Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah has been granted honorary citizenship of Chechnya by Ramzan Kadyrov, a ruler widely accused of human rights violations.
Egypt’s squad have been training in the Russian republic’s capital, Grozny, during the World Cup.
Chechnya leader Kadyrov is backed by the Kremlin but is under sanctions imposed by the United States, who accuse him of contravening human rights.
He handed Salah a decree declaring him a citizen at a dinner in honour of the Egypt team ahead of their departure for Volgograd, where they will play Saudi Arabia in their final group match on Monday.
“Mohamed Salah thanked us for the surprisingly warm and good reception, excellent attitude to the team, excellent living conditions and training,” Kadyrov posted on Russian social network site VK .
Friday night’s banquet was held at Kadyrov’s presidential palace in Grozny. The Chechen leader posed for pictures with Salah while pinning a medal on his chest.
In his social media post, Kadyrov said he wants Egypt to return to Chechnya after the World Cup for a friendly against local club Akhmat Grozny – named after his father, who was assassinated in 2004.
Kadyrov’s rule been marred by reports of extrajudicial killings and torture in the republic which saw two separatist wars.
Recently, he came under pressure when reports surfaced of a broad crackdown on homosexual people. He insists there are no gay people in the region.