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Main Candidate in Chechnya Election Is Moscow's Top Civilian Leader in Region - 2003-10-05

Akhmad Kadyrov, the main candidate in Chechnya's presidential election, is the Kremlin's top civilian in the war-torn breakaway republic.

Mr. Kadyrov has been at the helm of Chechnya's pro-Kremlin administration since Russian troops restored Moscow's nominal control in 2000. Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has not publicly endorsed Mr. Kadyrov's candidacy, many believe Moscow is tacitly backing the front-runner.

Akhmad Kadyrov was born in 1954 in the Central Asian region of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, where Soviet dictator Josef Stalin had exiled hundreds of thousands Chechens for allegedly collaborating with the German Nazi invaders. His family returned to Chechnya from exile in 1957.

In 1980, Mr. Kadyrov began Islamic studies in then-Soviet Uzbekistan. He later graduated from the Tashkent Islamic Institute and furthered his studies at the Shariah department of Amman Islamic University in Jordan.

Mr. Kadyrov became a Mufti, or religious leader, of Chechnya in 1996, two years after Russia's then-president Boris Yeltsin sent in troops to try to quash the republic's drive for independence.

That year, Mr. Kadyrov became a negotiator on the Chechen side in peace talks that ended the war that he called a jihad. But he later turned against his comrades, saying he disagreed with their adoption of militant Islam.