In Germany, even the semantics of the word “to lead” — fuehren — are loaded because of associations with Adolf Hitler.
The ambitions of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, inflated by billions of rubles from Kremlin coffers, have transformed Grozny into a glittering monument of hero worship and mass amnesia.
Nobody I meet in Grozny believes that Islamist insurgents killed Akhmad Kadyrov, the first Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya. Here it’s taken for granted that Russian security agencies were behind the assassination.
We arrive in Argun, on the outskirts of Grozny. Days after the Russian assault, Tagir Gadzhiyev escorted English and American journalists along the same highway. They had to turn around here because of an air raid.
As we enter Derbent, a fat traffic policeman stops our car, a black Lada of the make preferred by suicide bombers. The cop is surprisingly jovial. A “special operation” against terrorists is under way, he says.