GROZNY, RUSSIA — President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday gave power in Chechnya to widely feared pro-Russia strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, even as Europe's human rights chief noted allegations of torture and other abuses by Kadyrov's henchmen.
Kadyrov, son of an assassinated Chechen president, previously served as prime minister and had been expected to seek the presidency after reaching the minimum age of 30 in October. His nomination followed Putin's dismissal of Chechen President Alu Alkhanov; legislative approval was expected today.
More than a decade of separatist fighting has left much of the republic of Chechnya in ruins, and Kadyrov has led a largely federally funded rebuilding campaign.
During a meeting with Kadyrov, Putin hailed the reconstruction efforts, saying Chechnya had seen "significant positive developments."
Russian and international rights groups have accused Kadyrov's paramilitary security forces of numerous abuses against civilians, including abductions, torture and killings. Some have speculated that the October killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow may have been connected to her critical reporting on Kadyrov's administration.
Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said that he had spoken with many inmates during a visit to Chechnya this week and that they told him they been mistreated and tortured during police interrogations.
"I'm convinced that torture is practiced by law enforcement personnel during interrogations," Hammarberg said. "I got the impression it is widespread."