The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Human rights group says Chechen leader questioned 1,000 villagers in bid to find lost iPhone

While Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia's Chechen Republic, made his name as a leader during the brutal and chaotic Second Chechen War, nowadays his international fame might come from something else: His love of the photo-sharing app, Instagram. The Chechen leader has almost half a million followers on the service, and his photos present an almost psychedelic collage of his life, with images of Kadyrov weightlifting or firing guns sitting next to images of him playing with tigers and eating lavish meals.

Kadyrov's Instagram account has become important to his life: He hired one lucky follower to join his government last year, and when he lost his dog "Tarzan" a few months ago, he used the service to track down the Caucasian shepherd.

So what happens when Kadyrov's tool for using his Instagram, his iPhone, goes missing? According to Russian human rights group Memorial, Kadyrov misplaced his phone at an opening at the "Shira-Yurt" museum near the village of Germenchuk on Saturday. The museum, a model of a traditional Chechen village, was celebrating a wedding that day.

During the wedding, there was an announcement over loud speakers that Kadyrov had lost his phone, according to Memorial. After the guests went home, the human rights group says that over 1,000 people, including children, were called back to answer questions about the phone. Memorial says that most were only able to return home in the morning.

Kadyrov's office has denied the claims, but Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty say they spoke to a number of local officials who were able to confirm the incident. The Chechen leader had been posting photographs from the museum to his Instagram account from Shira Yurt:

While Memorial's statement couldn't confirm whether Kadyrov found his phone or not, the Chechen leader was posting to his Instagram account again on Sunday:

While Memorial is primarily a historical organization, it has become well-known in Chechnya for documenting human rights abuses. In 2009, Natalia Estemirova, an activist from the group who was investigating government-backed militias, was abducted and murdered. Kadyrov publicly condemned the assassination, though the killers were never found.