Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov criticised a ban on Russian soldiers wearing beards, noting his forces fighting in Ukraine are Muslims and having facial hair is a religious duty.

Kadyrov’s comments are the latest outburst against the Russian military leadership as he joined Wagner Group mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in venting public criticism.

In an interview with the RBC news site on Wednesday, Viktor Sobolev, a retired lieutenant-general and member of Russia’s parliament, defended the ban on beards, personal smartphones, and tablets as an “elementary part of military discipline”.

Writing on Telegram on Thursday, the bearded Kadyrov – who has talked up the role of his troops in Russia’s war in Ukraine – wrote, “Apparently, Lieutenant-General Viktor Sobolev has a lot of free time … since he has nothing to do but rereading the military code of conduct.”