Ramzan Kadyrov, who leads Chechnya, said the amount demanded as ransom was “just pennies” to him.

A key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of kidnapping his favorite horse.

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Russia’s Chechen Republic, said his stallion Zazu was stolen by Ukrainian “special services” from a stable in the Czech Republic and ransomed back to him for nearly $20,000 (€18,400).

Announcing the “good news” that Zazu was “fine” and on his way back, the 46-year-old wrote in a Telegram post on Monday that he could “tell what really happened” with the horse.

Zazu – whom he called “the first to bear the burden of European sanctions” – had reportedly been “imprisoned” in a Czech stable for years near Krabčice.

In early 2023, Kadyrov claimed he was approached by the Ukrainians, through intermediaries, who offered to buy out the 16-year-old English thoroughbred.

“They knew about my connection to the horse,” he wrote on Telegram. “Of course, I agreed.”

But instead of officially transferring the horse, the Chechen leader claimed that the Ukrainian “secret services had a daring plan – they simply staged his theft from a stable in the Czech Republic in cooperation with the Czech police.”

“It seemed strange to everyone at the time how an expensive horse could simply disappear,” he wrote. “It turns out it can.”

It reportedly cost Kadyrov $18,000 (€16,550) to secure the horse’s release, which he described as “just pennies” – given its “excellent pedigree”.

Zazu had been seized with Kadyrov’s other European assets as part of EU sanctions slapped on the Chechen leader in 2014 for his alleged role in widespread rights abuses.

The sanctions stopped Zazu – formerly a famous stallion in the racing scene – from competing and effectively kept the horse in detention along with several of Kadyrov’s other racehorses.

“Now Zazu is on his way home,” according to Kadyrov.

“Friends, if you need to bring something from Europe, contact the Ukrainian special services. Fast, professional, cheap, bypass sanctions,” he wrote on Telegram.

Euronews cannot independently verify Kadyrov’s claims.