Tears as 'Mohammed relic' brought to Chechnya
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov broke into floods of tears as he unveiled a purported relic of the Prophet Mohammed in a bizarre ceremony involving a Rolls Royce motorcade, reports said Thursday.
The government of the majority Muslim Russian Northern Caucasus region, recovering after two separatist wars and still battling Islamic insurgents, boasted that the cup was 1,400 years old and had belonged to the Prophet.
The cup had earlier been flown into the Chechen capital Grozny from London where it was kept by unnamed descendants of Mohammed's cousin Ali.
Kadyrov, clad in a bright purple shirt and trousers and a black Muslim skullcap, triumphantly carried the boxed relic straight off the plane at the airport at the ceremony on Wednesday.
He then sped through Grozny in a Rolls-Royce cabriolet surrounded by a motorcade of dozens of luxury cars, the first Russian television pictures of the event showed Thursday.
The flag-waving delegation then arrived to Grozny's central mosque greeted by a crowd of singing and clapping people.
The Chechen leader proceeded to take the jade-coloured bowl out of bubble wrapping, and broke down in uncontrollable tears after kissing the object, covering his reddening face and shaking violently.
Chechen television aired a 18-minute long special on the event posted on the website Chechnyatoday.com that shows Kadyrov's car covered in traditional rugs gliding along a major street in slow motion to the sounds of a Chechen song with English-language lyrics "You came to me... when I was so lost."
Footage showed a crowd of several hundred assembled near the mosque to listen to impassioned speeches in Chechen and shout "Allahu Akbar!" before the cup was shown to the public. Several took a sip from the cup and prayed.
The Chechen government said in a statement on its website that "the cup was used by Prophet Mohammed, passing to his cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib the fourth Caliph." Further details on its authenticity were not immediately available.
Anyone will be able to drink water from it on the day of Mohammed's birthday, the Chechen government said.
"Nobody can say anything else about the origin of the cup," a Chechen government spokesman told AFP. "The negotiations were led by the famous businessman Ruslan Baisarov and it was announced by Ramzan Kadyrov," he said.
Baisarov owns major stakes in Russia's top copper and coal companies and has promised to finance the development of a ski resort in Chechnya planned by the Chechen President.
Kadyrov, who has ruled the war-torn region since 2007 and was reappointed in the post earlier this year, has overseen several grandiose projects and events in Grozny aimed at boosting his political clout.
He has also encouraged the revival of Islam in the region, inaugurating in 2008 the "Heart of Chechnya" mosque, said to be the biggest in Europe.
But rights groups have long accused him of presiding over a personal militia that they say has carried out serial rights violations, torture and even murder.
© 2011 AFP