Chechnya leader feuds with John Oliver over missing cat

Kremlin ally rants on Instagram after comedian mocks his search for the feline

When people disappear in the Russian republic of Chechnya, rights activists, journalists and government critics, there is usually no public discussion.

Certainly, no word about it appears on the bizarre if strangely compelling Instagram account of Ramzan A Kadyrov, the local strongman who became a Kremlin darling by subduing the long-running Islamic insurgency in the northern Caucasus republic.

Only the objects of Kadyrov’s affection attain that distinction: close associates, his gunmen, his workout routines.And now his disappeared cat.

The cat is an expensive variety known as a Bengal or toyger, bred to look like a miniature tiger.


A week ago, Kadyrov, dressed in trademark camouflage, posted a picture of himself hugging the toyger.

Given the cat’s penchant for playing with children, the post said, it was odd that it would disappear for 10 days.

“Now we have started to seriously worry,” the post informed Kadyrov’s 1.8 million followers.

Did someone have the missing cat and not know where to return it, he wondered.

The post became a television news headline, with all residents of the republic urged to look for the cat.

Apparently, some Instagram followers were worried too. People wrote in from Vladivostok in Russia's Far East, saying they thought maybe they had seen the cat there, more than 5,500 miles away.

Followers also wrote from Japan, Iceland and New Zealand.

Oliver’s concern

Even John Oliver, the comedian, expressed concern. His concern was couched in terms that it was not a good idea to leave Kadyrov feeling anxious.

Among other incidents, the 2015 murder of a Russian opposition figure, Boris Nemtsov, has been linked to figures close to Kadyrov.

On his HBO programme Last Week Tonight, Oliver described Kadyrov as a "monster energy drink come to life".

After mocking the Chechen leader for his seemingly endless wardrobe of Putin T-shirts, he suggested that viewers should message Kadyrov directly to tell him that they had seen his cat, that they had not, or that they were not sure.

Oliver posted a picture of himself holding a cat and wondering if it was the missing beast.

He apparently hit a nerve, because Kadyrov responded with a post in English, albeit slightly fractured English, which is a rarity.

He Photoshopped a picture of Oliver wearing a Putin tshirt with the caption: “I am tired of jokes. I want to care for cats in Chechnya. By the way, Putin is our leader!”

Kadyrov also wrote a paean to the Russian president. “Yes, millions of people rejoice tshirts with the image of the national leader,” the post said.

“Thanks to Putin, we have crushed terrorists among whom there were also citizens of the US, and European citizens.

"The country directed by Obama under the guise of peacekeeping operations spark new wars and bloody internal conflicts, in which die millions of people. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria. "

While he was at it, Kadyrov decided that his cat might not be missing.

The toyger, the post said, was likely out tomcatting and would probably reappear any day now, perhaps with a new lady friend.

New York Times