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Gerard Depardieu goes to Chechnya to film next movie

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But, perhaps also in the Putin-era spirit, anyone with questions about human rights abuses or the arbitrary one-man rule of Depardieu's "very close friend," pro-Moscow Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, was made to feel extremely unwelcome.

Asked by a journalist whether there were any parallels to be found in the fictional Depardieu's character's murderous revenge streak that culminates in Chechnya, and the real-life assassinations of Mr. Kadyrov's political foes that have been documented by human rights monitors, the film's director Mr. Martinez exploded in fury, according to the Independent.

"I have to tell you I’m a bit ashamed that you are asking that question," he is quoted as saying. "Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley are making a movie in Chechnya! And you’re asking questions of a political nature! I don’t even want to answer."

Kadyrov, an avid user of social media, posted photos of himself, Depardieu and Hurley touring Grozny together, and posing with Kadyrov's monster truck, on Wednesday.

He also separately greeted American action film star Steven Seagal, whose movies he praised as illustrating Chechen-like traits. "Nobility. Willpower. Honor. Qualities characteristic of Chechens. So we can say [Seagal] is almost a Chechen!," Kadyrov noted on Instagram.

Mr. Seagal is another star whose high-profile shoulder-rubbing with Putin and now Kadyrov may be helping to shift Russia's image into more positive territory.

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