Egypt's Mohamed Salah given honorary citizenship by Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov has made Egypt striker Mohamed Salah an honorary citizen of the southern Russian region at a farewell banquet held for the eliminated World Cup side.
Chechnya's capital, Grozny, has been hosting Egypt's training camp and Kadyrov, backed by the Kremlin, has seized on opportunities to appear alongside Salah, whose goalscoring exploits for Liverpool and Egypt have made him an international superstar.
"Mohamed Salah is an honorary citizen of the Chechen Republic. Yes, that's right! Tonight I signed a decree conferring this high award on the great footballer and member of the Egypt and Liverpool teams," Kadyrov wrote on messaging app Telegram.
Salah was presented with a badge and a copy of the decree at the dinner on Friday night, Kadyrov said.
A team spokesman has not replied to emailed Reuters requests for comment.
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It is the third time in two weeks Kadyrov has shown his admiration for Salah.
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.
According to the FA, the Chechen "leadership" sent a large cake to the team hotel on June 15 to mark Salah's 26th birthday.
Egypt are due to leave Grozny on Saturday for Volgograd, where they will play Saudi Arabia on Monday in their last group match.
Kadyrov took charge of Chechnya in 2007, backed by Kremlin to impose tight control in the Muslim region where Russia had fought two brutal and costly wars to crush separatists since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Rights groups and Western governments allege that authorities in Chechnya repress their political opponents, discriminate against women and persecute sexual minorities, all allegations that Chechnya's leaders deny.
In an interview with the BBC this week, Kadyrov denied human rights abuses and laughingly rejected the idea he was using the presence of Salah for propaganda purposes.
"We don't use this kind of thing for politics," he said. "Our enemies are paid to write articles like that. I didn't invite Mohamed Salah or the Egyptian team. They chose us themselves."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.