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Chechnya's Kadyrov Honors Star Egyptian Soccer Player Salah

Egyptian star soccer player Mohammed Salah (left) and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Egyptian star soccer player Mohammed Salah (left) and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on June 22 honored Egypt's star soccer player Mohamed Salah at a banquet in Grozny for Egypt's World Cup soccer team.

The players adopted Grozny, the capital of Russia's Chechnya region, as their base for the tournament, although Chechnya is not hosting any World Cup games.

The banquet was held at Kadyrov's presidential palace. The Egytian squad is due to play one more game before departing for home, having been eliminated from competition after an unexpected loss to Russia early in the games on June 18.

Kadyrov's press service said he granted Salah honorary citizenship in Chechnya in a personal decree, which he gave to Salah along with a medal at the dinner.

It is the third time in two weeks the Kremlin-backed Chechen strongman, a keen sports fan, has shown his admiration for the 26-year-old striker from Liverpool, England.

According to the Egyptian team, the Chechen "leadership" sent a large cake to the team hotel on June 15 to mark Salah's 26th birthday.

Kadyrov attended Egypt's first practice session in Grozny on June 10. After watching for about 30 minutes, he drove to the squad's hotel where Salah, nursing a shoulder injury, was relaxing in his room.

The Chechen leader asked Salah to accompany him back to the stadium, where the two posed for photos and greeted the 5,000 fans watching Egypt practice.

Salah's photos with Kadryov drew criticism from human rights activists, who claim they send a tacit message of support for alleged abuses by Chechen authorities.

Chechen authorities have been accused of repressing their political opponents, discriminating against women, and persecuting sexual minorities -- allegations they deny.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters