Kadyrov’s own sons, the oldest of whom was only 10 years old, were among those to take part in the Grand Prix Akhmat 2016, entering the ring and sparring as adults. Source: FC Akhmat
Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has found himself embroiled in the centre of a moral scandal after an international mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament, featuring fights between young children, was held in the capital Grozny on October 4 and broadcast on the Match Boets cable TV channel.
Kadyrov’s sons, the oldest of whom is only 10 years old, were among those who took part in the Grand Prix Akhmat 2016, entering the ring and sparring as adults. The fights featured blows to the head, including kicks.
All three of Kadyrov’s sons won, with 10-year-old Ahmad knocking out his opponent from Sochi barely 14 seconds into the fight. While Kadyrov's sons were fighting in honour of their father’s anniversary, the defeated boy from Sochi wept. Yet Kadyrov did not hide his excitement at watching the fights, from behind a fully laden table, from his box.
These fights between children, who used no protective gear except for gloves, were broadcast all over the country. Many viewers later complained that the event was a particularly cruel and unjustifiable show. However, the Chechen official responsible for sponsoring the event disagreed.
"The children have shown themselves to be real men and warriors, as befits them," said Timur Dugazayev, Kadyrov's representative in Europe and CEO of Akhmat Promotion.
Fedor Emelianenko, President of the Russian MMA Union and probably Russia’s best-known fighter, reacted harshly on October 5 to the fights involving children. On his Instagram account, he recalled that according to the rules of MMA, children below 12 are not allowed to compete at all.
"What happened yesterday at the tournament in Grozny is intolerable, and even more so, it cannot be justified! ... And that’s to say nothing about the fact that children under 12 are not even allowed into the venue as spectators. But here kids, who are eight years old, were beating each other up in front of happy adults."
Reaction from Chechnya to Emelianenko's criticism was immediate. A comment from Abuzaid Vismuradov, president of the host club Akmat, was, perhaps, the most striking: "The question is, who is he to assess our tournament and fights?"
Vismuradov suggested that Emelianenko was "green with envy," saying that Grand Prix Akhmat 2016 is recognized by many as the best tournament in the history of Russian MMA, and the famous fighter was not invited.
"Or has he become a fighter for justice?" Vismuradov continued. "Then he needs to be reminded of his last fight, in which he shamefully lost and was beaten in front of the whole world, but his corrupt agency did not dare to give a well-deserved victory to Fabio Maldonado."
Ad hominem arguments were also used by other people close to Kadyrov. Adam Delimkhanov, State Duma member and Chechen billionaire, who carries a gold pistol to work, called Emelianenko a man "whose moral, ethical and professional integrity raises the most profound doubts," and said that he would have to "answer for every word" concerning Kadyrov's sons.
But emotions notwithstanding, the main argument of the fights’ organizers was that children's fights were for demonstration only, and their regulations were "fully built" to fit this format.
Despite the outcry about the event on social media, the government’s reaction has been cautious so far, with officials refraining from making harsh statements.
"If it was on television, and if it's true, the knockout of a child, especially on television, is probably a reason for the appropriate supervisory agencies to inquire about this incident," said presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov.
Children's Ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova did not comment on the incident for two days and, only after the Kremlin's reaction, said it was necessary to “find out to what extent holding such fights is a systemic phenomenon and how it affects the health of children.”
Such cautious talk coming from the children's defender perplexed the majority of social media users, and postings about children's fights were made under the hashtag zhest (“hardcore”), with one user comparing the tournament to education in ancient Sparta.
"This is fu..ing unbelievable, guys. 8 years! The next step is, apparently, children's Airsoft," Facebook user Anton Albov wrote on his profile.
"Ramzan [Kadyrov, Chechnya’s president] has hit another low," wrote another user, apparently hinting at the federal government’s regular practice of hushing up conflicts involving the Chechen leaders family, whatever they might be implicated in.
During his annual televised press conference earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin explained his position on the Chechen leader, who regularly hits the headlines in Russia with scandals.
When asked by Sergei Dorenko, chief editor of the Govorit Moskva radio station, whether it was possible to outline the scope permitted for the Chechens ("Where are the boundaries?"), Putin proposed to "proceed from the realities of our lives."
"Do you understand what kind of people they are?" said Putin, recalling that while Kadyrov is now the head of Chechnya, not so long ago he was running through the woods with a gun in his hand, fighting against the Russian army.
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