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Chechen leader apologizes, club fined

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (front) performs the Lezginka national dance before a friendly soccer match
Ramzan Kadyrov (C) apologized for screaming at a referee over a stadium loudspeaker.
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MOSCOW (AP)

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Russian soccer authorities sanctioned the Terek Grozny team Wednesday after its honorary president and biggest fan, Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, screamed at a referee over stadium loudspeakers.

The Football Union of Russia fined the club 100,000 rubles ($3,240) for Kadyrov's outburst. Terek also has to pay another 100,000 rubles and play one home game at a neutral venue as punishment for Kadyrov confronting the referee.

Kadyrov flew into a rage Sunday after referee Mikhail Vilkov sent off Terek captain Rizvan Utsiev for picking up two yellow cards in a Russian Premier League match against visiting Rubin Kazan, which ended 0-0.

The Chechen regional leader grabbed a microphone and shouted, ''The ref's been bought off! You're an ass!'' After the game, Kadyrov spent five minutes alone with Vilkov in the dressing room demanding an explanation while his security kept soccer officials out.

The punishment was a mild one under Russian regulations. Terek could have been forced to play as many as five home games in front of an empty stadium, which is dominated by a colossal portrait of Kadyrov's father, Akhmad, his predecessor as Chechnya's provincial leader who was killed in a rebel bombing of Grozny's stadium in 2004.

After the game, Kadyrov apologized to fans for his outburst on his Instagram account, but refused to take his words back against the referee, whom he accused of being biased against Terek and said ''deserved the words `bought off.''' The club's vice president said it would appeal the decision.

Kadyrov, a former rebel like his father, has ruled Chechnya with an iron fist relying on carte blanche from the Kremlin to ensure stability after two devastating separatist wars. International rights groups have accused security forces under his command of abductions, torture and extrajudicial killings.

With lavish federal funding, Kadyrov has spent vast amounts of money on indulging his personal passions. A self-confessed soccer fanatic, the portly leader has organized exhibition matches in Chechnya where he plays for Terek against teams of veteran foreign all stars.

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