Chechen Corruption Documentary Receives More Than A Million YouTube Views

Published: 09 June 2015

Ramzan Kadyrov

By Igor Spaic

A film documenting alleged widespread corruption and human rights abuses in the Russian republic of Chechnya has received more than a million views despite being temporarily blocked by YouTube.

 According to the Caucasian Knot newspaper, the Russian-language version of the film, which wasproduced by the Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia Foundation,was removed from YouTube on June 3 following a complaint about copyright violation.

The documentary was subsequently unblocked that evening and has now been viewed more than 1,170,000 times.

The film, called The Family, alleges that the leader of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, extracts an unofficial tax from all Chechen citizens to finance the Akhmad Kadyrov Regional Public Fund.

According to the documentary, the amount levied varies depending on the person’s employment. A public sector worker is expected to donate 10 percent of their monthly income, while business owners must donate up to half of their earnings.

The Family estimates the monthly revenue of this fund, which exists outside the law and is not subject to tax,to be between three and four billion roubles (about US$ 53 to US$ 71 million).

The official website of the fund, which is named after the Chechen leader’s late father,claims that its purpose is to finance social initiatives such as rebuilding hospitals and housing.The website says it has helped tens of thousands of people.

Open Russia claims that the fund is also used to finance Kadyrov’spersonal activities, including a payment of two million euros (about US$ 2.26 million) to boxer Mike Tyson in return for boxing with the Chechen president.

Most recently, the fund was reportedly used to purchase 16 motorcycles for the Chechen branch of the nationalist biker gang, the Night Wolves.

Shortly after the documentary was released Kadyrov posted a trailer for his own feature film, Whoever Doesn’t Understand Will Get It, on his Instagram account.

Commenting in an article published on Open Russia, Russian political scientist Stanislav Belkovskij referred to Kadyrov’s post as a “set of indirect threats” to the documentary’s creators.

Following a raid on the Moscow office of Open Russia in April, Khodorkovsky claimed in a message posted on Facebook that the foundation’s film about Kadyrov was the real reason behind the search.

According to The Moscow Times some of those who featured in the documentary, as well as their relatives, have subsequently been subject to reprisals by Chechen authorities.

Since being nominated to the Chechen presidency by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2007, Kadyrov has been accused of corruption and numerous human rights abuses by both national and international NGOs.