Facebook and Instagram have banned Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov following financial sanctions issued by the U.S. last week.
Kadyrov’s social media accounts abruptly went dark on Saturday. The 41-year-old is a habitual Instagrammer, posting photos of himself meeting with Russian leaders, lifting weights, and even wrestling alligators multiple times a day. He commanded 3 million followers on his Instagram page and another 750,000 on Facebook.
The blackout caused immediate confusion in the Southeastern Russian republic, which is home to 1.4 million people. Chechen Press and Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov called it a “vile” cyberattack.
Facebook clarified in a press release that the company is legally required to ban him following the federal government’s actions.
“We became aware and have now confirmed that the accounts appear to be maintained by or on behalf of parties who appear on the U.S. Specially Designated Nationals List and thus, subject to U.S. trade sanctions,” Facebook said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “For this reason, Facebook has a legal obligation to disable these accounts.”
The Department of the Treasury announced on Dec. 20 that the government would be freezing his financial assets under the 2012 Magnitsky Act, intended to penalize human rights violators.
Those restrictions also prevent him from banking with institutions in the U.S.
Named the biggest homophobe of 2017 by INTO, Kadyrov is the architect of Chechnya’s brutal anti-gay purge. Since the campaign began in February, more than 100 people believed to be LGBTQ have been rounded up and placed into concentration camps, where they are beaten and tortured. At least four people have been killed as a result, including a popular singer.
The strongman, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had vowed to eliminate the semi-independent republic’s LGBTQ community before Ramadan.
But Kadyrov does not intend to go quietly. After his Facebook and Instagram accounts were shut down, he swiftly opened a page on Mylistory, a social media network popular in Chechnya. “From now on I will post all important news and photos there,” he claimed in a Saturday message posted on Telegram.
The little-known network experienced an immediate surge in popularity after Kadyrov joined, as Russia Today reports.