By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The leader of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that it is time for him to step aside.
“There was a time when people like me were needed to fight, to establish order,” Kadyrov said in an interview with public broadcaster Rossiya 1 thta was aired on November 26. “Now we have order.”
Kadyrov, 41, said his successor would be the prerogative of the Kremlin, adding that there were “several people who can do this job perfectly.”
Kadyrov did not state that he was resigning, and there was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.
Kadyrov has said before that it was time for him to be replaced as leader of Chechnya.
In February 2007, once Kadyrov had reached the minimum age of 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin nominated him as president of Chechnya. He won a new five-year term in September 2016.
Rights groups and critics have long accused blamed Kadyrov and his paramilitary forces for serious rights abuses, including the widespread use of kidnapping, torture, and extrajudicial murders. He recently faced international condemnation over reports of a crackdown on homosexuals.
The Chechen leader denies the charges.
Kadyrov also said in the interview that he was “more than certain” of the innocence of five men from Chechnya convicted in the 2015 murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.
“According to my information, these guys are totally innocent,” he said, adding that “someone needed to close the case, someone needed to state that the perpetrators were found.”
He did not elaborate.
Nemtsov, a reformist former first deputy prime minister who was a vocal critic of Putin and Kadyrov, was shot from behind on a bridge just outside the Kremlin in February 2015.
In July, a Moscow court sentenced the convicted triggerman, Zaur Dadayev, and four accomplices to prison terms ranging from 11 to 20 years.
Nemtsov’s relatives and associates believe that his killing was ordered at a higher level.