Moscow: President Vladimir Putin on Thursday criticised Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for saying that families of Islamist insurgents would be punished for a rebel attack on Grozny, a statement quickly followed by torching of several houses.
"He did not have the right to do this," Putin said of Kadyrov`s statement that relatives should be punished by expulsion and destruction of their homes.
"Everyone in Russia must observe the laws that are in force here," Putin said.
Kadyrov reacted after a December 4 attack on Grozny by a group of insurgents. The fighting killed 14 policemen and 11 rebels in the capital of Chechnya, where tens of thousands of people have died in two wars to restore Moscow`s rule against rebels.
Kadyrov, a former rebel turned ardent Putin supporter, has created a personal fiefdom in the tiny mountain area and has been accused by human rights groups of overseeing torture, extrajudicial executions and corruption.
The Memorial rights group said that after Kadyrov`s vow on his Instagram account to punish parents, at least nine houses belonging to relatives of insurgents were burned down or destroyed.
Putin said that a check was being carried out into the torchings of houses by masked attackers.
"It will be absolutely right to check all these facts," Putin said. "Maybe someone just made use of this (Kadyrov`s words) and did this, but maybe not. Then the law enforcement authorities must react accordingly."
Putin`s criticism was ambivalent, however, since he suggested that his call to destroy relatives` homes "could just have been emotional."
"I`m sure that these statements fully met people`s expectations," Putin said of Kadyrov`s words.
"As a rule relatives of people who carry out terrorist attacks know about this," Putin added.
He spoke after being questioned by a journalist for independent TV Rain station, Ksenia Sobchak, the daughter of Putin`s earliest political mentor, but now a key opposition figure.
"Why did you let her speak?" Putin jokingly asked his press secretary, calling Sobchak by the nickname Ksyusha.