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YouTube removes Kadyrov’s MMA channels to enforce U.S. sanctions

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YouTube’s decision drew ire from the Chechen leadership, who called YouTube’s action’s “illegal.” 

Khabib Nurmagomedov v Dustin Poirier: UFC Lightweight Championship Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In the wake of the latest round of U.S. sanctions imposed on Ramzan Kadyrov, YouTube has removed the Chechen dictator’s channels from its platform.

The deplatforming process included blocking access to the Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA) and Akhmat MMA channels due to their affiliation to Kadyrov. YouTube’s decision drew ire from the Chechen leadership, who called YouTube’s action’s “illegal.”

“The American corporation Google, which owns the video hosting YouTube, illegally blocked the YouTube channel of the Russian mixed martial arts league ACA in connection with the US sanctions and the inclusion of the ACA in the Magnitsky lists,” ACA President Alexei Yatsenko told Russian state-owned TASS.ru. “I believe that the US sanctions against our organization that have come into force have no regulatory of the act and the courts are completely illegal. The rights of a legal entity, the principles of competition and the right to defense are violated. In this case, the sanctions were applied to a sports organization that does not violate human rights in the Russian Federation or abroad. “

On Dec. 10, 2020, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued its latest round of sanctions against the Chechen dictator for “serious violations of human rights.” Following up on Kadyrov’s previous designation on December 20, 2017, where the OFAC sanctioned the Head of the Chechen Republic for “being responsible for extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals,” the OFAC designated Kadyrov pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Executive Order for leading an entity accused of “illegal abductions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and other abuses, including the detention of journalists and activists.”

In addition to Kadyrov, the OFAC also sanctioned six companies that provide the Chechen tyrant “pride and profit,” including Kadyrov’s infamous Akhmat fight club, and his mixed martial arts promotion, Absolute Championship Akhmat. The OFAC sanctions will prevent any American or U.S. based athletes or officials (referees etc.) from participating in ACA events, and will also prevent American athletes from accepting invitations to visit Kadyrov’s Akhmat MMA fight club. These limitations will have an adverse effect on Kadyrov’s soft power ambitions involving sports, which he uses to extend his influence beyond the borders of the Chechen Republic.

Ever since the sanctions were imposed, the figureheads behind ACA and Akhmat MMA have attempted to present themselves as victims of American imperialism, calling the sanctions “sheer discrimination.”

“By blocking the YouTube channel, the United States illegally harmed the interests of millions of MMA fans, who for many years followed, supported and worried about the athletes in our league’s tournaments,” Yatsenko said.

Read BloodyElbow detailed reporting on how the latest round of sanctions is expected to impact Ramzan Kadyrov’s MMA aspirations here.