kadyrovThe Kremlin-backed head of Russia’s Muslim Chechnya region has praised assailants who targeted women with paintball pellets for going bareheaded, prompting outrage from rights activists.  Eyewitnesses have said men in camouflage, often worn by police and security forces in the volatile region, fired paintball guns from cars about a dozen times last month at women who were not wearing headscarves. (Photo: Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, dressed in the national costume,  in Grozny on April 25, 2010/Denis Balibouse)

“I don’t know (who they are), but when I find them I shall announce my gratitude,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in a weekend interview on the state-run regional television channel Grozny.  He called the victims of the paintball attacks “naked women” who had most likely been forewarned.  “Even if they were carried out with my permission, I wouldn’t be ashamed of it,” he said of the paint-pellet attacks.

The attacks highlighted tension over Kadyrov’s efforts to enforce Muslim-inspired rules that in some cases violate Russia’s constitution.  The Russian rights group Memorial, which has blamed the attacks on law enforcement officers, said in a statement on Thursday: “Kadyrov’s interview clearly demonstrates the restriction on women’s rights in Chechnya — he openly defends unlawful acts.”

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