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MOSCOW (AP) — Another powerful, controversial man is taking to reality TV to find an assistant — not Donald Trump, but the leader of Chechnya.
Russian state television on Thursday broadcast Live — The Team, soliciting viewers to apply for a competition to become an assistant to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
The competition seeks applicants who have significant concepts for developing the Caucasus republic, which endured two separatist wars with Russia over the past 20 years. They also must have the ability to “be on time, accurately perform assigned tasks and be ready to work 24 hours a day,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
To underline the rigorous expectations, the introductory episode showed the presenter, a young man with a puppyish eager demeanor, gasping for breath after laboring through an obstacle course used for training Chechen police troops.
What sort of development concepts are sought wasn’t clear, but the idea seemed to be some initiative to make the republic attractive to visitors. The 80-minute program relied heavily on beauty shots of Chechnya’s steep mountains and thick forests.
It also showed the striking redevelopment of the capital, Grozny, which was mostly ruined in the two wars but now features sparkling, tall buildings.
A segment about the May wedding of Kadyrov’s nephew showed lavish festivities that would not be out of place in Trump’s world — except that most of the women wore Islamic head scarves and the bride, in keeping with Chechen tradition, was stone-faced.
Kadyrov explained another Chechen wedding tradition — the firing of rifles — as a holdover from days when celebrants wanted to spread good news in a low-tech era. “Why did they fire rifles? Because there weren’t any telephones,” he said.
The program’s portrayal of Chechnya as a festive and up-and-coming place under Kadyrov contrasts with wide criticism by human rights organizations of his rule, in which torture, abductions and extrajudicial executions have been frequent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize Chechnya after two separatist wars, effectively allowing him to rule the region like a personal fiefdom. Kadyrov’s unparalleled privileges and defiant behavior have earned him numerous enemies in Russia’s law-enforcement agencies, whose leaders have long pushed for his dismissal.
The contestants who will vie to be Kadyrov’s apprentice are set to be announced July 22.
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