The strongman president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has mocked a former top Russian military commander during a spat between the pair over Moscow’s military conduct in its invasion of Ukraine.
Kadyrov has always professed fierce loyalty to Vladimir Putin, but has been critical of his forces’ military effort in the war. He has taken particular aim at Russia’s commanders, without directly impugning the Russian president.
In October, following the withdrawal of Russian troops from Krasny Liman in the Donetsk oblast, Kadyrov described General Alexander Lapin, who was dismissed as commander of Russia’s Central Military District, as “mediocre.”
But Vladimir Boldyrev, who was commander-in-chief of Russia’s ground forces until his discharge in 2010, defended Lapin, telling the news outlet NSN on January 10 that he had been “criticized by people who had no right to. Who are civilians to criticize the Colonel General?”
Kadyrov hit back in an interview with Chechen news outlet Grozny Inform published on Monday, insisting he was not a civilian and had been given the rank of colonel general by Putin himself. He also called Boldyrev “a failed commander” who had been “demoted and transferred.”
“Whoever criticizes should look at experience,” Kadyrov said. “I have not yet been kicked out..but he was immediately transferred. Which of us is better, Colonel General Blah Blah Blah or Colonel General Kadyrov.”
Boldyrev responded by telling the news outlet RBK that he had never been demoted and after commanding the North Caucasus District, which he was appointed to in 2002, he was transferred to “an equivalent position” commanding the Volga-Ural military district, in July 2004.
Boldyrev reiterated his point about not criticizing commanders like Lapin. “Only two people can evaluate and even criticize him—the minister and the president.
“No other officials can give an assessment, everything else is just empty words,” Boldyrev said. “Let God be his judge, I’m not going to enter into a debate with him here.” Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.
Chechen troops fighting on the side of Moscow in Ukraine are known as “Kadyrovtsy” or “Kadyrovites,” named after their leader, who has tried to take a prominent role in Russia’s war effort.
Human rights activists say many Chechen soldiers were recruited against their will, following threats against their families. Before the war, Kadyrov’s forces were accused by rights groups of extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture.
Kadyrov has emerged as a critic of Russia’s military losses, along with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the financier of the Wagner Group of mercenaries, who played a key role in the reported capture of the Donetsk town of Soledar following a bloody battle.