x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Gullit lands in Chechnya to take charge at Grozny

Ruud Gullit arrived in Chechnya to take over as coach of Russian league club Terek Grozny, despite criticism from rights activists back home in Holland.

GROZNY, RUSSIA // Ruud Gullit arrived in Chechnya yesterday to take over as the coach of Russian league club Terek Grozny.

The former Holland star was greeted by several hundred fans at the airport in Grozny before a planned meeting with Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader who is also president of Terek Grozny.

Terek finished 12th this season in the Russian Premier League. Kadyrov has given Gullit a target of a top-eight finish next season.

The former Dutch midfielder, the 1987 European Player of the Year with AC Milan, has coached Chelsea, Newcastle United, Feyenoord and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Regional police said three explosions hit different areas of Grozny late on Tuesday, injuring three police officers and two civilians, but Kadyrov insisted yesterday the situation is calm.

Chechen rebels have fought two wars against Russian forces since 1994.

Major battles in the second war ended about a decade ago, but insurgents have continued to stage explosions and conduct hit-and-run raids.

Gullit has been criticised at home for his decision to coach Terek Grozny.

Rights activists have accused Kadyrov of directing widespread human rights violations, including abductions, torture and killings of suspected rebels and sympathisers.

Gullit insists his presence could have a positive influence on the region.

"You will always have people for and against. But I don't want to be involved in politics, I want to concentrate on the sport and give the people there a little pleasure in their lives again," he said in an interview published last month in Dutch daily De Volkskrant.