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Chechen Leader Denounces Editor for Polling Readers on Muhammad

FILE - Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov talks to the press in the Chechen regional capital, Grozny, Oct. 5, 2014.
FILE - Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov talks to the press in the Chechen regional capital, Grozny, Oct. 5, 2014.

The head of Russia's Muslim-majority Chechnya region has accused the chief editor of a liberal radio station of inciting anti-Muslim hatred after its website asked readers to vote on whether publications should print caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in response to the Charlie Hebdo killings in France.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram account Friday that the poll posted by Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio on its website a day earlier was motivated by a "desire to insult the Muslims of Russia and the whole world, to cause enmity between peoples, to sow chaos and disorder."

He accused the station's editor-in-chief, Alexei Venediktov, of having turned it into "the main anti-Islamic mouthpiece" and "endlessly vilifying and insulting tens of millions of Muslims."

Kadyrov said the government should "call the radio [station] to account," adding that, "otherwise, someone else will call Venediktov to account."

Venediktov posted a response in his blog on Ekho Moskvy's website Friday, saying that he took Kadyrov's "threats" seriously, and would contact Russia's law-enforcement agencies about them. He categorically denied the Chechen leader's accusation that the radio station is anti-Islamic, calling the charge "defamatory" and adding that "we live in a secular state and observe the constitution of the Russian Federation and the laws of Russia."

On Thursday, Kadyrov called Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon and long-time critic of President Vladimir Putin, a "personal enemy" and an enemy of all the world's Muslims after Khodorkovsky made a similar call for publication of Muhammad caricatures.

Khodorkovsky spent more than 10 years in a Russian prison for tax evasion and embezzlement, charges that Kremlin critics say were politically motivated. He was released from prison in December 2013 after President Putin pardoned him.

Ekho Moskvy radio is owned by Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly, but maintains an independent editorial line that is often critical of Putin and his policies.

Kadyrov, who fought on the side of Chechen separatists in the 1990, is now one of Putin's most vigorous supporters. The Kremlin leader appointed Kadyrov president of Chechnya in 2007. Since then he has ruled Chechnya with an iron hand, and also has been accused of widespread human-rights violations.

While he has fought against radical Islamist insurgents in the region, the Chechen leader has adopted some Islamic customs as laws. Among these is order a requirement that women must wear headscarves in public.

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