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Thousands rally in support of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in the capital of Russia's Chechnya republic in support of strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Kadyrov has spoken out recently against independent journalists and opposition activists, calling for them to be sent to psychiatric hospitals or prosecuted as traitors in the service of a hostile West.

In the past, Russian journalists or opposition leaders have been killed after challenging Mr Putin or Mr Kadyrov, who describes himself as the president's loyal "foot soldier".

Some of the murders were preceded by similar threats and some of the suspected killers have been Chechens.

Rights activists in Russia and the West have criticised Mr Kadyrov, with some demanding he be fired.

Participants at the rally in Grozny praised Mr Kadyrov for bringing stability to the predominantly Muslim region after two separatist wars, punctuating their speeches with cries of "God is great!" and "Kadyrov is a Russian patriot".

The rally, organised by Chechen trade unions, drew people from across Chechnya and neighbouring regions. Chechen police put the size of the crowd at a million. The population of Chechnya is 1.3 million.

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