“The Team” will be broadcast on Russia’s main state TV channel starting today. The show resembles the U.S. series that starred Donald Trump prior to his run for president, but offers contestants the chance to win a job working alongside the Chechen leader accused of human rights abuses.
According to a program description from Russia’s Channel 1, any Russian citizen can apply, after which they will be tested whether they have what it takes to join his team.
Kadyrov rules Chechnya with an iron fist, entrusted with crushing a separatist insurgency in the Republic and running it as his personal fiefdom. International rights groups have accused him of overseeing widespread torture and using brutal tactics, including burning down opponents' homes. Chechen death squads involved in political assassinations abroad have been linked back to Kadyrov and his inner circle.
In a trailer for the show, Kadyrov says applicants should be “ready for anything.”
Contestants will have to pass a series of challenges, according to the program description, though they appear more extreme than those set by Trump in the U.S. equivalent. In the first episode, the show suggested tasks could range from military obstacle courses to parachute jumping with special forces units. From the episode, it appeared the final job could include wedding planning and taking part in counterterrorism raids.
The program description says the winner will receive a post as the head of Chechnya’s Agency for Strategic Development. To enter, contestants should fill in an online form, explaining what ideas they have for Chechnya’s development and how they would help Kadyrov’s team.
Those wishing to have the chance to work with Kadyrov must show the ability to “fulfill on time and precisely tasks set them, the ability to overcome any obstacles and to bring to life the most interesting projects,” according to the program description.
Previous employees of Kadyrov have not always reported happy experiences. A former bodyguard of Kadyrov once accused his boss of personally torturing him, claiming Kadyrov laughed as he electrocuted him.
The show is the latest of Kadyrov’s elaborate media operations, which he has used to craft an image that blends Rambo machismo with religious piety and a veneration for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Chechen president has a hugely popular Instagram account, on which he posts videos of himself cuddling cats, wrestling subordinates and firing machine guns into the air.
In a video posted on his Instagram account today, Kadyrov was shown making kissing faces at a young deer.
Kadyrov is viewed as Putin’s personal henchman in Chechnya, tasked by the Russian president with maintaining calm in the Republic after two devastating wars with Russia since the fall of the U.S.S.R. The relative peace in Chechnya under Kadyrov has been bought with huge investment from Moscow and often brutal violence by the Chechen leader’s militias.
Despite his elaborate expressions of loyalty to Putin -- regularly wearing T-shirts with Putin’s face on them -- many Russians are unnerved by Kadyrov’s antics. With an army of thousands of heavily armed troops under his direct command and signs of his involvement in political assassinations in Moscow, they worry he may slip out of the Kremlin’s control.