(Photo Credits: Kremlin.ru / CC BY -SA)

The US Department of State has blacklisted Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, as well as his immediate family—his wife and two daughters, The Washington Post reports. This means that they are now prohibited from traveling to the United States.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained the move in a statement which was released on Monday—July 20, 2020. The statement reads, “The Department has extensive credible information that Kadyrov is responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings.” 

Pompeo added, “We will encourage likeminded countries to take similar measures.”

This is not the first time that a sanction has been imposed on Kadyrov who is also a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

In 2017, the US blacklisted Kadyrov under a 2012 law called Magnitsky Act which had frozen his bank accounts and got his visa banned. In a separate move, 16 OSCE countries, including the US, have invoked the OSCE Moscow Mechanism in 2018 to “look into credible allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya allegedly committed during January 2017 to November 2018 against LGBTI persons, human rights defenders, members of the independent media, lawyers and others.”

Today, Secretary Pompeo said they are concerned that Kadyrov is “now using the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic to inflict further human rights abuses on the people of the Chechen Republic.”

The Washington Post added that Kadyrov responded to the US Department of State’s newest sanction by posting a picture of himself holding a pair of guns inside “what appears to be an armory.” His message, which he posted through Telegram, reads, “Pompeo, we accept the fight! What comes next will be more interesting.”

Meanwhile, Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutzky told Interfax news agency that “Moscow would respond to the US sanctions.” He explained, “The grounds for blacklisting [Kadyrov] are absolutely baseless. Russia will find the way to apply countermeasures for this, yet another, illegal decision of the [US] State Department.” Read more about it on DW.

Having said that, you can now watch Welcome to Chechnya (2020, David France) on HBO, guys!  

This documentary, which runs for 1 hour and 47 minutes, exposes Chechnya’s atrocities and how a group of activists had risked their lives to rescue victims of Chechnya’s gay purge. They helped gay men on the run by providing them with safe houses and visa assistance to escape persecution. Critics describe the documentary as “chilling,” “harrowing,” and “gut-wrenching” to name a few. 

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