Mon, 01 Jun 2020

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed authoritarian leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, is currently under medical observation due to a suspected coronavirus infection, Russian news agencies report.

'Kadyrov is suspected of having coronavirus. He's under medical observation,' Interfax quoted a medical source in Moscow as saying on May 21.

Baza, an independent online news agency, reported that Kadyrov was taken by plane to "one of the best clinics in Moscow' on May 20, after the Chechen leader showed symptoms of an acute respiratory viral infection.

It said the Chechen leader has been diagnosed with pneumonia after possibly being infected by the coronavirus. A severe case of COVID-19 can lead to pneumonia.

Officials did not immediately confirm the reports.

Wearing a protective suit, Kadyrov on April 20 visited a Grozny hospital where coronavirus patients are being treated. He has also participated in collective prayers.

The reports about Kadyrov come as authorities in Chechnya and neighboring Daghestan have imposed restrictions to deter people from gathering in groups this weekend, as the mostly Muslim-populated regions mark the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday, known locally as Uraza Bairam, to mark the end of the month of Ramadan.

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said on May 21 that all movements, except for emergency services, will be banned from May 23 to 26 across the republic, adding that a violation of the rule 'will be punished in accordance with the law.'

In Daghestan, authorities announced on May 21 that two cities, Kizlyar and Kizilyurt, will be locked down during the four-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr. A decision on Makhachkala, the capital, had yet to be taken.

Usually, Muslims gather in mosques for mass prayers to mark Eid al-Fitr but in many former Soviet republics and other countries, Muslims are set to mark the holiday at home because of the outbreak.

Russia now has the second-highest total of reported COVID-19 cases, after the United States.

The Russian case tally rose to 317,554 on May 21, while the death toll climbed to 3,009.

Russian officials have been accused of lowering its coronavirus mortality rates by ascribing deaths to pneumonia.

With reporting by Interfax and Baza

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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