Chechens are fighting in Ukraine. But are they more hype than help for Vladimir Putin?

CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of the video, which reveals an RPG gunner at work amid an intense fusillade in the village of Velyka Dymerka, roughly 18 miles northeast of Kyiv.

This is not the one proof of Chechens fighting in Ukraine. On Wednesday, Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin chief of the Chechen Republic — a area in Russia’s north Caucasus — posted a video of Chechen items engaged in road fighting towards Ukrainian forces in the besieged port metropolis of Mariupol.

In a commentary on his Telegram account, Kadyrov boasted that the Chechen commander on the scene — who was being interviewed by the Russian each day Izvestiya — had maintained heroic calm underneath hearth.

“During the interview, a tank shell flew into the five-story building behind the back of the unsuspecting Timur Ibriev and exploded,” Kadyrov wrote. “A fragment hit one of the fighters, but got stuck in a weapon belt. The camera captured the Olympian calm and restraint of my dear BROTHER Timur. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t duck. You are proud of such cold-blooded and brave fighters!”

Telegram is Kadyrov’s most popular propaganda outlet: Since the launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one month in the past, Kadryrov has posted a stream of movies from the entrance strains crowing concerning the prowess of the Chechen troopers fighting on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He additionally claimed to have been in Ukraine, simply exterior the capital — an assertion Ukrainian officers forged doubt on, prompting irate Telegram posts from Kadyrov.
Ramzan Kadyrov addresses fighters in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, Russia, on February 25.

Just days into the conflict, Kadyrov even urged the Russian navy to take the gloves off and broaden its offensive in Ukraine.

“The time has come to make a concrete decision and start a large-scale operation in all directions and territories of Ukraine,” Kadyrov stated in an announcement on his Telegram account. “I myself have repeatedly developed tactics and strategies against terrorists, participated in battles. In my understanding, the tactics chosen in Ukraine are too slow. It lasts a long time and, in my view, are not effective.”

There are a number of ranges of irony right here. Images of the devastated metropolis of Mariupol are eerily harking back to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, which was leveled by Russian forces in a brutal conflict that went by means of two phases in the mid-Nineties and the early 2000s. And Kadyrov himself was as soon as a guerrilla who fought towards Russia earlier than switching sides.

Kadyrov has been accused by worldwide and impartial observers of gross human rights violations in his dwelling territory and past. He leads sizeable paramilitary forces that — whereas formally part of Russian safety buildings — have private loyalty to him.

Those troops, often known as Kadyrovtsy, or Kadyrov’s males, have a fearsome popularity. During the Second Chechen War, which started in 1999 and coincided with the rise of Putin, Kadyrov’s males helped Moscow wrest management of the Chechen Republic from separatist rebels. They additionally earned a popularity for brutality, with investigative journalists and human rights researchers documenting a sample of disappearances and extrajudicial killings by his forces.

But regardless of the fearsome popularity of Kadyrov’s Chechen fighters, their efficiency on the battlefield in Ukraine could have been blended at finest. A profanity-laced video of a shattered Russian column in the western Kyiv suburb of Bucha — posted on the official Telegram channel of the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine — confirmed ruined autos that purportedly belonged to Kadyrov’s males.
The bodies of Russian soldiers are piling up in Ukraine, as Kremlin conceals true toll of war

And the Kadyrovtsy could discover themselves going through different Chechens on battlefields in Ukraine. The Ukrainian politician who first revealed the video of the fighting in Velyka Dymerka claimed the lads seen in motion had been Chechens who fled Russia’s conflict there, and had been fighting on the facet of Ukraine.

The precise particulars of such declare could be troublesome to instantly confirm. There is a sizeable Chechen inhabitants that fled the Russian Federation in the wake of the wars there. But there may be additionally a big Chechen diaspora in the Middle East, together with the descendants of those that settled in components of the Ottoman Empire following Russia’s conquest of the north Caucasus. Ukraine additionally has a big inhabitants of Muslims of different ethnicities, a few of whom have joined varied Ukrainian navy formations to battle towards Russia and Russian proxies since 2014.

The battle at Velyka Dymerka could also be a case of 1 such unit in motion. Video of the firefight was posted on the Telegram channel that seems to belong to the Sheikh Mansur battalion, a gaggle that initially fashioned as one among Ukraine’s volunteer items to battle pro-Russian separatists in 2014.

The video posted by the Sheikh Mansur battalion Telegram account means that Chechen fighters against Russia — and to Kadyrov — are additionally intent on promoting their capability to battle.

“Unfortunately, during the attack, one of our fighters, who knows how to shoot video properly, fell ill and was not present in the battle,” the publish stated. “For this reason, not all of the video of the fight was filmed, but what was filmed was filmed in part on phones by some young fighters.”

How vital are these combatants are to the general course of the conflict? That is open to debate. But Chechens on either side seem like waging a propaganda conflict in parallel with the battle on the bottom.

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