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Chechen leader picks new Cabinet minister from among his Instagram followers

The Russian republic of Chechnya has hired as its new cabinet minister for civic relations someone whom President Ramzan Kadyrov discovered on Instagram.

Kadyrov, who is an enthusiastic user of the Internet photo-sharing site, created the post — formally called minister of government-civil society liaison — after a four-hour meeting last week with Instagram users critical of his leadership, the Chechen government said in a statement.

In a post on Instagram afterward, Kadyrov called the discussion "superficial" and unsatisfying, saying those he met with "did not even understand the issues."

The former rebel leader, who has been accused of widespread human rights abuses — in 2009, he defended the practice of "honor killings" of women who cheat on their husbands — has used Instagram to portray himself in a gentler light. 

"He wants to present himself as more modern, that's why he's paying attention to the younger generation," Alexey Malashenko, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center-Caucasus, told The Moscow News. "He is attempting to improve his image."

Kadyrov's account is filled with pictures of Kadyrov holding babies, kissing deer at the zoo and picking flowers. "I just fed a chicken!!!" reads the caption under a photo of Kadyrov frolicking with a clutch of chickens, which was distributed to more than 84,000 followers.

One of those followers is arbi_9595 — real name Arby Seyfudinovich Tamaev — and Friday, Kadyrov plucked him off the Net to join the government. Pictures on his account indicate that he shares the president's love of fast sports cars.

Kadyrov announced the appointment — where else? — on Instagram:

"Today I met with (Agriculture Minister) Abubakar Edelgeriev and the new minister of the Chechen Republic. You all remember him and know him by his nickname @arbi_9595," he wrote.

"Arby Tamaev responded to my request to gather Instagram users, showing initiative and perseverance," Kadyrov wrote. "Now he will have to demonstrate these same qualities as a minister of the Chechen Republic, tackling the interaction between the government and civil society."

After his appointment, Tamaev updated his profile to note that he had been flooded with correspondence on the site and asked potential new followers: "Please do not write!"

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