In this August 7, 2013 file photo Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, meets with Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
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The Kremlin-backed strongman of Chechnya has issued a stream of threats against Russia's liberal opposition, but his primary audience appears to be the Russian president himself.With Ramzan Kadyrov's five-year stint as regional leader about to expire, he is trying to parlay his strong personal ties with President Vladimir Putin to extend his hold on power. Putin has seen the burly, red-haired 39-year-old former rebel as essential to keeping Chechnya stable after two separatist wars, and has given him privileges no one else in Russia's tightly controlled political system has seen. If he backs Kadyrov for another term, the Chechen leader is certain to easily win the popular vote set for September.The killing offered Kadyrov's foes in the federal agencies a rare chance to finally get rid of the Chechen strongman, but Putin stood by him and the investigation has fizzled.The Chechen leader also has offered his services to the Kremlin on other fronts.While Putin may be willing to tame the Chechen leader, he is clearly at a loss on how to do it without plunging the region back into turmoil.
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