Controversial Owner at the Melbourne Cup
The Melbourne Cup is the horse race that stops a nation. This year's race will attract even more interest than usual because of one of the horse owners: Chechnyan President Ramzan Kadyrov.
Kadyrov has been compared with "Stalin" because of his treatment of political opponents. A person making this comparison, courageous human rights journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was coincidentally shot dead a few weeks later in Moscow. (She risked her life offending powerful interests in Russia). Allegations against him have been filed at the European Court of Human Rights. But he has not been found guilty of any crime.
Chechnya is a southern Russian republic which Moscow has tried to control for the past 150 years. The locals have put up a stiff resistance against the 19th century Tsars, 20th century communists and now the new Russian leadership. Kadyrov claims that his type of brutal rule is necessary to maintain order in a lawless region.
Before 9/11 (September 11 2001), the US used to complain about Moscow's heavy-handed policies in the republic. But immediately following the terrorist attack, Putin assured the US of Russia's support in the new war on terror - the Russians (they said) had been fighting Islamic terrorists (eg in Chechnya) for decades. The US has been quiet on Russia's policies in Chechnya since 9/11. Chechnya remains a very violent place. The father of the current president (Akhmad Kadyrov) was assassinated in 2004. His main opponent (Aslan Maskhadov) was also assassinated (in 2005).
Ramzan Kadyrov became President in 2007. He describes himself as a traditional believer of Islam (but he is not an Islamicist like Osama bin Laden).
He has cosmopolitan tastes, such as horse-racing. No doubt being involved in the "sport of kings" gives him a chance to embellish his country's otherwise tawdry image.
Some Australian human rights activists have called on Kadyrov to be banned from Australia. But this cannot be done very easily. He has not been found guilty of any crime.
Also, he is the head of government and so banning him would create a diplomatic incident (with Russia as well as Chechnya). Besides if Australia were to start keeping out unsavoury political leaders, quite a large number would need to be banned!
Doubtless human rights activists will organize their own events. After all, they will have a global audience for their demonstrations given the significance of the Melbourne Cup for global racing industry.
Unfortunately for the organizers of the Melbourne Cup, the "sport of kings" is also going to become a sport for political activists.
Posted by: Webeditor at 9:55 AM