Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has made Egypt’s striker Mohamed Salah an honorary citizen of the southern Russian region at a farewell banquet held for the side eliminated from World Cup 2018.
After a short speech during a ceremonial banquet last Friday, Kadyrov pinned a broach of the Chechen flag onto the striker’s Egypt training shirt to symbolically confirm the honour.
Salah was then presented with a silver plate and a signed shirt of Chechen football team FC Akhmat Grozny, the club which is named in honour of Kadyrov’s late father.
“Mohamed Salah is an honourary citizen of the Chechen Republic. Yes, that’s right! Tonight I signed a decree conferring this high award on the great footballer and member of the Egypt and Liverpool teams” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.
Chechnya had been hosting the Egyptian team’s World Cup training camp and Kremlin-backed Kadyrov had seized on opportunities to appear alongside Salah, whose goal-scoring exploits for Liverpool and Egypt have made him an international superstar.
Rights groups and Western governments allege that authorities in Chechnya repress their political opponents, discriminate against women and persecute minorities, all allegations that Chechnya’s leaders deny.
The Egyptian team’s press officer has not commented on the move.
Kadyrov took charge of Chechnya in 2007, backed by Kremlin to impose tight control in the Muslim region where Russia had fought two brutal and costly wars to crush separatists since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In an interview with the BBC this week, Kadyrov denied human rights abuses and rejected the idea he was using Salah for propaganda purposes.
“We don’t use this kind of thing for politics. Our enemies are paid to write articles like that. I didn’t invite Mohamed Salah or the Egyptian team, they chose us themselves,” he said.
Egypt was eliminated from the Russia 2018 tournament after their shock 3-1 loss to hosts Russia in Group A left them winless after two games. – Al Jazeera.