Work to rebuild Russia’s Chechnya region, devastated by separatist wars from the 1990s, is now virtually complete, the region’s leader said at the lavish opening of a new shopping center in the capital.
Confetti poured down on Ramzan Kadyrov and guest of honor Irina Rodnina, Russia’s Olympic gold figure skating champion, as they cut the ribbon to open the complex late on Tuesday.
Children in traditional dress twirled to blasting Caucasus music at the multi-storey center, which includes a large cinema complex and an ice rink.
“We’ve rebuilt 99 percent of the republic, and now it’s time to create new jobs and focus on culture,” Kadyrov, dressed casually in jeans and tennis shoes, said to applause.
Moscow has spent 26 billion roubles ($906.9 million) on its program to develop Chechnya and Russia’s other volatile, Muslim-dominated southern regions this year.
Kadyrov, who fought against Moscow in the first war but then switched sides, is largely credited by the Kremlin with successfully rebuilding Chechnya, which suffered widespread destruction during the separatist conflicts.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, responding to a new wave of violence across Russia’s southern fringe, especially in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, said this month the North Caucasus was now Russia’s biggest domestic political problem.
Kadyrov declined to say how much the center cost. It was financed out of a fund Kadyrov created in honor of his father and predecessor, Akhmad, who was assassinated by a bomb in 2004.
Opponents and critics of Kadyrov say he has used the position to accumulate vast wealth and that he runs Chechnya as a personal fiefdom, charges the 33-year old leader shrugs off as lies designed to discredit him.