Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia's Chechen Republic, might be the most Instagram-savvy of all world leaders. With more than 600,000 followers, the Chechen strongman has used the photo-sharing service to broadcast himself hanging out with Steven Seagal and to mock U.S. President Barack Obama; he once even used the service to help track down his missing dog.
However, Kadyrov's use of the service isn't always as sophisticated as you might expect. And this week, he used the service to make a very 21st century gaffe.
On Thursday, Kadyrov shared a brutal photograph of a corpse with his followers. The Chechen leader claimed that the photograph was proof that Tarkhan Batirashvili, an ethnic Chechen who under the name Abu Omar al-Shishani had become one of the most notorious leaders of the Islamic State, had been killed.
— Yury Barmin (@yurybarmin) November 13, 2014
“The enemy of Islam Tarkhan Batirashvili, calling himself Abu Omar al-Shishani has been killed," Kadyrov's message read. "The same will happen to anyone who may dare threaten Russia and the Chechen people. It will happen to anyone who will be sheding Muslims’ blood. Allah is Greatest!”
Kadyrov's message was reported all around the world, and with good reason: Shishani had become one of the Islamic State's most feared military commanders, a rare feat for a non-Arab. It's even suspected that he may be one of the members of the extremists group's Shura Council, the Islamic State's highest advisory body, and, according to Bloomberg, he had recently phoned his father in Georgia to say that he would "come home and show the Russians."
Kadyrov, who cut his teeth in the brutal Chechen wars and is a fierce ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had previously announced that he wanted to confront Shishani. “We are dealing with that," he told reporters in September, according to Russian agency ITAR-Tass. "We have good guys who can move to any part of the world where bandits threaten our country. I have already issued orders to find that criminal and send him there from where he will never return.”
However, on Thursday, Kadyrov offered little details about the death. For some people, it rang alarm bells: Kadyrov had announced the deaths of extremists on Instagram before, and he hadn't always been correct. Just a few hours after Kadyrov's post on Shishani, Chechnya analyst Mairbek Vatchagaev tweeted out a link to a news story that showed that the image of the "dead" Shishani was at least a year old, and Shishani certainly had not been dead for a year.
Kadyrov's spokesperson told reporters that the photo wasn't the only evidence they had, but the Chechen president still appeared to backtrack: On Friday, just a day after the original post, Kadyrov deleted the picture of Shishani and the announcement.
On Twitter, the Chechen leader is being mocked for posting the image.
— joanna paraszczuk (@joaska_) November 14, 2014
"He still does not know that Kadyrov killed him," says the text accompanying what the user says is a recent image of Shishani.