The leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov has made Egypt striker Mohamed Salah an honorary citizen of the southern Russian region at a send-off dinner held for the eliminated World Cup side.
Chechnya has been hosting the Egyptian team’s World Cup training camp and Kremlin-backed Kadyrov has seized on opportunities to appear together with Salah, whose goalscoring exploits for Liverpool and Egypt have made him an international superstar.
“Mohamed Salah is an honorary 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.
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Salah was presented with a badge and a copy of the decree at the banquet on Friday night, Kadyrov said.
Kadyrov took charge of Chechnya in 2007, backed by Kremlin to enforce tight control in the Muslim region where Russia had fought two atrocious and costly wars to squash separatists since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In an interview with the BBC this week, he denied human rights abuses and lightheartedly rejected the suggestion that he was using the presence of Salah for propaganda intentions.
“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.