Report: Chechnya’s leader looking for 2nd wife

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MOSCOW (AP) — The bullnecked and bearded leader of Russia’s predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya revealed on Thursday that he is on the hunt for a second wife.

The 34-year-old Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya with an iron fist and imposes Islamic law in the southern province, told the mass market daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that he is “always on the lookout for a decent bride” but has not found the right woman yet.

“I can’t find a pretty one,” he was quoted as saying. Asked how his wife feels about the prospect of sharing her husband with another woman, the father of six said: “You see, I don’t cheat. So my wife doesn’t mind.”

While polygamy is against the law in Russia, some politicians, such as flamboyant nationalist and deputy parliament speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, have called for it to be legalized to boost the country’s low birth rates.

Kadyrov, the son of a former Chechen separatist warlord and Muslim cleric who switched sides to support Moscow’s troops in 1999, has previously voiced support for polygamy, but hadn’t disclosed his personal preference. He has also described women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children.

Kadyrov has ruled Chechnya for three years as the Kremlin appointee, overseeing the revival of the once war-torn province of more than one million, which is still recovering from the devastation of two separatists wars of the past 17 years. The fighting between Islamic separatists and Russian troops, compounded by atrocities on both sides, claimed tens of thousands of lives and terrorized civilians.

Human rights groups and critics say his authority is based on extrajudicial killings of his rivals and suspected separatists, kidnappings, torture and other brutalities.

His opponents claim that Kadyrov’s campaign to impose Islamic law and tribal Chechen values such as honor killings is an effort to set up a dictatorship where Russian laws do not apply. Chechen women and girls are now required to wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.

Asked about the reported repression of local women refusing to dress according to the Islamic custom, Kadyrov said that he does not impose the rules on anyone. He warned, however, that women must be aware if they are scantily dressed on Chechnya’s streets:

“Caucasus natives are hot-tempered guys and they’re fit,” he was quoted as saying. “So, when a woman is half-naked, we get excited. Wouldn’t you?”

The Chechen leader is suing prominent human rights Oleg Orlov activist for defamation after Orlov accused him of involvement in the 2009 killing of rights advocate Natalya Estemirova. Kadyrov said that Estemirova, a staunch Kadyrov critic whose bullet-ridden body was found on a roadside in July 2009, “never had any honor, dignity or conscience.”