The Kremlin’s support for the certain victor in Chechnya’s presidential elections held yesterday has brought the blood-stained republic to the brink of a new civil war, according to Russian intelligence officers. The poll, which has been widely described as a sham, was showcased by President Vladimir Putin as evidence to the outside world that life in the war-torn republic is returning to normal under Moscow’s stewardship….

[Kadyrov’s] two leading rivals were forced out of the race. Aslanbek Aslakhanov, a deputy in the Russian parliament, said he pulled out to take a job in the Kremlin. Malik Saidullayev, a millionaire businessman, was disqualified by the electoral commission. He said the Kremlin had resorted to cancelling his candidature after efforts to cajole him into stepping aside voluntarily failed….

One Russian commander said: “He’s using us as his pocket army to settle scores with rivals. I don’t want to be a mercenary for that thug.” If the Russians are unhappy with the man expected to be the new president, most Chechen civilians are doubly so. Human rights groups have documented cases of his men carrying out murder, torture and kidnapping. [Telegraph]

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