.
Chechen fighters were prominent in the first few months of the war but this has since waned.