Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov has threatened to set up his own private army in the style of the Wagner Group of mercenaries, according to a media report.
The 46-year-old, who has led Chechnya since 2007, is thought to be preparing for a potential civil war in Russia amid the possibility that President Vladimir Putin will be deposed over the faltering invasion of Ukraine, Daily Mail reported.
The Wagner Group, which is led by Putin's close ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, has played a prominent role in Ukraine and spearheaded a months-long assault on Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
The group, which is thought to command at least 50,000 fighters, also completes shadowy missions abroad in regions such as Africa and the Middle East.
In a post on Telegram, Kadyrov said the Wagner Group had achieved 'impressive results' and that private military companies are a necessity, Daily Mail reported.
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He said: "We can say confidently that Wagner has shown its mettle in military terms and drawn a line under discussions about whether or not such private military companies are needed.
"When my service to the state is completed, I seriously plan to compete with our dear brother Yevgeny Prigozhin and create a private military company. I think it will all work out."
Kadyrov and Prigozhin both lead forces in Ukraine largely autonomously of Russia's military command and are staunch allies of Putin. However, they have also spoken out publicly against the military leadership, Daily Mail reported.
Kadyrov, the son of former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, has formed a tacit alliance with Prigozhin over the conflict.
Recently made a colonel-general by Putin, Kadyrov already controls a large force of Russian national guards in the Chechen Republic and has sent thousands of men to fight in Ukraine. But now he wants his own private army too.
A Moscow-based expert said: "This move shows Kadyrov is preparing for the period after Putin, when he intends to have his own large military force either to broker power in Russia - perhaps in a civil war - or even lead his own fiefdom out to a breakaway," Daily Mail reported.
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Kadyrov, a father of 13 with three current wives, has ruled Chechnya for 16 years. Regional MPs voted recently to anoint him 'Father of the Nation'.
He expressed his loyalty to Putin's defence ministry in the weekend but there are doubts this would remain if the President falls as a result of a failure of the war, Daily Mail reported.
Kadyrov had previously blamed Russian commanders for 'incompetence' in Ukraine - particularly after successful Ukrainian counter-offensives - and made it clear he remains critical of key military figures.