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Kadyrov contradicts officials demanding apology from comedian

13 June 2018
Russian comedian Semyon Slepakov (Video screenshot)

Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov has played down suggestions Russian comedian Semyon Slepakov should apologise for a satirical song featuring him about Russia’s ‘failing’ football team. Chechen officials earlier demanded he make a public apology, a tactic frequently used in Chechnya to intimidate critics.

On Tuesday, the Chechnya’s Minister of National Policy, External Relations, Press and Information Dzhambulat Umarov demanded Slepakov apologise to Kadyrov for his ‘cheap’ and ‘vulgar’ satirical video.

In a song titled Olé, Olé, Olé! released on YouTube on 11 June, which has gained almost 5 million views in two days, Slepakov made fun of Russia’s ‘failing’ national football team, depicting Kadyrov as its unsuccessful coach.

Chechen officials urged the Russian Slepakov to stop ‘exploiting’ Kadyrov’s name to gain fame, and complained that the joke, which ‘did not land’ and that only the artist ‘and his several listeners found amusing’, was not approved by the Chechen President. Umarov also called on Slepakov to apologise to the Russian national team.

However, the following day, on his Telegram channel and VKontakte page, Kadyrov said that he had a ‘genuine laugh’ with Slepakov’s comedy sketch, but that his ‘word is stronger than a stone, not [parmesan] cheese’. Kadyrov complimented Slepakov’s sense of humour and invited him to Chechnya to ‘write a new song together’, noting that there was no lack of it in Chechnya either. Moreover, Kadyrov responded with his own poetry piece, in which he expressed his hopes for Russian national team’s success.

Russia is hosting this year’s football World Cup from 14 June to 15 July, and the Egyptian team’s training camp is based in the Chechnya’s capital Grozny. Both location decisions, made by FIFA and Egypt’s Football Federation respectively, have met criticism by some human rights groups due to Russia’s poor human rights record.

To coincide with the World Cup, Amnesty International launched a ‘Brave Team’ campaign, a virtual team of human rights advocates from eleven Russian regions that are hosting the global tournament. The Brave Team includes the head of the Russian rights group Memorial’s Chechnya office Oyub Titiyev, who was arrested in January 2018 on what rights advocates call bogus charges.

[Read more about the Titiyev case on OC Media: No justice for Chechen Memorial head — again]

Forced public apologies as retribution

Kadyrov’s positive reaction to Slepakov’s sketch is not common for Chechnya’s authorities, who frequently pressure critics into making public apologies to the ‘Chechen people’ under the threat of retribution.

People are frequently seen to apologise for perceived insults or disseminating information that the Chechen authorities do not agree with. Numerous apology videos to Kadyrov can be found on YouTube including from pranksters, migrant workers, politicians, athletes, and others.

The practice has also spread to other regions of Russia.

[Read more about the issue on OC Media: Public humiliation — the political trend sweeping through the North Caucasus]

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