Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday appointed a world champion kickboxer as acting head of a majority Buddhist region in the south of the country.
Batu Khasikov, 38, was appointed to lead the Kalmykia region on the Caspian Sea, the Kremlin said in a statement.
The region’s previous head, Alexei Orlov, resigned voluntarily, it said.
Between 1993 and 2010, the southern region was run by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, an eccentric chess-mad politician who claimed to have encountered aliens.
Khasikov holds several world and European titles in kickboxing.
He represented Kalmykia as a senator in Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, between 2012 and 2014.
He has also worked as a government adviser on youth policy.
In 2016, Khasikov reportedly criticised child mixed martial arts (MMA) fights in Chechnya. The sons of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s authoritarian leader, took part in the controversial competition.
The Russian republic, which lies north of the Caucasus on the Caspian Sea, is the world’s westernmost Buddhist region with a population of around 300,000 people.
Putin appointed several new regional heads this week as part of an expected reshuffle.
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