Future Tense

The Dictator of Chechnya Was Briefly Back on Instagram (Updated)

Ramzan Kadyrov, wearing a black shirt and a bushy beard, stands in front of two other men.
Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov arrives to attend a ceremony inaugurating Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 7.
Sergei Savostyanov/Getty Images

Update, Nov. 15, 2018: Kadyrov’s account has been blocked again. An Instagram spokesperson told Slate by email, “this account was mistakenly restored and has now been removed.”

Original post:

He’s back!

After almost a year, the Instagram account of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov appears to have been unblocked as of Wednesday, and the social media–savvy strongman celebrated with a lengthy ode to his pistol, which he refers to as his “friend,” “brother” and “unpretentious comrade.”

This is pretty tame for Kadyrov, who uses a picture of his mentor and hero Vladimir Putin as his avatar on Instagram. The Chechen leader became famous for posting photos of himself shaking hands with white tigers and posing with famous friends like Gérard Depardieu and Floyd Mayweather. In 2016, he was mocked by John Oliver for using his account to ask citizens for help finding his missing cat.

Kadyrov’s accounts on Instagram and Facebook were blocked in December shortly after he was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department under the Magnitsky Act, a human rights law. Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it had a “legal obligation” to disable the accounts. Kadyrov is accused of widespread extrajudicial killing and torture of his political opponents, a brutal crackdown targeting gay and bisexual men, and links to political assassinations including that of former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, an opponent of Putin.

Kadyrov responded to his blocking by announcing that he would be switching to a new “Chechen” network called Mylistory, which would be “as good as foreign ones.” Mylistory is currently available for download in Apple’s app store, and senior officials including Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have accounts.

While human rights advocates certainly weren’t sorry to see Kadyrov’s Instagram go, some did raise questions about the lack of transparency and consistency around the ban. (Other prominent targets of U.S. sanctions, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, are still active on U.S.-based social media networks.) Those questions are likely to return now that Kadyrov’s account is back online, and the timing is odd given that just last week, Instagram disabled another Kadyrov account, which the Chechen government said was set up by his supporters.

He’s certainly done little in the past year to improve his behavior.